Thursday, September 17, 2009

Heinlein was prescient

Certain things have been running around in my head lately and bumping to the furniture. They've never quite managed to coalesce into something approaching coherence on their own. If the following seems rambling and incoherent, blame it on this.

In the back ground is this summer's hotly debated topic of health care reform. So much has been said on both sides. Battle lines have been drawn and each side is entrenched. Contentious and sometimes ugly, this "debate" has been very revealing.

Against that background enters Stephen Colbert and his segment this week about corporations. Here's a clip from that episode:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Let Freedom Ka-Ching
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests

Why is that a "comedian" can shed more light on this subject than all the reporters in the MSM? But I digress. My husband and I talked about the idea of corporations as people on the way to pick up the Youngest the next afternoon. We both agreed that calling a corporation a person was ridiculous. But we argued a bit about, in the face of this unfortunate legal reality, if it meant that a corporation could be considered a constituent to a member of Congress.  He argued they could. That they made campaign contributions made them de facto constituents. I argued that all it made them was campaign contributors. Since their area of interest was narrow and the area of law that could be reasonably said to pertain to them equally narrow, they didn't deserve that appellation.  A Senator can participate in enacting a wide variety of laws that can affect his actual living breathing constituents in a myriad of ways. A corporation is only interested in a few laws that directly affect them. At least that's my thinking.

Today, while perusing the post on Crooks and Liars about the case of Jamie Leigh Jones' rape case against Hallliburton; I came across this comment:

You can't put a corporation in jail.

Self-evident, isn't it? You can put the executives and employees of said corporation in jail but not the entity itself. In fact, there's a lot of things that a corporation can't do that a person can- it can't breathe, it can't die, it can't reproduce.   The scientific definition of life is broad and vague so that it can encompass the wide variety of living organisms we find on our planet.  It's something that isn't precise and may never be, but ultimately I don't think it can stretch far enough to accommodate corporations.

I don't think that corporations are persons that should be afforded the same rights as the flesh and blood people they so often  abuse. But there's the case that Colbert was discussing: Citizens United V Federal Election Commission.  The FEC stopped Citizens United from releasing their feature length film : HIllary the Movie' calling it a campaign contribution that violated federal rules. If the Supreme Court rules in their favor it's entirely possible that corporations will be able to give unlimited campaign contributions to the candidates of their choice.

Wouldn't that just be a pickle? Corporations buying candidates. Oh, wait. They kinda sorta already do. And that brings us back to health care. One of the reasons that I believe health care reform will ultimately fail this year, as it has for so many years, is that the insurance and pharmaceutical companies already own the Congress. They already exert undue influence through campaign contributions, political action committees and thinly veiled "citizens" groups feeding people misinformation.

Six large corporations own the majority of the media in this country: Time Warner, Disney, News Corp. (Murdoch), General Electric, Viacom and Bertelsmann.  6 major corporations provide the majority of health care in this country: United Health Group, WellPoint, Aetna, Humana, Cigna, and Health Net. (I've talked about most of these insurance companies before. There's a plethora of resources out there talking about the obscene tactics, huge revenues and outlandish personal incomes for CEOs.) The same can be said of just about ever major business arena - a few control the majority of the resources, earn the majority of income and affect the majority of the arena.

Many times it's difficult for the layman to follow the money trail and untangle the complex ties that bind corporations. Just who ultimately owns who is many times hard to say.

I would posit that corporations already run the government through this complex web and that a favorable ruling in Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission will only make it official. If corporations are persons and persons have the right to free speech and speech = money then corporations can give unlimited amounts to political campaigns. It sounds paranoid and verging on conspiracy theory nutland but sometimes the truth is pretty damn strange.

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