By Steve Klinger
America’s politically orphaned corporations finally got a few table scraps last week when the Supreme Court declared the government has to treat them just like individual citizens and not restrict them from spending directly on election campaigns. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, basically said we need to take pity on “associations of citizens” and unleash their purse strings to validate their First Amendment rights to free speech. After all, he argued, it’s bad enough corporations can’t vote or run for office.
But couldn’t we do something about that? As Greg Palast wrote (http://readersupportednews.org/opinion/75-politics/807-greg-palast-manchurian-candidates), why stop with campaign spending – how about Walmart for president? Or for that matter, ARAMCO or the China National Offshore Oil Company, which under this SCOTUS ruling can now spend freely to influence elections as long as they are registered as U.S. corporations? Let’s see… would a corporation have to be native-born to run for president? But I digress…
I do think we need a new constitutional amendment to address this latest example of high-court timidity, this propensity to act in half-measures (which irritates Clarence Thomas so much he had to write a separate opinion putting us on notice that this is just the beginning). We could call it the Equal Rights Amendment for Corporations. While we’re at it, we should abolish the Security and Exchange Commission, which has for too long been an obstacle to corporate marriage.
Speaking of associations of citizens, we need a new division of the ACLU to look out for Exxon-Mobil and Citi – something like the Corporate Civil Liberties Union. Corporations shouldn’t have to bankrupt themselves paying high-priced attorneys to defend their interests; if common criminals have access to pro bono lawyers, so should the loyal companies that enrich our lives in so many ways.
They are after all America’s most neglected minority – far fewer in number than any prominent racial or ethnic group – and as the Fearless Five (Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy) finally acknowledged, it’s about time we began leveling the playing field.
In fact, this is not a time for artificial borders. I think we need a worldwide benefit drive to reach out to multinational corporations, something like the relief effort organized for Haiti or the tsunami–ravaged nations in 2004. Kind of like what Washington did on a small scale for Wall Street; you know, bailouts for bank bonuses. We could show our compassion to all corporate executives, a really afflicted group if ever there was one, who now live with daily stress and uncertainty, not knowing where their next yacht is coming from.
We could provide counseling and job retraining programs, a premium food stamp plan to include pâté de foie gras, and special WIC-like benefits for wholly owned subsidiaries. Each community could sponsor its own Adopt-A-Corporation drive. I’m sure hard-working Americans would sign up to sponsor their very own disadvantaged corporate entity and gladly donate a generous portion of their weekly unemployment check to help keep some struggling oil and gas company afloat. (Of course, this already happens with our income tax dollars, but you get my drift.)
The Obama administration and Congress need to stop showing favoritism, as in the current healthcare reform measure that only benefits insurance companies and big pharma. Let’s get back to work on the stalled energy bill to make sure there’s a piece of the pie for agribusiness, fossil fuel producers and all the other core industries that are entitled to make a killing on energy reform.
That said, I can’t wait to see the details of the coming financial overhaul, which to be fair needs to assist all banks, investment companies and other financial institutions. And of course I’m confident it will.
This is, after all, a democracy we live in. Since corporations are people, they too are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And what could make a corporation happier than being able to buy influence more directly so government will remember to validate its individuality.
So get with the program, Stevens, Ginsberg, Breyer and Sotomayor. And thank you, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas and Scalia for recognizing that corporations too have their American Dream, and having heard the merciful promise, lay themselves at our feet for comfort:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
–Statue of Liberty inscription, from sonnet by Emma Lazarus