Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Corporations are people too?

Corporate Personhood is a pretty dry and obtuse subject, but it's fundamental to our broken government.

Legal scholars claim corporate personhood is required to allow corporations to enter into contracts, sue and be sued for contract violation, etc. It also simplifies tax collection from a snigle entity rather than from all persons within the corporation. All that makes sense.  

The US Supreme Court established corporate personhood in a ruling based on the 14th Amendment - an amendment that was supposed to apply to freed slaves after the Civil War. The Courts decided this concept of "personhood" could apply to corporations as well. Mystifying in retrospect. 

This metaphor of corporations as people has crept into our national consciousness (the danger of metaphors explained eloquently) and we are a weaker democracy for it. The right to free speech was granted to corporations. And campaign contributions were deemed speech - so now corporations can give enormous donations to political organizations. Far larger contributions than the average citizen can afford. 

And so corporate personhood has irrevocably corrupted our political process. All based on a metaphor. 

But Jon Stewart said something pretty enlightened the other day in an interview with Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (about the 1:35 mark). "As Mitt Romney would say, 'Corporations are people..." but they're not Americans."

And there you have it. The funadmental fallacy in the corporate personhood argument for free speech and corporate campaign financing. Corporations are not citizens of the United States. Corporations lack the right to vote. We prohibit foreign campaign contributions. Why then are corporations given outsized influence in our electoral process?

The answer, of course, is that they've already bought and paid for our government. Our president. Our representatives. Our Supreme Court. All are beholden to the powers of these corporate intersts.  

That needs to end now.  

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