- Corporations are Super-citizens -- A summary of a commentary by William Rivers Pitt t r u t h o u t | Perspective We are not all created equal, in fact. ThisMessage 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2005View Source
Corporations are Super-citizens -- A summary of a commentary by William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | PerspectiveWe are not all created equal, in fact. This inequality is not based on race, or sex, or religion, but upon the slow development of a body of laws that have created and empowered a breed of super-citizens which rule over every aspect of our lives, almost completely beyond the reach of justice. These super-citizens exist today under the familiar name "corporation."Corporations in America began to become truly powerful with the rise of the railroads. Railroads were the lifeblood of the growing nation, carrying both agriculture and industry from one side of the country to the other. This was a highly profitable enterprise, and railroad corporations began to exert heavy influence on both state and federal leaders. Corporate attorneys boldly asserted the precedents set in the Dartmouth and Society Supreme Court decisions, demanding that corporations deserved to have at least some of the rights of natural persons. Meanwhile, attorneys loyal to the railroads began to rise through the ranks of the Judiciary, finally finding seats on the highest bench.
This process came to a final head in 1886, when the Supreme Court heard the case "Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad." Arguments over the rights of corporations as persons had been raging for decades, and Chief Justice Waite pounded home the nail: "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."
Before the Santa Clara decision, this amendment applied only to living, breathing people. After Santa Clara, it applied also to massively wealthy corporations, groups of people authorized to act as individuals, but beyond the kinds of legal liabilities natural persons are subject to. The Santa Clara decision, and subsequent decisions affirming it, created the formidable distinction between the citizen and the super-citizen.
Both have purchasing power, both can give money to whomever or whatever they please, but the difference lies in the extent to which this can be done. A natural person can buy a house and give money to a politician. A wealthy corporation, on the other hand, can buy a thousand houses and give money to a thousand politicians. In other words, a corporation which enjoys the same rights as a natural person has a thousand times the power and influence of a natural person over the economics and politics of the country. That is a super-citizen.
Because these super-citizens can exert so much power, their rights have been dramatically extended over the years. In the 1950s, for example, corporations paid some 40% of the taxes in this country. They flexed their muscles and exerted their influence, and by 1980 were paying only 26% of the taxes in this country. The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 slashed that payment to 8%.
Foreign policy is all too often decided by corporate considerations, and these decisions often lead to war. The air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink is contaminated by pollutants that corporations are legally allowed to spew, thanks to the legislative protections created by corporate-owned politicians.
The best and brightest are drafted out of law school to work for corporate defense firms for six-figure salaries, thus ensuring that super-citizens enjoy a level of legal defense not available to anyone else. Many of these corporate attorneys graduate to the bench, where they extend the influence of super-citizens across all levels of the judicial branch.
More than anything else, however, super-citizens control the ways and means of government at every level. They bought it, they own it, and they make sure it does their bidding. The needs, requirements and best interests of the average citizen do not enter into the equation.
Super-citizens define our reality by controlling the information we receive via television, newspaper and radio. Because the soft-money rules were so vague, and because soft money contributions were so huge, the money was invariably directed towards the support of individual candidates. The politicians became corporate entities, commodities bought and sold by the super-citizens.
The passage in 2002 of the Campaign Reform Act did little to cut into the massive influence in politics enjoyed by the super-citizens. The Campaign Reform Act made most soft money contributions illegal but created a loophole large enough to sail a British tea ship through, with the enshrinement of 527 groups as political entities. 527s are tax-exempt organizations created to influence the nomination, election, appointment or defeat of political candidates. The soft money previously given to political parties goes now to these groups, and these groups enjoy umbilical connections to the parties and candidates they work in favor of.
In the final analysis, however, the influence held by these entities is antithetical to the fundamental ideals of the nation. We are not all created equal, and within that inequality lies the potential for enormous evil. Consider the case of I.G. Farben, the industrial giant that was the financial core of the Nazi regime. Farben produced the gas used in the concentration camps, and made lucrative use of slave labor in the camps. Before the war, Farben worked hand-in-hand with a number of powerful American corporations, the most prominent of which was Standard Oil.
In the aftermath of World War II, the crimes committed by Farben were considered so enormous that many wanted the corporation to be utterly destroyed. Instead, Farben was split into several smaller entities, several of which still exist. Millions of Americans purchase aspirin from Bayer, a company that was once part of Farben. Commercials for BASF tell us that company makes the products we buy better, but do not tell us that BASF was once part of Farben. It speaks to the power enjoyed by corporations that Farben, the company that forced concentration camp laborers to manufacture the Zyklon-B used to exterminate them, and which was the backbone of Nazi financial power, was not destroyed out of hand once the war was over. Farben is still with us. Its charter has merely been changed.
Are all corporations on the moral level of I.G. Farben? Certainly not. Many corporations work for the public good, and many that work for their own enrichment do not necessarily undermine the country and its principles. But some do, and exist beyond punishment or account.
The pertinent section of the Fourteenth Amendment reads, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."6/29/05
After George W. Bush's June 28 speech about Iraq, MSNBC's Hardball presented viewers with a decidedly skewed "town meeting" featuring a panel dominated by Iraq war boosters.
In other words, MSNBC's "town meeting" excluded forceful critics of the Iraq war--a war that polls show most Americans no longer support, or believe the White House is mismanaging.Most polls, however, show that support for withdrawing U.S. troops is substantially higher than 13 percent. In response to another question in the same poll, 41 percent said that the U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. In a recent Gallup poll (6/8-12/05), 46 percent said that the "U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible," while a Harris poll (6/7-12/05) found 63 percent in favor of "bringing most of our troops home in the next year."
Audience participation also tended to support Bush, causing host Matthews to comment: "It's been a great group. As you can see, the people are passionate. And they have strong patriotic beliefs and moral beliefs, and yet it's been very nice here. No fights or anything."One member of the audience who disagreed with the consensus provided by MSNBC was actually booed by the town meeting audience.