A quick fix for our broken government
The public option has been gutted, and government negotiation of drug prices was cut from health care reform. The “Cadillac tax” on the costliest policies is on the chopping block. No significant regulation or legislation has been passed addressing abuses that nearly sent the economy over a cliff last autumn. President Obama’s pledge to make industry pay for pollution permits under cap-and-trade didn’t make it into Waxman-Markey.
What do all these things have in common? Between when the changes were proposed and were voted on, barrels of corporate cash were injected into campaign coffers of the relevant decision-makers. The banking industry paid members of Congress $300,000 in the days before a vote on credit card reform—during which time the bill was watered down. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s top corporate contributors are drugmakers and insurers. The health insurance industry spent $133 million lobbying Congress in the second quarter.
For over 100 years, the US has treated the corporation as a person for some useful legal purposes: It can sue and be sued, it can own property, etc. The Supreme Court is now considering a case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that would unleash corporate power into the political arena even more than it is today: By ruling in favor of a polemical right-wing group engaged in the hateful politics of fear, companies could be given the same free-speech rights as humans—opening a floodgate of corporate money into campaigns. Which justices will consider the insanity of this? Only in a country where a 12-year-old can be declared an adult for trial would an entity existing on paper be accorded the same political rights as flesh-and-blood.
The notion that a corporation is a person rests on one spoken sentence—it wasn’t even in a decision—by a Supreme Court chief justice in 1886, ushering in the era of robber barons and the greatest disparity of wealth in US history. (We’re nearly breaking the record today.) Ever since, the idea has stood essentially unchallenged. The social contract requires that the interests of the whole be accounted for in the decisions of the individual. But corporations operate only in allegiance to themselves; even the worst humans have natural empathic tendencies. Hitler had a dog.
Is anyone still blind to the fact that solving our country’s problems begins with removing the corrupting influence of corporate cash from politics?
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