In America, Corporate Interests Should Not Come First

ByLawrence Sampson

The American corporation has gone too far. Corporations, thanks to the politicians they routinely purchase, now have more rights than the typical American citizen. Corporate reform must take place, or the average person will wake up one day to find individual rights a thing of the past.

America was established as a place of freedom, where individual liberties were protected and a person could pursue whatever occupation and lifestyle he or she chose. Over time, we have seen a subjugation of this precept as corporate interests have slowly but surely begun to supersede the interests of the person, or people as a whole. It’s time to re-evaluate our entire corporate culture for the good of the common man.

The Citizens United decision gave corporations the right to make and air as many videos, commercials, and docudramas as they choose at election time. Mind you, these clips are made to be shown not only on the internet but on television and radio airwaves, which supposedly belong to the people. Elections are mightily influenced by media, and now the door is wide open to unlimited corporate influence.

American courts over the years established corporate personhood, whereby corporations are legally considered to have all the rights and responsibilities of a person. The problem with this is that corporations have been very successful at reducing the very responsibilities that denote being a person. Initially, the very reason for incorporating is to avoid liability and protect assets. It is inherent in a corporation’s very makeup that it be unaccountable. It is remarkably harder to hold a corporation accountable than it is a human being, even though corporations are supposedly persons. If you’re unable to follow the logic, it’s because there is none. 

Tort reform is one of the primary methods used to avoid corporate accountability. Tort reform places limits on the amounts a corporation can be sued for, thereby limiting their financial accountability. Accountability is something we teach children at very young ages so they can be productive members of society. And yet this very special category of persons-corporations-seeks to avoid the same accountability we teach children.

A corporation has one responsibility and one responsibility only, to produce profits. If it is profitable to break the law, it will break the law. If it is profitable to harm the environment, it will do so. The only things that dictate or curb corporate behaviors are profits and losses. Corporate rights, privileges, and practices are now touching virtually all facets of American life. Corporations make our products, influence our elections, and promote changes in the laws and even the Constitution. In fact, it would be hard to find one area of our existence where corporate influence is not a factor.

For the first time in history, a patent has been given to the incarnation of life itself. Monsanto Corporation has been able to patent their “terminator seeds” which only germinate when you spray Monsanto made chemicals on the seed. The danger is what has already happened. No one can harness or control natural pollination. It remains ostensibly the greatest power on Earth. No one can control the air or wind just yet. When Monsanto terminator-seeded crops cross-pollinate other non-Monsanto crops, Monsanto can sue and claim the other crops via patent infringement. Say goodbye not only to the average family farm, but perhaps all plant life as we know it. Extraordinary steps are being taken by farmers in several parts of the globe to protect natural crops such as corn from Monsanto’s infection.

The CEO at an American corporation makes on average five hundred dollars for every dollar made by the average worker at that corporation. This 500/1 ratio is by far the highest in the world. In fact, the closest country ratio-wise is Argentina at fifty to one, meaning American CEOs make 10 times or more what they would make in any other country. CEOs routinely make seven figures even as companies lay off workers, slash benefits, and move jobs overseas. CEOs can make millions even if they drive their respective companies into bankruptcy. Perhaps most galling are the CEOs at banking institutions, who got paid millions while asking for and receiving publicly funded government bailouts.

While America has suffered an unemployment rate in the neighborhood of 10%, CEOs have done very well. As jobs left, benefits slashed, and savings rates have fallen, the top rung of American companies have seen their wealth increase. At a time of when politicians ponder balancing budgets by cutting “entitlements” for the middle class and poor, the CEO elite are being very much entitled.

Rather than continuing to repair a broken system, it’s time for a complete rethinking of that system from the top down to create change from the ground up, a whole set of corporate reforms limiting influence on government, ending corporate personhood, Increasing corporate responsibility, Capping CEO compensation-would be an effective remedy to our country’s various ills. These would empower the American worker and reconstitute the idea that the individual reigns supreme in this country, not corporate interests. We can also increase people power and re-envision life, liberty, and the American way. If we don’t act soon, we may end up seeing every right we hold so dear terminated.

Photo Credit: sarae