I am responding to Paul Danish’s Aug. 11 article (“Banning corporate personhood would destroy U.S. economy”).
Danish claims that corporate personhood is one of the defining characteristics of the corporation. Not true.
Until the Supreme Court decision in 1886 in Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, corporations were not considered to be persons with constitutional rights. Instead they were regarded as artificial entities regulated and chartered by state legislatures for a specific purpose and limited time period. They could lose their status if they violated their charter or hurt the public interest. The people were in secure control of corporations.
The limitations on corporations were very intentional on the part of the founders of this country who had been exploited and oppressed by corporations chartered by the king of England. Because the Supreme Court granted constitutional rights to corporations in 1886 and has greatly expanded those rights since that time, corporations have become the dominant force in all areas of our society, including in our political and economic systems. In courts of law, they have been able to use their constitutional rights to trump community efforts to protect the public good and the environment.
Through the buying of public officials with campaign contributions, corporations have been able to control the major decisions that are made in our legislatures at the national and state levels. This has been disastrous for our country. Corporations have undermined our ability to address our massive health care and environmental crises, exported our jobs to low-wage countries with minimal environmental regulation, undermined living wages, safety standards and the right to organize labor unions, and pressured Congress to create a massive war economy. Danish also claims that abolishing corporate personhood will negatively affect limited liability and dampen investment. This is not true. Limited liability for corporations comes from state statutes, not the Constitution, and will not be affected by reversing corporate personhood.
Ironically, Danish claims that reining in the corporations and putting the people back in charge of our country would destroy the economy. Where has Danish been? It was the largest financial corporations in the United States — Citicorp, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo to name a few — that speculated recklessly, out of pure unadulterated greed, on bad investments and drove the U.S. economy and the world economy into the ground.
And then when some Congress people wanted to reform the financial system, the banks bought off important members of the committees that were supposed to carry out the reform. This led Sen. Dick Durban of Illinois to remark: “Frankly they [the banks] own the place.” The result was ineffectual reform, continued massive speculation by the banks and a toppling world economy that continues to spiral downward.
Corporations can serve a legitimate role in our society. They can make products and provide jobs. They can serve the public. But as long as they are given constitutional rights, their power will drown out the voices of the real living, breathing people. Since the primary purpose of a corporation is to make profits, which are calculated quarterly, they rarely have the broad or long-term perspective of real people about what is best for the country and our people.
In Germany, where corporations are not considered persons and don’t have constitutional rights, the economy is doing much better than in the United States. Because the people have power over corporations, Germany has been able to better protect its workers from the economic disaster that is facing Americans. If corporate constitutional rights in the U.S. were abolished, Congress and the American people, rather than huge corporations, would have the power to make many more decisions about our environment, climate change, health care, jobs, our economy and our fast-disappearing safety net.
The purpose of Ballot Issue 2H is to give the people of Boulder an opportunity to voice support for a reversal of the radical Supreme Court decisions that gave corporations constitutional rights. These decisions were profoundly anti-democratic and cause major harm to most Americans on a daily basis. We need to reverse this as soon as possible.
Please stand up for democracy and vote for Ballot Issue 2H in support of limiting constitutional rights to real people. For more information or to get involved, go to www.yeson2H.org.