The influence of money on our democratic process has become a direct threat to the stability of our country. Corporations are using their financial power to purchase legislation and legislators to help them increase their profits without regard to the impact it may have on the American public. There is a fundamental disconnect between the exposure of risk to the American public and the number of people that share in a corporation’s profit. It is reasonable for a corporation to have the ability to enter into a contract, participate in court cases, and sale their goods and services around the world to make a profit; but is it reasonable for a corporation to influence lawmakers to remove regulations so they may engage in practices that put the safety of the American public whom may have no relationship with the corporation, thus no profit share, at risk?
The needs of the American people aren’t being met because people are making a profit off of the suffering of their fellow citizens. Some have decided to hurt people on purpose to make money and they have no shame. They have adopted the attitude that if it isn’t them that are being hurt then there is no moral consequence or responsibility. How else can you explain financial advisors telling clients to invest in collateralized debt objects that they not only know are worthless but are buying insurance against the failure of the investment for profit because they’re certain the investment is worthless. This is an example of a common practice used by financial services professionals leading to the economic mess we are still trying to recover from. The major banks did this on purpose, wrecked the global economy, received 787 billion dollars in taxpayer money, and made billions in profit in the process. From the meltdown in 2008 to now these corporations have wielded their influence to obstruct regulation, hide from accountability, and perpetuate the myth that corporations are people and should be able to operate above the law in the pursuit of profit.
Corporations leverage their personhood by hiding behind constitutional rights intended for human beings. Some argue that the problem is that individual persons don’t have the financial resources of corporations and those resources used by a corporate person can disproportionately influence elections and regulations. Corporations use their finances and personhood to influence voters, obscure the truth from voters, and get people elected who will pass favorable legislation on their behalf with complete disregard for the American public and in some cases in direct opposition to the well being of the American public. An example of this would be the misinformation put forth about health care reform. Insurance companies did everything they could to leverage their personhood to control the narrative as legislation was being drafted. The United States pays more than any other country on healthcare for subpar results and corporations were very effective at making extending healthcare and helping our fellow citizens into an attack on the very fabric of American society. One has to wonder what has happened to us to perceive helping a fellow American as something not to do. Politicians have deliberately made cuts to healthcare for our most vulnerable to fund tax breaks for our most profitable. These corporations make money denying coverage to customers who have paid premiums and need the services purchased in a situation that could be the difference between life and death.
Corporate personhood has been critical in the abuse and exploitation of collective resources for private profit. When you examine some of the statements made about the Environmental Protection Agency and how the agency is such a regulatory burden on corporations you have to wonder if clean food, air, and water are worth sacrificing profit for. Limiting the discussion to just protecting food, water, and air one can see multiple examples of corporations using personhood to gain advantage in weakening regulations and dodging accountability when energy exploration has caused devastating damage. The Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill, the Lake Michigan coal ash spill, the Deepwater Horizion oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and water contamination from hydraulic fracturing in multiple states in America are all examples of corporate influence sacrificing public health for private profit.
Corporate personhood has powerful control of both political parties. What is the benefit for society if corporations can anonymously contribute unlimited amounts to political campaigns? Our goal is not to limit free speech but to separate corporation and state. Could our elections reflect the will of the people if rules were put in place that only private individuals could contribute to state and federal campaigns with a monthly limit? Would our democracy fall apart if corporations couldn’t contribute to political campaigns? Our goal is to limit the role of corporations to doing business and making a profit within the rule of law not running our government so they can profit from the suffering of our citizens. Corporations are waging a campaign to suppress voter turnout in elections so they can continue their efforts to put profit over people and retain personhood. We must begin the work to create and share ideas about this issue so we can support candidates that will deny corporate funds and the drafting of legislation to end corporate personhood.
The question before us is if we as a country will decide that profits at any cost are more important than the collective welfare of our citizens. Are there no limits to what corporations can do to maximize profits? Should corporations be able to lie to their customers to make sales? Should corporations be able to manipulate tax policy so they end up not only not paying taxes but receiving refunds from the IRS? America used to stand for something more than making profits at any cost. Our focus used to be to do the right thing at any cost. Now our focus has become profit at any cost.