Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Letter to the Editor I wish I'd written:

[via email -- thanks to Jerry Anderson!]


The 14th Amendment was adopted to ensure the constitutional rights of freed slaves and their descendents after the Civil War. There have been roughly 325 federal court cases relative to this amendment since that time. Nineteen of those cases have actually had anything at all to do with a human being. The remaining 300 or so cases have been part of the ongoing corruption process that grants “personhood” to corporations. “Corporate Personhood” is the legal concept that grants most of the rights of natural living, breathing citizens to corporations.

Under our constitution US corporations are allowed virtually every right of humanbeings including such rights as the right to marry. This “marriage/merger” concept which flies in the face of “traditional marriage” is openly embraced by conservatives who will freely grant to a profit-making business what they flatly refuse to grant to millions of our living, breathing LGBT citizens.

Did anyone hear a single conservative objection when half the major banks in our country eloped with the other half in 2008? Even corporations like Blackwater and Halliburton are allowed to serve openly in every branch of our military … unlike thousands of living breathing gay and lesbian citizens who still serve and suffer under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

What we have discovered over the course of the past year is that along with our “constitutional rights,” human persons also have the obligation to serve time in prison and in some cases be executed when they break the law. Corporations have somehow managed to avoid that unpleasantness.

In the wake of last week’s decision in the Citizens United case, corporate rights of personhood will now also include the right of corporations to buy politicians and elections with no limit on the corrupting power of their contributions. This is because corporations as “persons” must be granted free speech. This free speech right is in addition to their corporate “human right” to marry and their corporate “human right” right to serve openly in the military.

Does anyone see the irony that corporations have now been granted more “Human Rights” by the Supreme Court than millions of our own anatomically HUMAN citizens have been granted? After the last two years of outrageous corporate arrogance and greed, why is it that we have done absolutely nothing to strip those rights from corporations, yet we strip those very same rights every day from our very human LGBT soldiers and citizens?

Charlie Smith
Charleston, SC


Rev. David Justin Lynch said...

Rather than totally condemn the Court's ruling based on emotions about corporations, let's dispassionately read and analyze the decision. It is not all bad. The Court also decided that labor unions have the same free speech rights as corporations. Moreover, the people who condemn the decision assume that corporations are tone-deaf to their employees, customers, vendors, and the public. The question really is what stances particular companies (and unions) take on particular issues. If you are a stockholder, employee, customer, or vendor of a large corporation, you are in a position to influence what they say in their advertising. You have the right to demonstrate, organize boycotts, write letters to the editor, harass CEO's (to endure that is part of the job description), whistleblow, and send story ideas to 60 Minutes, if you feel a big corp's issue stances are against sound public policy. The way to conquer speech with which you don't agree is more speech, not tell the speaker he, she or it must shut up. As a lawyer, I have a passionate commitment to freedom of expression ---for EVERYONE.

lizziewriter said...

I'm not buying DJL's comments. As a shareholder, taxpayer, parent, something like 13th generation American with at least the last three generations college grads, I don't think I'm completely provincial when I observe that labor unions can be corrupt; small shareholders, even in masses, have very very little power compared to the larger stockholders (the ones who award the bonuses to themselves); scientists can be, if not bought, certainly influenced -- unpleasant studies can be hidden and iffy ones promoted. We have become too good at doubletalk and rationalizing, and too lazy about critical thinking and common sense.

uffda51 said...

Money is not speech. Corporations are not people.

MarkBrunson said...

If corporations are individuals, does that mean we can kill them in self-defense?

MarkBrunson said...

Or try them for treason? Or murder? Or wilfull negligence?

RonF said...

You know, when this decision was first publicized I actually had the same reaction you all did - that it was a terrible thing. I was curious, though, about how this related to the law. After all, it's the Supreme Court's primary job to judge whether or not something is in accordance with the Constitution. What the effects of that ruling are is of a lesser importance. It's not their job to determine whether or not the Constitution itself is wrong and to "fix" things according to that judgement.

So I looked at the Constitution and the law. Now, I live in Illinois. It turns out that Illinois has no law (and has not had any such law) limiting corporations from doing in Illinois State elections what the Supreme Court says that corporations can now do in Federal elections. So according to those who are claiming that this ruling by the Supreme Court will destroy free speech in America, we should see corporations running ad campaigns and shouting over presumably more reasoned speakers and those who represent the public interest instead of special interests. Right?

Well, guess what? It doesn't happen. In fact, Illinois elections are pretty free from that kind of thing. And don't forget that we somehow in the face of being exposed to special interest domination of the political debate managed to elect Barak Obama as Senator. Why?

The most likely reason seems simple to me. Corporations such as Wal-Mart, etc., see that the risk of alienating a large proportion of their potential customer base is greater than the potential reward from running advocacy ads.

So if you truly want to get some traction on this issue, I'd suggest that instead of indulging in unsupported speculation you do some actual research. It is the genius of Federalism that we have 50 laboratories in which different approaches to this issue have been tried. Read up on the law. Start with the State that you yourself live in. See what the law is and see what effect that regulation of such speech - or lack thereof - has had in your state.

Because from where I sit the evidence is that you're all wrong. What you fear is going to come to pass in fact has not happened in those areas where it could have already happened. There has to be reasons for that. Speculation must bow to facts.

RonF said...

In this case the corporation involved was a group called Citizens United, who had pooled their money and resources in a corporate structure in order to create and distribute a video/film that presented opposition to Hillary Clinton's candidacy for the Presidency.

Why should they not be able to do that? Why should CBS or the New York Times be able to present news stories or editorials in opposition to or support of a candidate but some other group of citizens be prohibited from doing so?

RonF said...

The way to conquer speech with which you don't agree is more speech,

Well, well, DJL, here is an area where you and I are in 100% agreement.

uffda51 said...

This was a great letter to the editor.

“Because from where I sit the evidence is that you're all wrong.” No surprise there.

“We should see corporations running ad campaigns and shouting over presumably more reasoned speakers and those who represent the public interest instead of special interests. Right?”

Did you see the video of the town halls last summer, Ronf? Did you see the ill and impoverished speakers shouted down and mocked? Have you heard of astro-turf? Have you seen the TV ads? And this happened before the SCOTUS decision.

“Actual research?”

Not addressed by SCOTUS is the problem of expenditures made by domestic subsidiaries of foreign companies or domestic corporations controlled by foreign nationals, as well as the problem of foreign nationals being directly involved in expenditure decisions made by foreign owned domestic corporations.

Another problem: states are now effectively barred from adopting curbs on corporate and union spending in the 39 states which have judicial elections.

Those who believe in “death panels” and show up at astro-turf tea parties with racist placards and sidearms are not interested in “actual research.”

Corprations already have rigged the system to tilt in there favor. There is a single building in the Cayman Islands which is “home” (on paper) to 18,887 off-shore businesses, for the purpose of avoidng U.S. income tax. By all means, let’s give corporations more influence in American politics. BTW, my Enron refund check seems to have gotten lost in the mail.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, in 2008, the average full time Associate (34 hours per week) earned $10.84 hourly, an annual income of $19,165. That’s $2,000 below the Federal Poverty Line for a family of four. In 2007, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott earned $29.7 million in total compensation, or 1,551 times the annual income of the average full time Wal-Mart Associate. Half of Wal-Mart worker health care expense is paid by the U.S. taxpayer. Wal-Mart has repeatedly violated child labor laws yet continues to obtain subsidies from state and local governments. Wal-Mart is clearly not worried about their public image. This is all public information, but who can outspend Wal-Mart? Conservatives have been very successful in convincing middle-class voters to support the very policies which increase their own taxes.

Hey, but I’m sure a couple of letters to the editor will turn those inequities around. I’m sure News Corp will run them.

The Yes-On-Eight folks maintain that marriage equality will destroy American as we know it, yet could provide no “actual research” to support this claim at trial. In other states, in future cases, they will now be able to directly affect the election of judges.

More money in American politics, uncoupled from truth and integrity, will certainly buy more politicians and judges, but produce less democracy, and less justice. This, not marriage equality, could destroy the very idea of America.