When Corporations Rule the World

After our government gave billions of dollars to a handful of large corporations that had committed

perhaps the greatest economic fraud ever on the American people, are you surprised that our Supreme Court gave them unmitigated power over our election process?  Do you think the Supreme Court's decision will make any difference, since corporations effectively control our lives anyway?

The McCain/Feingold campaign finance law has been a democratic disaster--leading to an increase in the percentage of incumbents winning re-election.  The Supreme Court's incorrect decision on January 21, 2010, CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, therefore, won't make much difference in the manner that elections are influenced.  Corporations control nearly all of the information that we consume anyway.

Perhaps the Supreme Court decision was a shot across the bow of the Tea Party movement, the organization with the most chance of successfully breaking the corporate strangle-hold on government.  The Tea Parties constitute a glimmer of hope amid the corporate fog, along with the few and the brave unbeholden news reporting services such as Democracy Now, Bill Moyers, and TruthDig.com.  They don't have to completely shut up the independent movements and thinkers; they can just drown them out.

Albert Einstein said in 1949 that
under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

Do you suspect that it's any better 61 years later?

One of the best arguments against the inane and hopefully incendiary ruling by the Court was stated by Kermit Roosevelt of the University of Pennsylvania. Corporations are made up of people, but it is wrong to see corporations themselves as people.
The decision is a bad thing for democracy. It reflects a misunderstanding of the First Amendment. Corporations are not people and do not have constitutional rights, properly speaking, so a justification for applying the First Amendment here must rest on the listeners. The interests that corporate speech promotes could be promoted by actual people -- typically, the shareholders or employees of a corporation -- so there is no compelling reason to give the corporation rights to promote it. And given the ability of corporations to drown out real people, there are good reasons not to.
Corporations are not people.  People are.  We should be allowed to speak for ourselves.  We don't need our corporate overlords to do it for us and then tell us to shut up.

In his book Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges writes that
Power lies with the corporations.  These corporations, not we, pick who runs for president, for Congress, for judgeships, and for most state legislatures. You cannot, in most instances, be a viable candidate without their blessing and money. These corporations, including the Commission on Presidential Debates (a private and corporately controlled organization), determine who gets to speak and what issues candidates can or cannot challenge -- from universal, not-for-profit, single-payer health care to Wall Street bailouts, to NAFTA. If you do not follow the corporate script, you will certainly become as marginal and invisible as Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, or Cynthia McKinney.

It was that way before the Citizens United decision.  The Court's decision was a travesty, but it won't change anything.  It will merely cement the wrongs of McCain/Feingold.  Americans, once proud of their individual initiative, now cow before our fascist state.  Hedges writes
Individualism is touted as the core value of American culture, yet most of us meekly submit to the tyranny of the corporate state.  We define ourselves as democracy, and meanwhile voting rates in national elections are tepid, and voting on local issues is often in the single digits.  We are blinded, enchanted, and finally enslaved by illusion.
Empire of Illusion, p. 182

Corporations are not people, although legally in America they are now considered as such, except that they don't need to suffer the risks (i.e. consequences) that real people experience.

Corporations won't rule the world someday; they already do.


  1. I completely agree. Now combine what you've written here with the words "Blackwater (or Xe), Eavesdropping Telco's, and policy making lobbyists" and you've got a perfect storm of ugly politics on the horizon.

    Corporations as people is simply a ludicrous concept, and a designation I think we'll soon regret.

    On the flip side, I remember hearing Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos speak a few years ago and say "Money in politics isn't a problem, as long as we know where that money is coming from."

    That always rang true with me. I wonder if this might end up backfiring on corporations, or candidates who accept an imbalance of support from them (assuming the finance reporting remains mandated by this ruling, which I believe it does).

    Maybe instead of fighting something like this, we should simply be advocating for real time, or at least "much faster" campaign finance reporting, and a central webpage (there are many already) for finding that information?

    I'm not sure where I fall. Parts of me agree with both sides here.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. In addition to the "personhood" problem, I agree with you that we need more available reporting of who is financing whom. I had someone show me how to find what Bob Bennett is getting (and it's large donations from out of state mostly), but it wasn't easy to find.

    I also posted this on facebook. http://www.facebook.com/frank.staheli What's your take on Connor's perspective there on this issue?

  4. I'll have to go read. And sorry for the deleted comment, I attached the wrong link. Take two:

    For those interested, however, Common Cause has a petition online for a counter act going through the house: http://bit.ly/8ZkDr4

    Unfortunately they chose to put Keith Olberman clips in the promo for it (yes, believe it or not, not all progressives worship Keith's show), but I still signed.

  5. I propose NASCAR like jerseys for all politicians accepting campaign contributions. The have to wear the logo of the contributer. The bigger the contribution the bigger the logo.

  6. Frank:

    Just when I thought there might be a glimmer of hope for the GOP, they've wallowed in support of this decision.

    I was saddened as I read Mitch McConnell's comment that it was the "first step in restoring First Amendment rights for these groups." My immediate reaction was "WHAT?!?!?!?!?!"

    Where has our common sense gone?

  7. We are still limited to contributions of no more than $2300. Unbelievable.


  8. In order to effectively counter the corporatization of our political system, the Tea Party Movement will first have to reject all corporate sponsorship. As long as activists ride to protests promoted by corporate media in buses rented by corporate front groups and chant slogans that play into the hands of corporate interests, they are acting as tools of the corporate interests rather than protestors against it.

    I believe the anger of those who make up the rank and file of the TPM is real and justified, but they have yet to channel that anger toward the systemic problems that cause their alienation, helplessness and unemployment. Calling for fiscal responsibility and smaller government is only going to cause more unemployment and weaken the only institution in our society that can effectively counter corporate power. Calling for so-called free market principles is a key corporate goal. Railing against government-paid health care is a plea for more corporate control of our health care system.

    It's not surprising that ordinary men and women who have been busy making a living and caring for their families are misinformed about the nature of our political system and economy. Corporate media, including especially Fox News, have worked hard to vilify anyone who threatened corporate power in this country and ignore or belittle viewpoints that differ from those promoted by corporations. Let's hope the TPM folks don't continue to fall for these tricks.

  9. We can often see that in the film, and the result is not good.


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