Sunday, February 21, 2010

Raising the Corporate Toddler

Oh, yes.  It is a tale of tragedy and sinister irresponsibility, indeed.  For MeanMesa visitors with a queasy stomach, perhaps it is a tale best left neglected in favor of some future, more civil post.  For all with the gumption for the rest of the story, here we go.

The infant, a foundling toddler was found on the steps of the old Supreme Court building one cold morning in February.  Although the child was cold and hungry, he laid there in utter silence, revealing an almost suspicious strength and raw will.  A glimpse of the tiny face seemed to show -- even in a child so young and helpless -- a frightening determination for self-preservation.

We knew a few, furtive facts about the gang who frequented the "club house"  which was in the old abandoned Supreme Court.  There were a few names, Alito, Scalia, Breyer and Thomas, likely suspects for such dismal mischief.  The reputed gang leader, like the others, never indicted for all manner of civil and criminal transgressions, was a mystery figure named Roberts.

He enjoyed it when the neighborhood folks, terrified by the "court house gang," called him, uh, the Chief Justice.

The child was clearly an infant corporation.  The criminal "court house gang," as was their habit, had filled the little fellow's head with all sorts of anti-social ideas until he was practically already a dangerous felon before  he took his first step.  Here, we should look more closely at just what sort of anti-social ideas the lad had already accepted as fact.

Idea Number One:  The Young Corporation's Parents

It turns out that there is actually no legal precedent to uphold when it comes to whether or not corporations are actually people.  An excellent analysis of precisely what actually happened in that old Supreme Court case that neo-cons relish in endlessly citing comes from one of MeanMesa's favorite progressive commentators, Mr. Thom Hartmann  (The Thom Hartmann Show, 1350 AM, Albuquerque, 10 AM to 1 PM, Monday through Friday).  Here is the factual version of the story:

Transcript: Thom’s Corporate Personhood rant, 09 September 2009

Okay, let me just lay this out. Back in 1885, January 26th, 1885, Delphin Delmas was the lawyer who had been hired by the county of Santa Clara to argue this case before the Supreme Court. Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad. Prior to that, he had for free on behalf of the county, argued a case which actually led to the saving of the redwoods. There literally would be no redwoods left in the United States were it not for Delphin Delmas, this lawyer. An amazing man. And early around 1906 or 1907, he defended a famous murder case, a movie was made out of it called “The Lady in the Red Swing”. He’s got a very colorful history, this guy.

But in any case, before the Supreme Court the Southern Pacific Railroad argued in this case that the 14th amendment which says ‘no person shall be denied equal protection under the law’ should apply to them as a corporation. In other words, that as a corporation they should have rights under the constitution because the 14th amendment, when it was written to free the slaves in the 1870’s, the 14th amendment didn’t say ‘no natural person shall be denied equal protection under the law.’ Instead it says ‘no person.’ And for hundreds of years of common law we had this distinction between natural persons, you and me, and artificial persons: churches, governments, corporations.

And so Delphin Delmas, on January 26th, 1885, this is in my book, “Unequal Protection”. In fact, I think it’s the only place that it’s ever been published, because I actually found the notes, Delphin Delmas’s own notes of his arguments before the Supreme Court. This is what he said before the court. He said,The defendant claims [that the state’s taxation policy]… this had to do with two different counties taxing the railroad at two different rates, and they said, “that violates the portion of the 14th amendment which provides that no state shall be denied any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.” He said, The shield behind which [the Southern Pacific Railroad] attacks the Constitution and laws of California is the Fourteenth Amendment. It argues that the amendment guarantees to every person within the jurisdiction of the State the equal protection of the laws; that a corporation is a person; that, therefore, it must receive the same protection as that accorded to all other persons in like circumstances. …

To my mind, the fallacy, if I may be permitted so to term it, of the argument lies in the assumption that corporations are entitled to be governed by the laws that are applicable to natural persons. That, it is said, results from the fact that corporations are [artificial] persons, and that the last clause of the Fourteenth Amendment refers to all persons without distinction.
The defendant has been at pains to show that corporations are persons, and that being such they are entitled to the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. … The question is, Does that amendment place corporations on a footing of equality with individuals?

And then he goes on to the whole thing he says,When the law says, ‘Any person being of sound mind and of the age of discretion may make a will,’ or ‘any person having arrived at the age of majority may marry,’ I presume the most ardent advocate of equality of protection would hardly contend that corporations must enjoy the right of testamentary disposition or of contracting matrimony. And he goes on from there, basically pointing out that people and corporations are completely different things.

Here is the big problem. If this court rules that corporations can participate in political discourse, right now we have laws that prohibit, remember the whole Al Gore, the Buddhist temple thing, how some of that money was coming from off-shore. Turned out it wasn’t, but you know, it got the right wingers pretty hysterical for a while.

We have corporations in the United States that are owned in large part by entities that are not in the United States. In fact some of them are owned by the Government of Communist China, large chunks of their stock. About 20% of the members of the boards of directors of the hundred largest corporations in America, the Fortune 100 companies, about 20% of their boards are non-US citizens. We’re talking transnational corporations. Their interests are not the same of those as a citizen.

And yet it looks like our Supreme Court is about to give them the rights that you and I have to political free speech. Because it is going to assert, and it has asserted over the years, in this case that I’m talking about, Santa Clara County VS. Southern Pacific Railroad, actually the court did not rule that corporations were persons, but they have been claiming that ever since then because the clerk of the court, John Chandler Bancroft Davis, former President of the Newburg and New York railroad, wrote into a head note – the commentary on the case – which has no legal standing, a quote from the chief justice who had since died, he was dying of congestive heart failure during the year the proceedings happened, he died the next year. This was published two years later. He wrote that the chief justice said, “a corporation is a person and therefore entitled to protection under the 14th amendment.” When nobody knows if the chief justice said that. Even if he did, it doesn’t matter. It’s not the case. So what this is going to come down to, is whether corporations have the rights of persons in the United States, whether they have free speech rights and, this is just a huge, huge issue.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

Now, the toddler found on the steps was an orphan, not because he had suffered some outrageous fate in the manner that an actual human baby would have had to suffer to reach that status, but because the "courthouse baby" had simply never had any parents at all.   Clearly acting in an unexpected compassion, the "court house gang" had kept the truth from the child, telling him that, in fact, an old Supreme Court ruling had created him and made him an actual, organic person.

Once the infant corporation had been placed in a nice foster home, several other aspects of the child's unusual organic nature soon became apparent.  He never cried.  He was extremely cruel to other children in the home, seemingly without so much as a hint of remorse, no matter what awful thing he did.  However, most interesting of all, even though he ate voraciously every scrap of food that came anywhere near him -- including the meals meant for the other children -- the child required no diapers.  Finally, the little dickens stole everything in the foster home which wasn't bolted down, instantly denying any guilt and blaming one of his peers.
His foster parents began to doubt the "organic" nature of the little guy.

Once, when he had grown a little older, these foster parents asked him point blank "Are you actually a human child?  Will you become a 'person' when you grow up?  Maybe you aren't actually a person, at all!"

The young boy exploded defensively.  "I am a too person and I can prove it!"  He instantly cited, book and page, every word of the imaginary Supreme Court ruling Thom described above, and that solved that.

Idea Number Two:  When You Grow Up, You Will Be A Corporate Citizen

Now, the "court house gang" had already convinced the little fellow that he had the perfect right -- because of the imaginary old Supreme Court Ruling -- to just jump in wherever he pleased to "money bomb" the election of any candidate that he didn't like.  The idea was that, since he was a person and a citizen, he would have the same rights to influence elections as any other citizen who was also a person.

However, aside from the diaper business, there seemed to be a few other interesting differences between our little corporation and the other children.  He didn't ever get sick.  He never had to fight for  his country.  He was essentially immortal, making all the ethical claptrap controlling the anti-social behavior of normal children irrelevant to him. He was convinced that he really didn't have to pay taxes.  And he, as he grew up, became incredibly adept at bribing everyone who happened to have something which he could not outrightly steal.

In no time, the little corporation had grown into what could pass for an adult.  His childhood habits of greed and violence had gradually also matured.  Now, as a full fledged gangster in his own right, a social miscreant for whom his old mentors, the "court house gang," would have nothing but sincere admiration, he unleashed himself on the public.  His old "petty crime" days had now turned into  a "profit at any price" rampage.  Insider trading became one of his favorite past times.
Finally, the young corporation knew better than to try to simply steal what he wanted from that old gang, and he immediately went to work bribing them.

How Things Might Have Turned Out Differently

What factors could have changed the way this evil little monster matured into an adult Visigoth?

MeanMesa has some ideas.

Perhaps the Constitutional position of "Corporate Citizen Status" might include a few responsibilities which all the other, more organic, citizens shoulder in their efforts to keep the country running.  For one thing, a Corporate Citizen should not be allowed to drag the entire country into profit wars around the world whenever even the slightest opportunity arose.

A Corporate Citizen should have to sign his name to giant campaigns of propaganda and outright lies.  That is, sign his name everytime.  The other citizens have to sign their names when they attack politicians.  He should have to sign his name, too.

A Corporate Citizen should happily pay FICA taxes on his entire, uh, profits.  And, that wouldn't be the toothless FICA taxes which amount to "not so much as a hiccup" to the incredibly wealthy.  That would be FICA taxes at the highest rate on every dime of his "profits."

This might seem a bit outrageous, but we can look at some examples of, well, less than exemplary Corporate Citizenship.  One case is the giant chain store, WalMart.  Salaries at WalMart -- since the corporation intimidated every employee who so much as burped the word 'union' --  are so low that the rest of us have to subsidize the workers with Federal help so they can make ends meet.

Another example is Big Oil.  Even when gasoline was $4 a gallon and oil profits were flying into their "money bin" like a California mudslide, the rest of us were still plunking down $18 billion a year in tax credits for the monsters.  Estimates of all Corporate Welfare in the country run around $175 billion a year.

Perhaps our little foundling might have turned out a little more responsible if he understood the idea of a windfall profits tax, and not just in hard times, all the time.

Maybe he would have become a more patriotic citizen if he had watched his corporate cronies go to prison for war profiteering.  And, here, we aren't speaking of putting corporations into prison, just their organic "human" bosses.

Our little foundling, now a full blown Corporate Citizen, intends to make certain that none of these unpleasant outcomes even possibly lies ahead in his future.  With the "court house gang's" legalization of unlimited corporate money in absolutely any election he wants to throw in his own favor, he can make sure that no pesky politicians -- those would be patriotic supporters of a democratic government -- ever see the front door anywhere from the local office of the dog catcher to the Congress in Washington, DC.

What We Can Do

There are a few brave Congressmen -- always Democrats, of course -- who are proposing legislation to try to limit the damage of this last disastrous decision.  Write your Representative and Senator.  If he or she is supporting one of these bills, express your gratitude.  If someone in your Congressional delegation is working against one of these measure, roll up your sleeves, get busy and get rid of the crook.

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