The Corporate States of America

On January 21, the Supreme Court of the United States produced a ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that removes any regulation of what corporations can say, and when they can “say” it to influence elections in the United States. Corporations are now free to pump as much cash into the political process as they desire, whenever they desire. The majority’s rationale for this ruling is based on the legal notion that corporations are “persons” under the law and that therefore the First Amendment right to free speech applies to such persons. And, as we all know now, speech = money.

This ruling reverses 100 years of legal precedent and pulls the rug out from 100 years of efforts to stem the tide of corporate cash in the American political process.  This ruling will drown what was left of Democracy in this country in a flash flood of cash from the rich coporate giants in America – the likes of Walmart, Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil, Google, GE, AT&T … etcetera.

If you have been following the health care reform debacle last year, you witnessed the healthcare companies fighting against health care reform – with one arm tied behind their back.

Were you bothered by the recklessness of the Wall-Street speculators who almost drove this country’s economy over the cliff? Were you put off by their complete shamelessness to accept tax-payer bailout money only to pay themselves bonuses from these funds? That was the banking industry manipulating Washington with one arm tied behind its back.

The SCOTUS just untied their arms, and and the arms of all corporate interests, and handed them the keys to Washington. This ruling paves the way for a hostile takeover of the US government by corporate America – a corporatist coup of sorts – in the next couple of elections. Lobbyists can now march into any elected official’s office and tell them how to vote, because they can threaten to march into their district or state and unleash a firestorm of propaganda that will end that politician’s career.

In addition, the SCOTUS left wide open the important question of the status of US subsidiaries of foreign corporations. It is very conceivable that the US subsidiaries of Chinese, Venezuelan or Saudi state-owned corporations (to name just a few examples) could wield significant influence on US elections and government.

Fundamentally, though, the absurdity of the legal notion of personhood for corporations has to be explored. A corporation is an abstract, legal entity, that has exactly the rights that the law confers upon it. No more, no less. It has no inherent moral right – no inalienable or natural rights. Incorporating is nowhere near as exciting and magical as birth (unless you’re a lawyer). Dissolving a corporation is no more murder than putting a car in a crusher, and I know more cars that have a personality than corporations.

It makes a lot more sense to discuss the inalienable rights and personhood  of trees than those of corporations. A tree growing on US soil is a singular, natural being and as  such it probably has more natural right to protection as a “person” under the constitution than a corporation. A corporation is an  artificial, virtual entity that can change shape faster than a shape-shifter, and that can move off-shore with the stroke of a pen. The tree has a firm allegiance to this country because it is literally rooted in American soil. A corporation’s allegiance is solely to its owners or shareholders. So many of the natural creatures in this country just barely have the right to exist, but they are not afforded any “inalienable rights” under the constitution. Yet, these are real, living, breathing creatures on American soil. Not some abstract legal construct that really only exists to facilitate commerce.

As a person, I find the notion of personhood for corporations offensive. This absurd ruling makes a mockery of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. It effectively legalizes bribery and political blackmail. This ruling has now cemented the Corporate States of America – with a government of the people, by the people, for the corporations.

One Response to “The Corporate States of America”

  1. Agbessi Says:

    Yes indeed. They legalized bribery and corruption in America. Now the official rule and constitution in America is called “money”. It’s a real shame and the supreme court’s argument that corporations are persons is ridiculous. Who know if those Supreme Court old guys were not bribed by the corporations as well. Democracy is officially dead in US.