sandial (sandial) wrote,

Are we still a republic or are corporations our new nobility?

Once again I called the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC, waited on hold, and didn't get on air, making me 3-for-3 lately in that regard. The topic of the discussion was the recent horrible People United decision by the Supreme Court, allowing unlimited spending by corporations in furtherance of their political goals.

They put on a guy identified as 'Joel from Westchester' whom I thought was going to make my point for me, but unfortunately he just used the idea rhetorically rather than substantively. Even worse, they paired him with 'Robert from Manhattan' who defended the decision on the grounds that corporations are composed of people and so should have the same rights, which misses the point completely. As if corporations were taking a vote of their employees, or even of their stockholders, before deciding which candidates to support! Joel was useless in response, which made me even more frustrated at not getting on.

Briefly, the recent unfortunate Supreme Court decision is premised on two key ideas, that the right to spend money on a campaign is equivalent to the free speech guaranteed by the constitution, and that corporations, having been defined by law as equivalent to persons, are entitled to the same free speech rights as people.

Since we can't change the first element without amending the constitution, we should change the second by modifying the legal definition of a corporation. That's something Congress could do today if it chose, and it would cancel the effect of People United in a stroke.

In the present setup, corporations are privileged above humans, and that's just wrong. Unlike people, corporations are immortal, they're taxed on their profit rather than their income, they have limited liability and can't be jailed or executed, only slapped on their non-existent wrist with a fine. They are, in effect, a new elite, a class of privileged nonhuman nobility who can rule us from outside the realm of law.

Is the next logical step allowing them to be elected and hold office? Does that make any more sense than putting them in jail or drafting them into the army? (Although I can imagine ways to do that.) With this decision the interpretation of corporate law has clearly passed the bounds of common sense.

If Congress refuses to act, then let's take SCOTUS at their word and nominate IBM for governor of New York and ask the President to appoint the ACLU as Attorney General. Maybe then someone in Congress or, by some miracle, on the Court, will wake up to the deplorable situation in which we now find ourselves and do something to correct it.
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