Texas' foremost populist says, 'We the People, not We the Corporations'
Published: November 9, 2011
"It's coming from the feel
That this ain't exactly real,
Or it's real, but it ain't exactly there ...
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A."
—Leonard Cohen, Democracy
To the U.S.A.? No, Cohen's got it all wrong.
As our leaders loudly preach, democracy is something that we export to the rest of the world — to certain monarchies and autocratic regimes that rule Arab nations, for example. And it's understandable though regrettable, they tell us, that there would be eruptions of pent-up anger at aloof upper classes in India, Greece, Spain and Israel.
But a genuinely populist uprising to bring democracy, both economic and political, to the U.S.A.? No way! Yet, there it is: the sassy, brassy and savvy Occupy Wall Street movement, rapidly spreading to every ZIP code.
It is real. Yes, it's youth-driven, broad-based, determinedly democratic and deeply grounded in the most basic of American values of economic fairness, social justice and equal opportunity for all. It's not about left-right ideologies, but top-down realities. It's focused directly on the narcissistic greed of today's financial and corporate elites and on their gross corruption of our political system by a flood of money from corporations that now masquerade as persons.
Is it exactly there? No, not by a long shot; but it has a shot. The spunk, motivation, idealism, creativity and passion of these young people are genuine, not the product of partisan consultants, think tanks, rich funders or large organizations. So the movement's direct street action is turning out to be the spark that millions of disgusted grass-roots people have needed to stop moaning and start acting, which is why Occupy Chicago, Occupy McAllen, and hundreds of other Occupies have sprung up spontaneously across the country within weeks of the Wall Street initiative. These people are on target and on the move.
If you doubt it, note the edgy tone of Mitt Romney, who expressed alarm about the rising rabble who're daring to confront the corporate order: "I think it's dangerous, this class warfare."
This was hardly the first plutocratic pronouncement by Romney, a dedicated warrior for the corporate class. In August, the well-heeled seeker of the GOP presidential nod, dressed in preppie-casual togs, hopped atop a hay bale at the Iowa state fair. He looked as natural as a goose in a tuxedo. But then, after a somewhat testy exchange with fairgoers who had challenged him to end corporate tax breaks rather than cut benefits for people, Romney blurted out one of the stranger tenets of right-wing theology: "Corporations are people, my friend," Romney said, with a little condescending chuckle.
Actually, corporations are nothing but pieces of paper issued by state governments. Nonetheless, the rising supremacy of America's corporate plutocracy is based on courts and politicians having blind faith in the legitimacy of the corporations-are-people idolatry. It is not, however, something that its disciples wish to take to the people as an election issue, because, well, because it's pure poppycock, and it would be resoundingly rejected if it were ever put to a direct vote. So, let us praise this chucklehead for inadvertently injecting the right-wing fiction of corporate personhood directly into the 2012 presidential election.
The good news is that, across the country, the overwhelming majority of people (i.e., us living, breathing humans) despise the anti-democratic domination of our elections and, therefore, of our government, economy, media and environment by a relatively few self-aggrandizing corporate behemoths. This public anger has intensified since the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v FEC.
Corporations are people?
Who came up with that?
Sam Alito, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. On Jan. 21, 2010, these five Supreme Court justices defied the Constitution, common sense, the expressed will of the American people and nature itself to distort hundreds of years of judicial precedent in a case titled Citizens United v FEC. The five decreed that — shazam! — artificial, lifeless corporate entities are entitled to the First Amendment rights of people, and are endowed with more electioneering rights than us real-life persons, enabling them to buy public officials and intimidate others by dumping unlimited sums of corporate cash into our elections. In one abrupt blow, these five men reversed more than a century of campaign-finance law and more than 200 years of broad public agreement that corporate interests should be subjugated to the public interest. Talk about your judicial activism.
Now, not only can the living, breathing executives of corporations continue dumping millions of their own dollars into elections — money that totaled more than $1 billion in the 2008 election cycle — but henceforth, the trillions of dollars held by the corporate entities themselves can also be poured into electioneering ads and other forms of speech. All big-money corporations, from Wall Street to Wal-Mart, now have permission to open the spigots of their vast corporate treasuries and funnel unlimited sums of cash into campaigns to elect or defeat candidates of their choice for any and every office in the land.
> Email Jim Hightower