My turn: Corporate 'people' are the problem in America

Posted: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I have a confession to make: I voted for Barack Obama, and I did it for the worst of reasons.

Not because I thought he would bring any real "change" to the business-as-usual politics of the way this country has been run for the last 60 years and more, nor did I vote for him as the "lesser of two evils." The differences in platform between the Obama campaign and the McCain/Palin ticket always struck me as window dressing in light of the very real problems we face as a nation and a world.

No, I voted for Barack Obama to appease my mama.

I was on the phone with her the night before the election, discussing my take on the amount of money being thrown around by this short list of candidates. She came back with the typical hopeful appraisal of Obama, to which I replied that I was voting for Nader.

She came unglued. If you wanted to irritate a Democrat during that last few election cycles, all you had to do was start talking about Ralph Nader. She was beside herself. I finally said, "Okay, Mom, if it'll make you feel any better I'll march down there tomorrow and vote for Barack Obama!" And I did.

Despite this, I really don't take our right to vote lightly - I just think it's been manipulated to the point where we don't have any real choices. I'm one of those cynics Obama spoke of in his inaugural address; I've ceased to believe that the government we support with our tax money, our votes and our lives truly represents us as individuals and citizens. Instead I've come to believe that, Democrat and Republican, it represents the interests of corporate citizens.

The roots of our problem lie back in the 1800s and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Many may remember this Amendment as an attempt by Congress to assure the political rights of newly freed slaves. Unfortunately it's been used by corporations to assert their rights as "persons" far more than it has to assert the rights of anyone else.

That's right, corporations are considered "persons" under the Constitution, thanks to a Supreme Court opinion of that era. Another more recent decision that defined money as a form of free speech effectively gives corporations control of our republic.

So anymore when they talk about government of the people, by the people, and for the people, the "people" they're really talking about are corporations: Ironic, when one considers that much of the impetus for the American Revolution came from outrage at the practices of the British East India Company, one of the world's first multi-national corporations.

Corporations aren't inherently bad, but the fact that they've been given every protection afforded under the Bill of Rights as individual "persons" with none of the drawbacks of us organic people means that they have out-competed us in the polity and have thereby wrested control of our government from us, negating the power of the vote by making sure that no one gets financing who is not thoroughly on board with an essentially corporate agenda. Large multinational corporations can outspend us, they can keep court cases going forever, and they can switch nationalities at the drop of a hat, effectively dodging tax obligations.

So Obama, just because he's made it this far, has demonstrated nothing other than that he is like most of his predecessors, a corporate proxy, meant to appease the angry masses while at the same time keeping the program going that has enriched so few at the cost of so many.

I don't have to prove it to you because his actions in supporting the Bush administration's foreign policies speak for themselves: His differences with the Bush administration are superficial, meant to appease popular opinion while maintaining the Executive powers that Bush and Cheney carved out for themselves from the cloth of our liberties.

What we have to do is to find a way to strip corporations of their human rights under the Constitution, and the sooner we do that the better: These Super-People have no place in our democracy.

• Jamison Paul is a Juneau resident.

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