Friday, September 12, 2014

About that amendment to overturn Citizens United

I've been loosely following the debate over a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would clarify the authority of the Congress to regulate the political influence of money in elections. This issue is very hotly contested between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives would like us to believe that this issue is about freedom of speech. Liberals have a very simple response:
"Money is not speech. Corporations are not people."

I have been following two diametrically opposed factions on Facebook: those who support Senator Bernie Sanders and those who support Senator Mike Lee. Both senators have participated in the debate over Senate Joint Resolution 19:                         
`Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.
`Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.
`Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.'.
Supporters of Bernie Sanders are fervent supporters of this proposed amendment to the Constitution. The amendment is clear that the intent is to ensure that courts know what powers have been delegated to the Congress. But if you listen to supporters of Senator Mike Lee of Utah, they will tell you that this amendment is treason.

While searching for information on this amendment, I found another proposed amendment that isn't getting the news that SJ19 is getting. Senate Joint Resolution 18 does something that I think is far more important:
`Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.
`Section 2. The words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected State and Federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.
`Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association and all such other rights of the people, which rights are unalienable.'.
By clearly excluding corporations from the meaning of the terms, person, people and citizens, we can get down to the business of taking big money out of politics.

Corporations are clearly not people. They are a group of people assembled with a few privileges granted by the state that ordinary humans do not enjoy. Corporations shield the personal liability of the officers and shareholders of the corporation.

Humans do not enjoy limited liability. Corporations also enjoy succession, that is, when a part of the corporations dies, he or she can be replaced and the corporation lives to see another day. Corporations can do something else that humans cannot do: they can support causes that are in conflict with their shareholders, employees or customers. Humans are rather binary in this regard, a single human either opposes or supports a cause, he cannot do both without resorting to therapy.

While there are some who maintain that corporations should have the same rights that people do, those same people seem unwilling to acknowledge a few basic facts. For example, corporations are creations of the state. Corporations exist solely at the pleasure of the people and derive their power power from the people they are supposed to serve. When a corporation gets out of line, the people are entirely within their rights to dissolve that corporation.

The hierarchy of power relating to corporations is as follows:

The People
The States
The Corporations

Notice who's at the bottom. Yes, that's right. Corporations. The people and the states that represents the people have the ultimate authority over the disposition of any corporation, under all circumstances.

But if you have noticed the sea change in politics over the last 30 years or so, the hierarchy now looks a lot more like this (just ask Comcast):

The Corporations
The States
The People

Decades of conditioning have led us to believe that giant monopoly corporations are the norm rather than the exception, that a free market even has a place for private monopolies and finally, that private monopolies are a more efficient means of allocating resources in a society than a free market. Yes, we've been duped. But these two amendments could finally put a leash on an enormous political power that has a tiny conscience, no discernible empathy for the people it profits from, and apparently, no limits to its appetite for more of whatever should happen to catch its fancy at the moment.

These two proposed amendments are necessary to roll back more than 30 years of damage to our country, to wrest away their megaphone and redistribute their power back to the people where it more properly resides. Until these articles are added to our Constitution, it's going to be a rough ride.
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