THE BLOG
01/12/2012 11:21 am ET Updated Mar 13, 2012

Since When Are Persons Supposed to Be Above the Law and Paying Taxes?

It may come to the surprise of many people, but the idea of corporate personhood has been a long-established legal tradition in the American system of government. The most recent Citizens United decision (don't be fooled by the Orwellian moniker) handed down by the U.S. Supreme court in 2010, which gave corporations unlimited spending power to influence elections, caught the attention of many citizens, but the idea itself goes back to the nation's earliest days.

Even our cherished 14th Amendment, which ostensibly ended chattel slavery in the U.S., has ironically been used to establish the concept of corporate personhood and set the groundwork for the defacto corporate servitude we too often find ourselves mired in today. This is a perfect example of why we should all hold up the ideals of principles above all else, and be thankful that our highest authority "is no respector of persons."

It would be sweet if we lived in a world where people would follow the Golden Rule and simply do to others what they would have others do to them. Then we wouldn't have the good people of Gross Pointe objecting to a transnational bridge being built in their backyards while not objecting to it being built in Southwest Detroit.

If we were all governed by principles instead of man-made laws, Detroit wouldn't be burning the trash and supplying the water to a surrounding population that breaks out in hives at the thought of their tax dollars supporting the city that provides those services at a cut-rate prices.

If we were all governed by principles, Detroit wouldn't be under a Republican governor that champions state's rights and local control while chomping at the bit to impose dictatorial hatchet men on every colorful city under his jurisdiction.

If we were guided by principles and "unalienable rights," how could the state government seek to take advantage of a self-created, shock-doctrine economic crisis caused by letting two-thirds of businesses in the state get off without paying any taxes, while asking individual citizens to pay more in taxes at a time when jobs have been exported and inflation is rising instep with Wall Street profits?

How can the state owe over $200 million in revenue sharing to a school district it has put under "emergency management" then justify it in the face of a non-partisan budget review done by the state's own Senate Fiscal Agency that says the state somehow finds itself with an education budget surplus of likely a billion dollars to close the year?

Where's the principle in all that? The simple answer is that there is none for too many lawmakers today nor will there be until we learn to elect people and govern ourselves according to the principles we all are willing to live by.

If you believe citizens should pay taxes, so should businesses. If citizens should obey the laws, so should corporations. If businesses are people, then they are bound by the same rules and responsibilities. If no person is above the law, then no business should be above the law.

There in lies the whole problem with the current move to absolute corporatism. Corporations have a right to exist and to fulfill their mission to make a profit to benefit their shareholders. But what is happening now is clearly that these "people" seek to put themselves above all law and above all responsibility, and that is simply unacceptable.

What person do you know who has a right to take waste products and dump them into the surrounding rivers, streams or lakes? If they were caught doing so, they would go to jail, pay a fine or both. What would happen if you drove a car to work that left behind a toxic plume of exhaust and your neighbors complained? Or some even died from it? Something tells me you wouldn't be entitled to $4 million annually in brownfield tax credits ala the Detroit Incinerator for your trouble.

The whole concept of law and public policy implies they are not personalized, but based on a principle that is for the overall good and not favoring any particular person or groups of people. If corporations are people, then they need to pay taxes and follow the laws just like everyone else.