Catastrophe for American Democracy
On Thursday, January 21st, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States, in what is surely one of the three worst rulings in the history of the court, perpetrated a heinous crime against American democracy and the future of the American people. The five justices responsible were naturally: John Robertson, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and the author of the opinion, Anthony Kennedy.
By finding virtually any law of the people unconstitutional, which law would restrict the unfettered spending of money by gigantic, multi-national corporations to influence and corrupt our political processes, this reactionary and activist court has blown away one of the legal foundations for government of, by and for the people. Their argument is based directly and indirectly in various corrupt incidents which have a long history wherein corporations have been, through sheer force of graft, given various inappropriate rights of personhood, including constitutional rights and political rights. This history includes the infamous 1886 decision, whereby corporations were given the legal status of persons in certain, critical respects, in American law. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Clara_County_v._Southern_Pacific_Railroad]
By abruptly breaking with the last 103 years of Supreme Court precedent, these judges have decided that they prefer corporations to tell us what to think about how our nation should be run, than that citizens should do the same.
Seemingly overnight, a movement has arisen to fight this to the death. A subsequent article on my primary News page will provide a list of useful URLs and strategies to restrict, undermine and ultimately end this abomination of corporate personhood and constitutional rights once and for all.
Being as President Obama's first State of the Union address is to be given in less than three days from now, I thought it would be appropriate to write my own version of much of what I'd like to hear him say on this topic. Here it is:
A State of the Union Preview
January 24, 2010
Mr. President: The State of the Union is your greatest opportunity to bypass the corporate-dominated news media to get this vital message across. Virtually every American citizen knows that their government has been in a death grip of corporate influence for decades. The news from last Thursday only completes our loss of power over our future. We must fight back now to end the travesty of corporate personhood and corporate political rights. The outcome of nearly every other fight depends upon it. Now is the time to pick this fight. Delay will kill the dream of American Democracy forever. To that end, I've written my own, strictly amateur version of this part of what you could say to the nation on Wednesday. We are so hoping that you'll fight this disease to end it once and for all. Please find the courage to speak plainly for the people, as we all know you love to do.
My fellow Americans. Today, our country faces the worst assault upon the viability of its democracy that it has ever seen. Just last Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced a decision by five of the nine justices which holds that because a corporation is allegedly a person, and therefore allegedly entitled to the rights of citizenship, that laws regulating corporate expenditures to influence our otherwise democratic elections are unconstitutional as violations of the First Amendment. This 5 to 4 ruling holds that a corporation is free to spend as much money as it wants to determine who represents the people in Congress and in the White House.
This utterly corrupt decision shows a complete disregard for the Constitution, for the very idea of democracy itself, and for the American people. It ensures that, if implemented, only a pale shadow of actual democracy will remain in the United States of America. Indeed we will have completed our transformation into the United Corporations of America in a brave new world governed by the whims and profit motives of the soulless, lifeless, amoral, unloving, unpatriotic, and even un-American legal entities known as corporations.
A corporation is a legal entity which does not exist in the physical universe. It is not, contrary to the ludicrous precedent begun with the Supreme Court ruling of 1886, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, a person. It has no mass. You can't go somewhere and see it, or touch it. It is not alive. You can't kill it by starving it of food or denying it air to breathe. It is owned by people, it employs people, and it does business with people. But it is no more human than the shoes I am wearing.
Corporations are, in and of themselves, not generally wicked, rather useful legal constructs which facilitate a great deal of benefit to the nation as a whole. But the exercise of political rights by corporations is a monstrous evil which has been corroding our nation for many decades and which is responsible for nearly every instance of the American people being incapable of getting their government to respond to their needs. Virtually every facet of American life has been deeply touched by the corporate power over our supposed self-governance.
If you want the right to band together as a nation of people to insure yourselves for health care, an army of corporations and their billions of very well-organized lobbying dollars and political gifts to the re-election campaigns of our public servants in the Congress stands in your way.
If you want a first-class system of public education in America, so that democracy might flourish here with a well-informed electorate, corporate involvement in politics stands in your way.
If you want a robust fourth estate, which provides rich and unbiased news reporting on issues of our governance and other vital national concerns, corporate influence on governance stands in your way. Around the world, first-world nations outside the U.S. subsidize journalism 50 to 100X more per capita than we do, in order to ensure that the people remain informed.
If you want real national security against the many things that actually threaten our future lives and well being, corporate money will continue to stand in your way.
If you want to show your compassion for people less fortunate than yourselves in other nations, and help the poor, corporate money stands in your way.
If you want prosperity for yourselves and your families, if you want exciting, rewarding, and steady employment with good benefits, corporate influence over our future has taken far too much of that already. Unemployment itself is a result of pro-corporate policy in the overwhelming majority of instances.
The United States is nearly unique in being a nation with no law requiring paid vacation for every worker. The list of benefits which nearly all of you have all been denied due to the doctrine of Corporate Personhood is longer than you can possibly imagine.
This travesty must not stand, it will not stand. So long as the American people fight for the idea of self-governance upon which our nation was formed, crimes against democracy such as this outrageous and criminal Supreme Court ruling will not stand. The doctrine of Corporate Personhood must be vanquished.
Were it not for this caustic influence of corporate money upon or political system, average American families would already today be tens of thousands of dollars richer per year than they are. When a government spends nearly 90% of its discretionary income on a largely useless, permanent military mobilization for war, fighting wars, and cleaning up after those wars; when a people's national budget is stolen to buy special favors for very wealthy corporations, including the creation of military power which is more costly than those of every single other nation on Earth combined — there is obviously very little money left over to actually meet the real needs of the country.
America's infrastructure is crumbling. Our roads, our bridges, our power grid, our public schools, our sewer system, our fresh water supplies and distribution systems, our levees, our soil conservation, our fisheries, our forests, and indeed our sky, as well as many other basic sources of our wealth, are in such poor repair as a result of being starved for money, that we have taken great strides toward the status of a third world nation over the last few decades.
More and more often, Americans are shocked by traveling to other countries, when they see how much better so many things work for the people, outside the USA. If you love having your pockets picked every day by rules written through corporate influence; if you love seeing elections stolen by blatantly dishonest advertising, electronically stuffed ballot boxes and quasi-legal voter intimidation and suppression; if you love knowing that the senators and the representative of each of a great many of you are free to take huge checks from companies and industry lobbying groups that want and surely get huge favors in return; if you are convinced that the government here in Washington, as well as in the state capitols doesn't work for you as it should; then you will surely approve of this nonsensical legal doctrine which allows an entity with billions of dollars in profit to wield more influence than any ten thousand, or even any million actual American citizens.
Corporations and other powerful monied interests cannot vote. But they can influence elections in far more powerful ways. As of last Thursday, they will now be able to buy up, not some, but all of the TV ad time in the markets for a given electoral race. They can buy direct mail to overflow your mailbox with lie, after lie, after lie in support of rules for governance which pad their bottom lines and enrich their major stockholders and their top executives. They can win elections and punish upstanding public servants who oppose any legal crimes against you which require redress. But it hardly ends there.
In Washington, there are FIVE ways in which powerful monied interests have for many decades been corrupting our democratic processes of self governance.
The First is that this dirty money largely decides who will and who can actually run for office.
The Second is that this dirty money largely determines which candidates win their primary and general election races. And this cycle is repeated when many incumbents run again.
The Third is that this dirty money largely determines which bills are introduced into the Congress and what those proposed laws actually say. Many bills contain language that was literally written by people directly employed by giant corporations.
The Fourth is perhaps the most important and the least known. For a new law which has been passed by Congress and signed into law by the President to take effect, regulations which implement it must be written. These regulations are also very heavily influenced by expensive hired guns working for giant corporations and industry trade groups, and often wind up severely diluting laws which the public saw passed which would have otherwise benefitted them. The regs are where the actual rules of the road are set.
The Fifth is the issue of enforcement. If a set of regulations requires that an industry not continue to dump millions of gallons of toxic chemical waste into America's air, soil, waterways, groundwater, and oceans, it is up to the Executive Branch to enforce the regulations to protect the nation from such criminal activities against the nation and against the biosphere itself. If a chain of banks decides to sell gullible, first-time homeowners mortgages which gravely endanger both the customers' and the nation's financial well being, it is up to the executive branch to enforce existing regulations against such dishonest practices. But if those who occupy the White House, and their many political appointees within the various enforcement agencies of the federal government have the intention of working for those rich and powerful corporations instead of working for you, the system again fails, and the future again trends toward a bleak, hellish one, reminiscent of so many frightening science fiction movie scenarios.
The future is up to us. The founding fathers gave us hope in the form of a conceptually brilliant set of founding documents. They famously knew that it would be up to us, whether we could keep our democracy alive in the face of tyranny exactly such as that unleashed by the five members of our own Supreme Court last Thursday. They knew that the chances of success for any people to remain free; for any people to govern themselves and not become serfs, wage-slaves or mere consumers were slim. History is filled with failures, where tyrants and kings, dictators and powerful business interests have run roughshod over humanity and the Earth, starting wars for profit, enslaving nations for profit, destroying our natural heritage for profit. Always in the service of the short-term greed of a tiny minority. Always with an avalanche of cowardly rationalizations used to dupe the people into thinking it's not so bad.
Well, if things were as the American people would have them, unemployment would be near zero. Education here would be the best in the world. Medicine would also, and no one would ever have to worry whether they were covered now or would be when they most needed medical help.
If the American people actually governed themselves, free from the influence of corrupting, powerful monied interests, we would have a secure and sustainable environment and the prospect of a civilization which would, as President Theodore Roosevelt said, be a work for the ages.
This first paragraph of our Constitution may be the most beautiful, the most perfect paragraph ever written. It bears careful consideration and loving respect:
We The People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Join with me, in committing yourself to the end of corporate rule in America. For detailed rebuttals to the many lies you will hear in opposition to what I've been telling your here tonight, visit www.WhiteHouse.gov.
The insane notion of Corporate Personhood must be quickly banished from American law. The legalized bribery of our Senators, Representatives and Presidents by powerful monied interests must be forever ended. The financial stranglehold over our self-government by powerful monied interests must be opposed by whatever means are necessary.
Should all manner of civil discourse fail to root out the tyranny which has now been fully unleashed upon our self-governance, it remains, as always, the right and the duty of the American People to overthrow such government, and institute in its place such government as shall serve their needs.
We may conclude that it is necessary to amend our Constitution, in order that it should explicitly state that non-citizen entities are entitled to no political rights whatsoever. But our Constitution is not now lacking. No legitimate interpretation of it could conclude that a mere legal entity can be entitled to citizenship, let alone millions of times more power of citizenship than actual citizens. The structure of our government is mostly good and wise, yet it has let us down badly and is now threatened with worse. It is many of the men and women within it who have done so much to kill American democracy. It is always your money that they are after. And they've been getting it. Not by taxing you. But by diverting the taxes collected from you toward their own pockets and those of their friends among the corporate and economic elite, and especially by insuring that the laws and regulations governing business practices in America serve those same elites to an excessive degree.
Whenever you wonder what the true goals of the members of Congress or a presidential administration are, follow the money. Don't believe what we say, though many of us are telling you the truth. Follow the money to see what we are actually doing for or to your interests. And don't believe those cable news screamers who will tell any lie to make themselves richer or increase their market share. Be thankful for the public servants who serve their voters and who work for the longer term interests of the nation. Beware of the ideologues who always find any excuse to favor the biggest companies, while jawboning us about how America's small businesses need their help. Our small businesses are the engine of American enterprise and the greatest source of new jobs, but corporate political power is killing them.
On a level playing field, the parties would play fairly and do good work together. Over time, pro-corporate extremists would no longer be elected to office. The GOP would return to its conservative roots and those Democrats who have needed it could also let go of the corporate money which is sometimes vital under the current regimen to compete with the GOP's corporate money at election time.
End the ludicrous notion of Corporate Personhood in American law. End the corrosive and corrupting influence of powerful monied interests on national discourse and national politics. Let a new era of real democracy reign over the greatest nation on Earth.