Corporations are People Too?

As the saying goes, I will believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

I still cannot believe the power handed to corporation in the Citizens United Supreme Court decision last year and assumed to be the right and correct order of things by all the current Republican candidates for President.  I can write-off the positions by Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman based on what I think is their ignorance of history.  But Newt Ginrich?  He should know better.

A little background: The Citizens United decision, corporations were declared to be defacto people, having the same rights as do people.  In this regard, because of this decision, they can now make political contributions that can remain totally secret.

How this decision makes sense or is in any way defensible by any sentient person not drinking the red cool-aid is, just, well, the words escape me. . .And to stand up and say that this was intended by the Founding Fathers is as mind-boggling as anything that has come out of Sarah Palin.

The first corporation in the History of the World was the East India Company, set up as all corporations then were, as a quasi-governmental organization for a specific purpose.  At that time, if a  corporation got out of line, the crown simply revoked it’s charter. As time passed, corporations were organized to finance large projects, like the colonization of the Americas.

It is not possible to overstate the dislike our founders had for the East India Company. The East India Company was the single largest and most powerful corporation in the world for most of the revolutionary times; it was from EIC ships that tea was dumped into Boston Harbor. During this period large corporations paid for elections in England  and most everyone in Parliament owned stock in the EIC. Our leaders at the time viewed corporations as a front for moneyed interest that hid behind the curtain exercising great political power.  In fact, one colony was governed by an English corporation, Massachusetts Bay Company.

Far from believing that corporations were people (does it say “We the Corporations” in the preamble?), they distrusted them so much that corporations could not exist more than 20 or 30 years and were limited to one purpose, which could not be the “anything legal” purpose so often placed on state incorporation documents these days. They could not hold stock in other companies, and their property holdings were limited to what they needed to accomplish their specific and limited business purpose as stated in their charters.

But above and beyond these limitation, in the early days of this country, most states had laws on the books such that a political contribution by a corporation was a crime.

Through the early days of the county, up through the gilded age, when Teddy Roosevelt broke up the trusts, corporations were generally not thought well of, as can be seen from the following:

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” – Thomas Jefferson in an1802 letter to Secretary of State Albert Gallatin.

“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country” – Thomas Jefferson, 1816.

“Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.” – John Adams.

“These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people’s money to settle the quarrel.”  – Abraham Lincoln speech to Illinois legislature, Jan. 1837

As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places
will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.” –  a letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.

“As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear, or is trampled beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.” – Grover Cleveland, 1888.

“We wish to control big business so as to secure among other things good wages for the wage-workers and reasonable prices for the consumers. Wherever in any business the prosperity of the businessman is obtained by lowering the wages of his workmen and charging an excessive price to the consumers we wish to interfere and stop such practices. We will not submit to that kind of prosperity any more than we will submit to prosperity obtained by swindling investors or getting unfair advantages over business rivals.” – Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.

As George Santayana said ” “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The Gilded Age was covered in our high school American History class.  Probably for many of us, that was the last one we had. My American History teacher was the school’s basketball coach.  Yours may have been a similarly qualified person; and while Coach F was good man who reached out to me at times when no one else was there, as a history teacher, well, he knew how to coach man-to-man and zone defenses. We remember the term “the Gilded Age”  if we are lucky.

Read about it.  Read about what was going on in the country before Teddy Roosevelt turned against his wealthy upbringing and took on the trusts for the good of all.  Read Upton Sinclair’s writings. Don’t trust me; read the history and learn what had happened when corporations become too powerful.

I am worried about this election cycle.  They say that upwards of Six Billion Dollars will be spent on the Presidential election.  How much will be from corporations? Is their contribution even in that number?

The movie Rollerball, set in 2018 envisioned a world that was a global corporate state. The Energy Corporation, the global monoploy based in Houston along with other corporations controlled access to all transport, luxury, housing, communication, and food on a global basis.

Is this what we want? Is it what the Supreme Court made provision for last year in Citizen’s United? It’s not too far till 2018.

I have heard it said that since corporations are owned by people that the free speech should extend to the entity they own.  Ok, maybe, except that shareholders are not usually privy to everything a corporation does, and corporation are often owned by other corporations, even companies located in China, Japan, or the Middle East, or foreign capitalists. Was it the intent of the founders or the current Supreme Court to provide an avenue to foreigners to affect our elections? Do we really want Carlos Slim of Mexico (perhaps the world’s wealthiest person) or Bernard Arnault of France (Number four on the list) to have a voice in our elections? My bet is they own more stock in our corporations than most of us do.

You can read the decision at: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/citizens-united-v-federal-election-commission/

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