Corporations' power in U.S. needs to be reigned in

March 22, 2012
Mary Jo Long

When our country was new, we tried to control how much power corporations had. The Boston Tea Party was an attack against the British East India Corporation as well as the English monarch. We didn't want to be ruled by corporations that controlled the government for their profit.

In those early years, corporations were created by state charters that expired after a set number of years. One corporation could not own another corporation. Corporations had to have a corporate purpose which was going to benefit the community. Corporations had their charters revoked for misbehavior. But today, corporations have more rights than living human beings. Corporations have limited liability, they can shift that liability to sham corporations, they exist solely to make money and they have no obligations to the human community. They can bribe public officials through campaign contributions.

Corporations have claimed the seats at the front of the bus, to use an old civil rights analogy. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are persons and can use our Bill of Rights. This is because of several Supreme Court decisions, including the Citizens United decision, that gave corporations free speech rights and equated money with speech. That case has opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns.

Corporate dominance has perverted our culture and our government. Our health care system is but one example. The majority of Americans support a single-payer health care system, but insurance and pharmaceutical corporations had Congress pass a health insurance plan that reinforces the dominance of private insurance corporations. Energy policy is another example. Congress has given oil and gas corporations exemptions from environmental laws, depletion allowances and built a highway infrastructure that assists in our addiction to fossil fuels provided by multinational corporations.

The public knows in their hearts and their guts that corporations have the upper hand over the people's interests. Move To Amend is a diverse coalition working to reverse the Supreme Court's rulings on "corporate personhood." The U.S. Constitution needs to be amended to remove the judge-created rights of corporations to use the Bill of Rights against us. It is a long-term effort to make the Constitution more democratic.

David Cobb, an attorney and leader in Move To Amend, says, "We recognize that amending the Constitution to restore the power of the people over corporations will not be easy, but we know correcting the Supreme Court is imperative to the progress of our nation."

Just as abolitionists advocated for an end to slavery, we need to change the public discourse by redefining the politically possible. Learn more at and connect with others to create a healthier, less money-dominated community.

Long is an Afton resident.


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