Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
Mitt Romney has been out on the stump, proving once again that he is a good automaton for scripted moments, but that his ability to engage in retail politics is a little lacking. The Fire Alarm disaster of late May was nothing by comparison to his Wonderama-rific “Corporations are people, my friend” speech yesterday. Legally right, morally wrong, and politically incorrect, the gaffe was even cat-called by fellow Republicans attending the Mittster’s stump speech late last week.
The crowd, which did not heckle much else in his speech, suggested that the hecklers probably were not some Liberal group’s plants, as the spin machines at Fox and Right Wing radio will likely spin the story today.
Rachel Maddow at MSNBC and Cenk Uygar at the Young Turks had a field day with that mush ball that Romney inadvertently tied into a highly unpopular position which the Supreme Court took last year in the Citizens United decision, allowing corporate “people” to engage in campaign advertising that flushed millions into the election cycle of 2010 and radically altered the equation for public access and accountability for our politicians of all political stripes.
While it pains me to agree with Mitt Romney on much of anything, speaking truth to power also means taking on our own punditry, and even easy-to-digest public opinions.
The law of the land is, right or wrong, that Corporations, by legal definition, are indeed people. The pathway to that personhood for IBM, GE, and others began in 1819. A brief history:
In Dartmouth College v. Woodward, decided in 1819, corporations were recognized as having rights to contract, and to have those contracts honored the same as contracts entered into by “natural persons,” In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886, 118 U.S. 394, the Supreme Court recognized that corporations were recognized as persons for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Politically, corporations have been denied a voice in politics by the choice of many Congresses, for the very reason that their big, very loud and well funded voices can easily squash the voices of people like you and me. Prior to Citizens United, it has been up to Congress when and how these corporate “people” get to speak.
The problem with the granting that “personhood” to a corporation is that it becomes a “super person.” What Liberal pundits all seem to be missing today, though, is that the Supreme Court has defined it as an incomplete person. We have given corporations corpus, a body, but not a soul. They have no imperative other than the bottom line, and morality only as good as that of those running the company. Thus, the Supreme Court has allowed that corporate “person” to become little more than an extension of the political persona of the CEOs or boards of directors that run these companies. Without a soul, a conscience, these organizations often lack any shred of moral scruples. They lack accountability.
Some corporations choose to remain a-political for fear of alienating customers. Others, like narrow-intrest groups like Big Oil and Big Pharma, or private fiefdoms like the Koch Brothers’ Koch Industries, magnify the otherwise puny power of the individuals that run them. It’s kind of like the Lilliputian solider from Jack Black’s “Gulliver’s Travels” donning the monster suit to have power:
These thuggish giants dominate the landscape. They can drown out the voices of you and me. Citizens United makes ordinary whack job cranks like the Koch Brothers into well-funded super villains, and leaves billionaire families like the Coors or the Mellons with so much money that these New Deal haters can affect a political structure from beyond the grave. As we decided when Mayor Daley gave it a whirl back in the 1960s, the dead can’t vote. Why, then, should they fund political campaigns?
Mr. Obama is right to suggest that the United States Supreme Court overreached itself in Citizens United. Corporations have to be “people” in a contractual sense to have standing to do business. The are entities though solely devoted to the pursuit of profit. The morality of that pursuit, and the limits of that power, rest solely with the men and women who run them.
We have had the rare corporate CEO, a William Paley of CBS, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, that recognized the necessity of creating a free and fair media. Paley would even take a loss on his news operations if it meant getting the truth out there to the public.
What we have now are a bunch of shadow billionaires that represent the power that has had its hands on the throat of Lady Liberty since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Groups like the Club for Growth, whom we exposed for you before our vacation break, struggle against diversity.
They want the freedom to organize the country back into their limited world view of unfettered capitalism that can exploit our citizens and take from the land without protections or preservation. A white Christian America where all others are good subservient consumers.
When you give these monied people, and to be fair, unions, which also benefit from Citizens United, a chance to be people, maybe they should be people, limits and all.
Democrats in Congress should introduce legislation that holds corporate “people” to the same donation limitations and disclosure that real, live, breathing human beings have. $5000 per year per candidate. Complete disclosure of donations, with filings over a certain amount.
It is also time to create legislation that makes the books of 927s, the vehicle these shadow groups use to fund millions in position advertising and candidate support/candidate attack ads, a matter of public record if they spend money on advertising of any kind that influences public political opinion or election outcomes.
While they are at it, if corporations are “people,” maybe they should also be subject to the same obligations and laws that other individuals in society get in exchange for those rights. If a corporation’s actions kill or maim, then perhaps the CEO and the Board of Directors should face criminal charges, which they avoid now through the umbrella of that corporate “person.”
The Teahadis might even back it. After all, it corrects some serious “judicial activism” on the part of Koch friends like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Mitt is right, though. Corporations are made up of people. People like him. People who bought companies, stripped them down of American workers, and sold them off to companies who shipped the jobs overseas making those brands.
That’s the kind of people I’m afraid are going to stranglehold our government in the name of the almighty corporate bottom line. You should be too.
It isn’t easy scheming all day,
Winning and losing at the games that we play,
Grooming politicians, bribing a few,
And trying to break the golden rule;
And so we hope you understand
And try to lend a helping hand.
Do-do-do-do. Corporations are people too.
They’re really, really people too.
My shiny two.