Corporations are People?

Posted: 10/25/2011 in Politics

One of the complaints of the Occupy Wall St. movement is a resistance or backlash against a landmark Supreme Court decision (Citizens United v. FEC) that did away with limitations on “corporate speech.” The implications were explicitly that the corporations would be able to spend as much as they wanted on political action. The populist anger towards this decision is rooted in the belief that (1) corporations are not people and should not be assumed to have the rights of people (e.g. free speech) and (2) if allowed to do so corporations will take over U.S. politics by flooding the airwaves with their propaganda.

The case itself was brought forward by Citizens United, a non-profit corporation which had been prohibited from airing a film “Hillary: The Movie” within 30 days of the 2008 Democratic primaries. In 2002, Citizens United had attempted to use the same regulation to prevent the airing of “Fahrenheit 9/11”, but that film was found to be “commercial”, rather than political. The Citizens United v. FEC decision struck down the provisions of the McCain-Feingold Act (2002) that prohibited all corporations, profit and non-profit, from broadcasting “electioneering communications” within 60 days of a general election and 30 days of a primary. The court upheld requirements for disclaimer and disclosure by sponsors of advertisements. It did not, contrary to popular misconception, overturn the ban on direct corporate or union contributions to political parties or campaigns.

Without delving into a Olympic size swimming pool of legal jargon, suffice it to say that the gist of the decision was that the first amendment was written in terms of speech, not speakers. In other words, free speech is free speech no matter who is doing the talking and thus the government cannot be a blocking force in the release of speech, such as movies, books, etc.

Opponents have one primary argument against this logic: corporations are not people. This makes a lot of sense, considering they are not individuals, they are not born, they do not grow old, they do not get married or have children or need food and medicine.

However, if corporations are not people, then why are they taxed? Isn’t the idea of taxation based on representation? How can a non-entity have representation? Isn’t the justification for taxation based on the premise that taxed individuals use public services? How can a non-entity use a service?

Now, the individuals who constitute a corporation, or union, use public services, and they are represented. But then, they pay their own taxes, don’t they?

So, if corporations are not people, and if the people they contain already pay taxes, what is the justification for the corporate tax? It seems evident to me that the only possible justification is because we can. But simply wanting the money, even needing it, does not justify taking it. The original justification that was used to get people to accept taxes as fair was that they were in exchange for representation and services. If corporations do not qualify as people, then these things do not apply to them, and taking their money is just opportunistic stealing.

I want to also address the assumption that, if unrestrained, corporate involvement in politics will take over, silencing the voice of the people.

Leave it to “progressive” liberals to have such a denigrating, hateful opinion of their fellow man. Are we to callously accept that people are empty-headed lemmings, blown to one candidate or another by the wind of propaganda slogans? There are far, far more individual voters in this country than there are corporations, but that power means nothing because apparently we are helpless to the programming of media. People believe anything they see or hear, so it is up to the [leftist] politician to protect them from this influence. Of course it must be a politician, or a bureaucrat, who decides what qualifies as electioneering and what the people can and cannot handle, because we couldn’t possibly leave it up to the individual.

For those who may be reading this and thinking to yourselves that this is true—painful, but true—you should be ashamed of yourselves. Try having a modicum of faith in your fellow man. You’ll sleep better and live longer.

 

End transmission.

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