There are two major conditions affecting America today, conditions from which flow much else which troubles the nation.
First, large, multi-national corporations are in effective control of the government.
Second, large, multinational corporations are in effective control of the economy.
On January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Just as occurred in the other judicial coup d'état of the decade (Bush v. Gore being the other), in a split 5-4 decision that Court ratified and further enabled the corporatization of American politics.
To qualify as a coup d'état, it is not necessary for the actions of the Supreme Court to result in immediate and radical change in our day to day lives. All that is required is that political power be emphatically shifted from one entity (the people) to another (the corporation).
It is clear to even the most casual observer that corporations are using their immense financial power to influence and control large segments of federal, state and local governments. The Supreme Court's decision was predicated on the fiction that corporations are people.
There are two obvious ways to mitigate the dangers of corpocracy. One would require a constitutional amendment to remove corporations from politics by removing their fictional personhood.
On November 1, Sen. Tom Udall* introduced a constitutional amendment allowing Congress to regulate campaign contributions.
Time and the results of next years elections will tell us if and how soon this particular constitutional amendment path will succeed. At the very least it will take years to get the amendment passed and ratified. And this particular amendment only partially addresses the arrogation of political power to corporations. The fundamental problem is: who is a person? Sen. Udall's amendment does not solve that problem.
The other way to constrain corporate power would make corporations genuinely responsible and responsive to their owners, the vast majority of whom are (by proxy) the people of America.
Entrepreneur, attorney and shareholder activist Bob Monks has literally written the book on Corpocracy ... what it is, why it is so destructive and what can be done. In this six-part conversation, recorded four years before the unfortunate Citizens United decision, Mr. Monks presented his case.
Basically, Mr. Monks argues that corporate abuses of political and economic power will be mitigated when the interests of these corporations' true owners (shareholders) are properly represented. He says all that is required for that to happen is that laws ALREADY ON THE BOOKS be enforced. The result, he says, would be "ethical ownership" of corporations. Isn't that an appealing notion?
As for the faux-personhood of corporations, let me suggest a simple test for the coming political year. Let us persuade some of our more public-spirited representatives to introduce in Congress a Concurrent Resolution stating that for all legal purposes a "person" shall be a natural person. i.e., a human being. Though such a resolution will not legally change anything, it will allow our representatives the opportunity to make clear their position on the subject. A "no" vote or an abstention may be considered prima facie evidence of lunacy or high order moral turpitude.
A similar test can also be employed in evaluating candidates for federal or state legislatures. Indeed, at this juncture in the history of these United States, the answer to "who is a person" may be the single most important factor in deciding whom to vote for.
Until two-thirds of our Senators and two-thirds of those in the House agree "that for all legal purposes a 'person' shall be a natural person. i.e., a human being," an amendment to the Constitution asserting the absolute and exclusive sovereignty of real, walking, talking, living, breathing, democratically engaged people will never be sent to the states for ratification. Until three-fourths of the states have legislatures composed of members who agree "that for all legal purposes a 'person' shall be a natural person. i.e., a human being," such an amendment will not be ratified.
Under the Constitution, the people are sovereign. If corporations are people, guess who ends up as capo di tutti capi.
I am a person. Exxon is NOT. You are a person. Goldman Sachs is NOT. We are the people. Corporations are NOT.
Corporations must NOT control the economy. Corporations must NOT control the government. The alternative is grim ... and it is real.
*-- the proposed Amendment was introduced by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) ,Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Tom Harkin (D-IO), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR)and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).