It’s time for cities to stand up for the rights of human beings

March 12, 2012

Move to Amend Olympia is meeting with the Olympia City Council to take forward a resolution to demand Congress abolish corporate “personhood.” This concept stems from the 125-year Supreme Court history of corporations assuming progressively more “human rights.” At present, corporations have claimed First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and 14th Amendment rights through a series of Supreme Court rulings.

To clarify the key issues, corporations are not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. When corporations have constitutional rights, human rights lose their meaning. How can one human being’s right to speak compare to a massive corporation’s ability to speak?

A multinational corporation has billions of dollars. It exists in many countries at once, can live forever, and employs thousands to work around the clock. This corporation controls the media, the politicians, and the economy. A human being, by contrast, has limited expendable income, a limited lifespan, and limited time to work for causes.

A human being needs clean air, clean water and food to survive. A corporation does not. The only purpose of a corporation is to make money. The human being thinks, tries to make ethical decisions, and is motivated by family and community obligations. Could you say that these dramatically different entities have an equal voice in a democracy?

If money equals speech, then people who have money can vote; and people who do not, cannot participate. How is this a democracy when corporations rule?

Among nine super PACs that raised at least $500,000 and have spent on the presidential election so far, almost half of the itemized contributions (47 percent) came from just 22 donors who gave more than $500,000. And three PACs under the name of Bob Perry donated $3,600,000.

In other words, these super PACs are turning out to be vehicles for a very limited number of wealthy individuals and corporations to spend very large sums of money and take a blaring megaphone to the concept of political speech.

We appreciate that 80 percent of our nation opposes Citizens United, which opened the doors to a multinational corporate buy-out of our electoral system. This is a nonpartisan issue, with agreement among most voters. Herein lies hope for change. This unpopular ruling leads us to define mutually agreed high-priority needs:

 • Taxing the rich and corporations.

 • Ending the wars and cutting military spending.

 • Strengthening Social Security and improving Medicare for all.

 • Ending corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests.

 • Transitioning to a clean-energy economy, and reversing environmental degradation.

 • Protecting worker rights, including collective bargaining, creating jobs and raising wages.

 • Getting money out of politics.

The dissenting justices in the Supreme Court case, Citizens United v. FEC, have announced a stay on the Montana ruling, which declines to accept corporate donations in its elections. Montana has a history with a senator who bought his election with copper mining money, and the state knows too well what the results were. Should Justices Ruth Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer succeed, there could be a re-hearing of Citizens United, which we are following closely.

Meanwhile, the Olympia City Council should consider adopting a resolution because so many understand what it means to exercise our own voices. To have choices not yet usurped by the all-powerful 1 percent requires we have this conversation about human versus corporate rights. Our children may not get to create alternative governance structures if we fail to act now.

We aspire to be the 128th municipality to address this issue locally, as this movement spreads rapidly across the country. We hear of successful resolutions in Boulder, Colo.; Los Angeles County; Eugene, Ore.; and Portland. Recently, 50 municipalities in Vermont passed resolutions en masse.

Molly Gibbs, an organizer with Move To Amend in Olympia, can be reached at m2aoly [at] gmail.co. For more on upcoming events, visit www.MoveToAmendOlympia.org.

 

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