Monday, January 21, 2013

Supreme Citizenry

The world changed on January 21, 2010, three years ago today.   With little fanfare, corporations became people. 

On that date the Supreme Court of the United States decided that corporations, be they American or foreign, are afforded the same rights as a single individual when it comes to contributing money to a political cause or candidate.

For about a hundred years, the sanctity of a citizen's vote and participation in the government was protected by law.  One citizen, one vote, one voice.  The supreme court changed that by giving corporations unlimited freedom to buy the support of candidates and to influence the process of law.  It's done now, and there's little we can do about it.

We should note that the Wall Street crimes leading up to the Great Recession of recent memory weren't actually illegal.  They had been legalized a few years prior.  The Wall Street play on derivatives was classified as gambling and illegal until the federal government changed the law at the request of ... Wall Street.  The world-wide crash that followed was paid for by everybody except the perpetrators.  The recovery for all but the wealthy will take another decade or more at best.  Neither the financial industry nor the federal government acknowledge their culpability in the matter. 

Now that corporations have been given unrestricted freedom to influence the process of government, we can expect other such interesting occasions.  Government now serves the rich almost exclusively, and by extension, they serve the business interests who sponsor legislation and prophesy prosperity. The two major parties are equally owned and influenced by their wealthy constituents now.

How might a corporation wield their influence?  In favor of legislation that restricts their business or imposes on their profitability?  Hardly.  Even when the risk is borne by the consumer and otherwise unmitigated, corporations have historically chosen their bottom line over the good of the consumers.  The Ford Pinto's explosive tendencies come to mind as neither the first nor last such amoral activity in the business world.  Businesses work from and for the bottom line; little if any altruism intrudes; morals and ethics are more matters of regulatory compliance than of desire to do rightly.  It's a result of the rules that govern the marketplace in which they must participate to exist. 

Our individual vote is no longer the tool of influence that was originally hoped.  So what's next?

How might we, in good conscience, express our concerns with the direction the nation has taken?  Should we?