Thursday, July 3, 2014

Life, Liberty, and Happiness

Have you read the Constitution? An amazing document. It starts out, ‘We the people… We the people, in order to form a more perfect union’.  What does that mean? It's about governance; governance that serves the people; all of the people, not just a privileged few, who happen to have money and influence.

That’s how it’s supposed to work.   We’re all supposed to have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.    Our government, the one we elect under our Constitution, is supposed to work for us. Job one for the people we elect is to work for us, and our right  to life, liberty, and happiness.

That’s not happening. It’s not happening. Not even close. Our government has lost its way.  It has become a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America.  Those who have the money have the influence and make the rules.  It’s that simple.

The word corporation appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution.   When Jefferson and the founding fathers wrote the Constitution in the 18th century,  they knew well the threat posed by the power and wealth of corporations. In the 18th century, it took an act by the legislature to charter a corporation. They had to have a civic purpose, and by law,  they had a limited life. When they’d served their purpose, they were supposed to go away.

A lot has changed since then. Now U.S. chartered corporations can live forever. They no longer need to serve a public purpose.  They put profit and shareholder interest above pretty much all else. Most troubling of all,  they have finagled something for themselves that used to be, and rightfully should  be, only for human, flesh and blood people.  Corporations are now considered persons under the law.   When I said finagled, that’s exactly what I meant. There has never been a law passed that says corporations are people.  There’s nothing in the Constitution about corporations. They are and always have been artificial legal constructs that are chartered with the understanding that they are accountable ultimately to the people.  How did corporations become ‘persons’?  It turns out, the entire fiction of corporate personhood began with and continues to expand under a perverted precedent established by the United States Supreme Court.  It started in 1886 with a decision known as Santa Clara versus Southern Pacific. The court’s decision said nothing about corporate personhood. It was a clerk of the court, a former corporate lawyer, who inserted language in the notes that accompanied the court’s decision that said, corporations are considered to be persons under the law.   From that deceitful court clerk’s notes, a legal precedent was established.

Since then, things have only gotten worse. In 1976, the Supreme Court gave us the Buckley versus Valeo decision that said ‘money equals speech’. In 2010, the majority corporate conservatives on the  Supreme Court gave us Citizens United, which opened the floodgates for corporate political contributions. In 2014, the same court majority led by Chief Justice Roberts gave us McCutcheon vs. FEC, which expanded corporate political influence even further.   

Bottom line: Our elections are driven by influence money, and our politicians, too often, have become sociopaths, willfully feeding on obscene amounts of corporate cash  It is bribery on a massive scale, made legal by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It would be easy to point the finger at the Republican party. The GOP is the corporatist party. They get the lion’s share of corporate influence money, and they have rarely been shy about where their loyalties lie. That would be with Wall Street, multi-national corporations, and the like.  But there's no denying, the democrats are also part of the problem.  They too have become accustomed to trading their legislative votes for campaign cash.

These days, nothing much worth doing gets done in Congress because that’s the way the corporate minders and lobbyists want it. In Washington, meaningful change on pretty much anything of consequence is damned near impossible.  The same kind of thing is happening at the state and the local level. The corruption is nearly complete. Our political system is dysfunctional.  Too many of the people we elect to office are hacks, who are shamelessly willing to take the money and serve the rich and powerful interests that put them in office.

Every single challenge of consequence to the American people languishes because of bought and paid for political intransigence.

The mess we find ourselves in starts with two very bad ideas bolstered by the corrupt actions of the U.S. Supreme Court. One is the idea that corporations are people. The other is the idea that money is speech.

When money is speech, the only people politicians listen to are those who offer them wads of cash. Corporations have also used their deep pockets to capture control the print media, radio, television broadcasters, and they now working to consolidate their control of the internet.  As long as money is treated as speech, Wall Street and large corporations will decide public policy, not the American people. 

Moreover, when corporations are treated as persons under the law, they can use their ‘human’ rights to subvert the rights of  flesh and blood living citizens in a whole range of ways. A company like Monsanto can lie and withhold information about the impact of its genetically modified seed, and its herbicides that kill beneficial insects like honey bees. Personhood was the shield cigarette makers used to lie and deceive the public about the dangers of smoking. Personhood allows corporations guilty of criminal activity to use their ‘right against self-incrimination’ to avoid prosecution. Personhood bestowed on a corporation allows them to be unaccountable for their profit driven actions.  It is the fiction they hide behind to profit, while the consequences of their actions are left for taxpayers to cleanup. 

Fixing what’s broken about our country starts with the way we govern ourselves.  That means, we must focus our grassroots energy on a Constitutional remedy to our political malaise. In fact, anything short of that will hardly slow down the corruption in government.

If what I have written resonates with you, join the resistance. Become a part of the solution, Support Move to Amend’s initiative for a 28th Constitution Amendment, a 'We the People'  Amendment' that will say ‘Corporations are not People’ and ‘Money is not Speech.’

Here is a link to Move to Amend...


No comments:

Post a Comment