Abel delivered this crisply focused talk at Occupy the Courts in Fayetteville on January 20, 2012 outside the Washington County Federal Building.
The Beginning is Near
In recent weeks, the organization Move to Amend and the movement to abolish corporate personhood and corporate rule has gained incredible momentum. On December 6, 2011, the first explosive shot in this revolution to legalize democracy was heard when the Los Angeles city council passed a resolution rejecting the legal fiction that corporations are people. This was very meaningful because Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States and it passed unanimously.
Since that turning point, the movement has spread like wildfire and appears unstoppable. On January 5, New York City also passed such a similar resolution. Approximately 50 cities have now passed these resolutions, including Albany, Duluth, Oakland, Madison and Boulder, and many more are in progress.
In addition to cities, state resolutions to overturn corporate personhood were just introduced in the California and Vermont legislatures.
In case you are unfamiliar with corporate personhood, let me briefly explain. Prior to 1886, corporations were given only temporary charters and privileges that could be easily revoked if they failed to serve the public good. Originally, the Bill of Rights and the rest of the U.S. Constitution guaranteed rights for living, breathing humans alone. However, after the 1886 Santa Clara Supreme Court case, corporations began claiming all the rights originally intended for humans because they were now legally considered “persons.” They took advantage of weakness in the 14th Amendment, created for newly freed slaves, to claim that they too deserved equal protection under the law.
Since then, corporations have claimed many Constitutional rights in order to increase profit, pollute and destroy ecosystems and communities, and capture more and more power away from The People. Corporations now claim Constitutional rights to privacy to prevent health, safety and environmental inspections. They claim 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination and double jeopardy.
Additionally, corporations utilize the Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection to prevent local communities from creating “discriminatory” laws that favor local business, which were commonplace prior to 1886. This should especially interest the local Fayetteville community and small businesses. Once corporate personhood is overturned, Fayetteville can pass laws that appropriately discriminate against certain corporate chains while favoring local businesses that pay and treat their workers better, and keep currency circulating within the local economy.
Most importantly, corporate personhood has created a crisis of democracy! Prior to 1886, it was a felony in many states for a corporation to spend any money to influence elections, and corporate lobbyists were nonexistent. Now we have six healthcare industry lobbyists for every member of Congress and the most corrupt healthcare system on the planet. The budgetary waste of the healthcare/sickcare system easily rivals the defense budget for the most corrupt, wasteful and inefficient institution. $2.5 trillion/1/3 or $800B waste to private health insurance corporations that don’t exist in other countries. Single payer/HR676-one public not-for-profit insurance institution.
Moreover, with the recent Citizens United decision, the unelected Supreme Court ruled that “corporate persons” deserve more rights to free speech. In human English, that translates into allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to buy candidates, parties, campaigns and laws. Given the fact that candidates with more money win approximately 90 percent of the time, does anyone seriously believe we have a functional democracy? In reality we have corporate plutocracy, or rule by the concentrated wealth of the richest 1 percent.
Today, January 20, 2012 is the two year anniversary of the infamous Citizens United decision, and thanks to beautiful people like you from Move to Amend and the Occupy Wall Street movements Occupy the Courts protests are occurring in over 130 cities and 46 states nationwide.
This idea to demonstrate at federal courts across the nation is that these courts are the “scene of the crime” when it comes to corporate personhood. Neither the people nor Congress ever voted for this legal fiction. Corporate personhood is an undemocratic court concoction.
In terms of improving our democracy with this vital campaign, I think Molly Morgan of Reclaim Democracy put it best, she said “The campaign to end corporate personhood is like applying a massive crowbar at the most pivotal point against a stuck door holding back democracy. No more trying the key in the rusted lock; no more poking with a coat hanger here and kicking at a corner there. By focusing on the crucial block — corporate personhood — and applying enough force to pry the door open, the whole concept of what’s politically and humanly possible shifts in profound and exciting ways.”
After today, our plan of action is to begin a coordinated statewide campaign to pass city council resolutions in Fayetteville and other cities in Arkansas. Amazingly, our courageous city councilman Matthew Petty has already agreed to introduce one very soon. He also said he thinks a nonbinding resolution like this has a very good chance of passing. However, this doesn’t mean we can sit down. No…now is the time to powerfully run a distance marathon for Mother Earth. We need to call and email our councilmen and women and the mayor and make sure they know there is a lot of public support for this. We need to encourage friends and family to contact them as well. And when the measure is introduced and put up for a vote, we need to fill city hall with our presence!
However, the city council can rest assured they have bipartisan public support for this considering a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken after the Citizens United decision found that 85 percent of Americans overwhelmingly oppose this ruling. This poll shows that conservative and liberal voters are smarter than mainstream media leads us to believe, and that this is a unifying issue that cuts across party lines.
Once enough cities and states pass these resolutions, we can amend the U.S. Constitution to define that only “natural persons” deserve rights. That moment will mark the beginning of the end for corporate rule, and a new era for democracy, peace, environmental sanity, economic justice and human freedom. This is the moment we have all been waiting for. 2012 may truly become an evolutionary leap year. The Beginning is Near.