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Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
Lawyer, activist, and author Jeffrey Clements has been fighting for years to overturn the Citizens United case which granted corporations the same rights as citizens in terms of campaign spending and free speech.
But doesn't this decision only impact politicians and big business? Actually, no. Jeff presents below five ways in which corporate personhood impacts you directly (and negatively):
1. Your voice and your vote. Corporations now have the -free speech’ right to spend unlimited money in every election, from the presidential race to state and local judge elections, from the water district to the local school board elections. Corporations can now influence what happens in your own community and (quite literally) your own back yard.
Example: In the November 2010 mid-term elections for Congress, corporations spent hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed, un-sourced electioneering activity, adding to the most expensive mid-term election in US history. Why would monolithic companies put so much money into local elections? Think about that when the next Wal-Mart opens in town.
2. Your food. Laws requiring disclosure of the use of genetically modified drugs used in animals and in food production are now unconstitutional, held to be violations of the “corporate speaker’s” right not to speak.
Example: Monsanto’s genetically modified bovine growth hormone drug (rBST) that makes cows produce unnatural amounts of milk and is illegal in virtually every democracy on Earth because of potential side effects for humans. In the U.S. the FDA approved the drug. Monsanto has fought successfully to strike down state laws requiring dairy products made from cows treated with rBST to be labeled as such.
3. Your land, water, air, and life. Corporate -speech rights’ have struck down laws that previously required utility corporations to stop promoting energy consumption contrary to the state policy of energy conservation. Unregulated corporate lobbying and election spending results in laws and subsidies favoring multi-billion dollar fossil fuel corporations over innovative but relatively cash-poor alternative energy companies.
Example: 500 mountains, 2500 miles of streams and headwaters, and numerous communities in Appalachia don’t exist anymore, obliterated in the past decade by coal corporations engaged in unregulated mountaintop removal coal extraction; 10,000 excess deaths each year from coal-burning utilities; 29 coal miners killed in April 2010 mine explosion labeled “industrial homicide” by the United Mineworkers Association.
4. Your job and income. Citizens United and corporate -rights’ are not about speech, they are about power. When the people are not allowed to regulate corporate election spending and lobbying, we have crony capitalism, where those who fund the policymakers get the policies that favor the few who control the largest corporations. For global corporations that have the capital to -pay-to-play,’ the American employment market is the same as any other in the world -- an expense to contain or eliminate.
Example: In 1980, before corporations had a Constitutional trump card over our laws, the average CEO made 42 times the average employee salary. Now that average CEO multiple is 263 times the average employee wage. Between 1950 and 1980, average income rose 75%, from $17,719 to $30,941. Between 1980 and 2008, average income went from $30,941 to $31,244, a gain of $303 in twenty-eight years. The more money that is paid to the people at the top, the less there is for everyone else.
5. Your politics and your time. Corporate personhood will fracture the late 20th century political arrangements. The old alliance of Chamber of Commerce corporatists with small government conservatives and libertarians in the Republican Party will break. The alliance of Wall Street corporatists with progressives in the Democratic Party will break.
Example: The last time that corporate personhood fueled a dangerous Gilded Age, Americans built a movement of Republicans and Democrats, populists and independents to enact four Constitutional amendments between 1913 and 1920. They ensured the Congress had the power to adopt a national progressive income tax; they required that Senators be elected by the people; they guaranteed the right of women to vote. And, well, they also put Prohibition into the Constitution (to be removed by another amendment a decade later).
Today, fundamental reform is coming again: Seventy-eight percent of Republicans, Independents and Democrats oppose Citizens United and support a People’s Rights Amendment to the Constitution to reverse it. More than two million have signed resolutions.