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Friday, March 27, 2009

WANTED FOR TREASON: U.S. CORPORATIONS!

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
- Thomas Jefferson -

"A corporation is an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility."
- Ambrose Bierce -

"A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not yet sufficient capital to form a corporation."
- Howard Scott -

"Fascism should be more properly called corporatism, for it is the merger of state and corporate power."
- Benito Mussolini -

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong it's reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
- ABRAHAM LINCOLN, in a Nov. 21, 1864 letter to Col. William F. Elkins -



I laugh every time I hear modern day conservative Republicans declaring that they belong to "the party of Lincoln." They are ignorant fools. For Abraham Lincoln was a LIBERAL who believed in a strong Federal Government. And, as the quote above proves, he correctly foresaw the dangers of concentrated capital so I believe he would have fought the influence of today's corporations tooth and nail. In fact, evidence strongly suggests that were he alive today, Lincoln would be a liberal Democrat and would undoubtedly be derisively labeled by such short-sighted and far-right Republicans as John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, Eric Cantor, and John Cornyn, as a "far left liberal extremist." This is because today's Republican Party has shifted so far right, and is so -ro-big business that its beliefs about the role of business versus that of government would put it into direct opposition to the beliefs of Thomas Jefferson AND Abraham Lincoln, two of our greatest and most visionary Presidents. Surely both are spinning in their graves at the speed of light, as is Republican Teddy Roosevelt, to see the unprecedented influence corporations now have over our government and society as well. They have effectively bought control of the government and are using it for their own ends.

This unfortunate rise in corporate power got a tremendoust boost in 1886, when the government bowed to pressure from the then-huge railroad industry in the infamous Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company Supreme Court decision. A clearly out-to-lunch (and bought out by the railroad) then-Chief Justice Morrison Rennick White prefaced the proceedings with a shocking statement that "the court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids a State to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does." In one fell swoop, this very poor decision by the Supreme Court effectively gave the corporation the same rights as living persons. But this ill-fated and errant decision failed to define its responsibilities and so we have been plagued with corporate excesses to this day.

In the magnificently informative and entertaining 2003 Canadian documentary "The Corporation", this premise of the corporation being a living being is taken literally and examined closely on a number of levels. A comprehensive history of the corporation, legal decisions regarding it, and its behavioral aspects are all presented in a very revealing and thought-provoking manner. The conclusion: The corporation is a dangerous psycopath. It is anti-social, completely self-centered, callously disregards others' feelings, has no guilt, has a reckless penchant for ignoring the safety of others, and chronically lies to obtain profit. I would strongly recommend this film to everyone. A DVD of it can be bought relatively inexpensively on Amazon.com, and you also may be able to rent it, or find it at your public library. So please give it a view and even tell your friends about it. It is truly too good and too relevant to pass up.

Just Thursday night, David Shuster broke an infuriating story about corporations on his show "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" on MSNBC. It turns out President Obama has asked former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to head a new "Tax Code Review Panel" in an effort to close some dubious corporate tax loopholes. Why? It turns out that the corporations recently bailed out by us taxpayers, plus numerous others, have all been avoiding paying federal taxes for years by fraudulently listing their subsidiaries as being based out of the country in phony tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Andorra, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and even Singapore. It is estimated corporations have as much as $12 TRILLION squirreled away in these havens which keeps those funds safe from taxation. This has deprived our government, now deep in deficit, engaged in two costly wars, with a crumbling infrastructure, even bailing out these irresponsible banks and other corporations, and unable to provide health care for 47+ million (roughly 1 out of every 7) of its citizens, with an estimated $100 BILLION shortfall in revenue it could dearly use! These same corporations have employed well-paid and well-funded lobbyists to influence the abovementioned foreign governments to keep details of the tax havens secret and inaccessible. Consider this: Morgan Stanley lists an astounding 158 foreign subsidiaries; Citigroup an incredible 90 (in the Cayman Islands alone!), and Bank of America boasts a whopping 59. Unfortunately, that is just the tip of the iceberg as far as American corporations' foreign subsidiaries go. There are many, many, many others. Some are in fact legitimate, but the overwhelming majority are set up solely to keep from paying taxes to the American government. Yet they all rely on the American government to fund roads their products are transported on, a postal system to bring their mail, schools to educate their children and labor force, and defense to protect their investments overseas. These greedy corporations ask for very much, and offer to return very little. In fact, they are stealing from the very hand that feeds them!

In business practice, corporations are set up to shield their owners from individual loss or responsibility arising from unforseen market developments. If, for example, the corporation expends a large amount of capital to procure sproducts or materials and then something goes wrong resulting in the corporation's inability to pay for those materials, the corporation's owners are not held personally liable for the procured, but unpaid for, materials. In other words, the corporation and its officers can make money and have rights, but cannot be held responsible or incur personal cost. This avoidance of responsibility is wrong and can be (and is) abused. Not only that, but corporations often employ a one-sided, beneficial-mainly-to-them methodology in doing business. In the case of large insurance corporations, they cherry-pick who and who they will not cover. In health insurance, they basically dictate how treatment and medications are delivered, overruling physicians and dictating terms. They boot people out of hospitals after major surgery in many cases the very next day, and they dictate medication dosage. This is done for the profit of the corporation, not for the benefit of the patient. Pharmaceutical corporations routinely sell the exact same medications to Canada at prices far lower than those offered to the United States, even though our tax dollars underwrite up to 30% of their research and development costs! This too is done for their profit and not for the benefit of citizens living in the very same communities in which the corporation is based! In my logic, if you are classified as a living human being and are afforded the rights of a living human being, so too should you bear the responsibilities of a living human being. The Supreme Court was grievously wrong to grant living rights to corporations but to make them immune to responsibility. For all living beings have a responsibility to one another and must pay a price or be punished when injuriously deviating from said responsibility. Should a person engage in acts which damage others' property, deprive them of their rights, or cause injury or death to others, that person is justifiably and individually fined and/or punished. And so too must it be with the officers of corporations. As laws and legal decisions have many loopholes, so too must one be found to reverse that foolish, highly unjust, unfairly preferential, and dangerous 1886 Supreme Court decision.

Merriam Webster defines "treason" in one sense as "the betrayal of a trust: TREACHERY." I would suggest U.S. corporations' deliberate and deceitful actions in setting up fictitious foreign subsidiaries to deprive our government of needed funds fits that definition. In a time of war, with millions of people's basic needs in jeopardy or going unmet, with even our military underfunded and underequipped, I would say this corporate hoarding and tax evasion constitutes a direct threat to our government and its people and endangers our very security. For this reason, I propose that the officers and directors of these offending corporations be held personally liable and receive harsh punishment for tax evasion and treason, just as an individual would for tax evasion, or for stealing from the military in time of war. These people have been getting by scot-free with far too much for far too long, and their day of reckoning must come. NOW!

9 comments:

Manifesto Joe said...

I think of the right-wing argument against the corporate income tax, popularized by Ronald Reagan: If you are already taxing the officers and shareholders of the corporation, then taxing its profits constitutes an unjustifiable double tax.

Hey, what happened to that 1886 Supreme Court ruling establishing the corporation as a "legal person?" As an "individual," shouldn't it pay taxes, too?

I was born, but it wasn't yesterday. Clearly, these people have always been about a no-lose game, rigged in their favor. They will argue one way one time, then completely the opposite another.

Jack Jodell said...

Yeah, those people are despicable. Their only allegiance is to themselves, not to community, city, state, or country. And they've managed to hoodwink enough wannabes and Republicans to grab and cement their power. They truly are psicopaths!

Yellow Dog said...

Well done, Jack, and it can't be said often enough.

Santa Clara's "corporations are persons" led directly to Buckley vs. Valeo's (1976?) "money equals speech" that has been the source of so much of our electoral woes since.

Corporate behavior is always completely rational as long as you remember a corporation's only purpose and sole reason for being is to maximize profit.

That a decision is rational, however, doesn't make it legal, much less constitutional.

Corporations aren't IMmoral, they are perfectly Amoral.

Jack Jodell said...

Yes, Yellow Dog, and often unethical, too. Their anti-social aspects need to be drastically curtailed. Their dominance over both political parties and the media must also be scaled way back. In view of the threat they pose to our well-being, perhaps a little time in Gitmo for crooked greedy board members might be in order?

Mycue23 said...

As always Jack, right on target. Corporations are indeed the biggest threat to the continued health of this nation. The fact that they pay the bills for so many of our "representatives" in Congress unfortunately means it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Jack Jodell said...

Let us hope it DOES get better! This notion that they, as institutions, have the same rights and privileges as living beings is insane. This MUST be successfully challenged down the line in the Supreme Court, for the actions taken by corporations are clearly excessive and are destroying this country.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Bravo! and ditto. Gee Jack, where do you find the time? I liked this one extremely. Good job!

SJ said...

@Jack,
the "personhood" of the American corporation is one of the most dangerous and fundamentally unconstitutional developments in our history, but unlike many tragedies and abuses of the 19th century, it is ongoing.
I still oppose the bail outs, and the abuses you explored in this post are part of the problem I have with giving tax-payer money, of any kind, for them to operate. Their pathological off-shoring of capital means they have more money than they claim to. They off shore their corporate nest eggs, while the average American loses theirs in direct consequence to their greed and criminal misdeeds.
Not enough people are going to jail over this financial implosion.
It's time for serious and extensive reform.
Thank you Joe, for your well reasoned and impassioned post in defense of the American citizen.
-SJ

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I liked it.
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