Thom Hartmann on corporate personhood

Posted: December 12th, 2008 by: h2

Thom Hartmann reminds us once again of the big smelly secret that the current corrupt political system and corporations do not want you to know: We can fix our society in many ways by simply blocking the ability of corporations to take advantage of the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution to engage in political activity.

This solves, instantly, some very core problems that are making our society fall victim to a form of corruption that can be quite easily removed, corporate lobbyists and political contributions, money, that is.

But today corporations are asserting that they — and only they — should stand side-by-side with humans in having access to the Bill of Rights. Nike asserted before the Supreme Court last year, as Sinclair Broadcasting did in a press release last month, that these corporations have First Amendment rights of free speech. Dow Chemical in a case it took to the Supreme Court asserted it has Fourth Amendment privacy rights and could refuse to allow the EPA to do surprise inspections of its facilities. J.C. Penney asserted before the Supreme Court that it had a Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from discrimination — the Fourteenth Amendment was passed to free the slaves after the Civil War — and that communities that were trying to keep out chain stores were practicing illegal discrimination. Tobacco and asbestos companies asserted that they had Fifth Amendment rights to keep secret what they knew about the dangers of their products. With the exception of the Nike case, all of these attempts to obtain human rights for corporations were successful, and now they wield this huge club against government that was meant to protect relatively helpless and fragile human beings.
Is Wal-Mart a Person? Thom Hartmann Tells Why It Is–Kind of–But Not Really

So next time you read an article about how great Phil Knight is, keep this in mind. The individual persons in a corporation, the humans, may or may not be decent people, but the overall enterprise itself imposes its own logic, and that logic tells it that if it can get away with x or y, then it must try, since profit is its only legal requirement.

I really like how Hartmann lays out just why some of our current situation is in fact far more fixable than we are being led to believe, and, not only that, that such a situation has happened before, right before, surprise surprise, the Great Depresssion:

History tells us that when corporate power is unrestrained, and corporations grow so large that the largest among them come to control and then stifle the marketplace, the result is the corruption of democracy followed by economic collapse. We saw it in the serial tax-cuts and deregulation of the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover administrations, which led directly to the Great Depression. And we’re seeing it writ large today, with the same consequences. Democracy is under assault and America is becoming impoverished.

Do yourself a favor, give this interview, on a read, it’s sort of an eye opener if you’ve never really thought about how the corporations here have been consistently manipulating the system to generate profit for themselves, at, what we are fast beginning now to see, a massive, and potentially fatal, cost to all life on the planet earth. Or read more about the problem of corporate personhood on Thom’s website.

This isn’t a small problem, but parts of this problem are under our control, and can be improved, with very little effort.

Sure all those congressional types would have to face doing real work when they left congress, rather than sliding right into a nice lobbying job, but I think, for some reason, not many among us would cry at such a fate, although I guarantee you, at this moment, you’d be hard pressed to underestimate the sense of personal entitlement these people now have in terms of believing that they have a near God given right to money and power.

Maybe it’s time to fix that misunderstanding, and restore the concept of ‘public service’. It would be a start, if nothing else.

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