Does anyone really believe that corporations are people and that money is speech? Thanks to recent Supreme Court decisions, the law of the land is that money is considered speech and corporations are people – just like you and me.
On the ballot on Tuesday we have the opportunity through Proposition 59 to advise our legislators that we support the call to amend our Constitution just as 17 states have already done. This will firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are people entitled to constitutional rights.
Most Americans know that the system is working for the top 1 percent instead of for them. So how did we get here and how does this affect us? When Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and there was a strong middle class, the top tax rate was 91 percent and corporations paid 33 percent of federal taxes.
There was money for major infrastructure projects like the national highway system, which provided jobs for citizens. As the cost of living continued to rise, so did salaries. Now, despite record profits, corporations pay as little as 9 percent of federal taxes. Many pay no taxes at all and actually receive subsidies.
That’s a major reason why there’s so little money for colleges and tuition is so high. Homelessness is everywhere because low-income housing funds have been gutted. There is no money for rebuilding our roads or replacing water pipes.
I decided to pay attention to the media for a week to see how these Supreme Court decisions favoring the wealthy corporations and the rich negatively affect my life and the lives of most of the rest of us.
First, there was a story about the EpiPen. In 2007, the price was under $100 for a set of two. Now the price is $640 (an increase of over 500 percent). So I decided to check out the company that makes EpiPens, the Mylan Corp. During that period, the Mylan Corp. CEO’s salary went up over 600 percent (from around $2.5 million to around $19 million).
This is probably not a coincidence. But the question is: How can this happen? And the answer is that that corporations spend tons of money to elect people who represent them and not us, so they are not going to fight for us.
Another story from that week involved Obama’s approval of offshore drilling. Why does Obama talk about the dangers of fossil fuels and their effect on climate change and then approve drilling in the Arctic? Again, the reality is that he is supported by oil companies. And it’s not just for one party. Corporations will donate to both Democrats and Republicans to hedge their bets.
The largest prison strike by inmates ever in the country has been happening with little in the news. Inmates are protesting among other things that they are paid slave wages of just pennies an hour to produce goods for companies like Whole Foods, McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret and Wal-Mart.
While this seems illegal and unethical to me, I would guess that this happens because these companies donate liberally to our elected representatives.
The reality is that wealthy individuals and corporations have too much power and influence over our political system. It’s a “pay to play” system where donations to politicians and their PACs get the corporations and wealthy people what they want.
For every dollar that corporate lobbyists “invest” in donations to Congress people, they get back $760. Or put another way, for example, you and I can make a donation to support candidate A who wants to move away from fossil fuels. Another “person” like Exxon Mobil has the ability to donate millions of dollars to candidate B during an election cycle (and he does). When candidate B gets elected because his or her ads were all over TV, the question becomes: Did one “person” have more free speech than the other?
We need to vote “yes” on Proposition 59 telling our legislators strongly that corporations are not people like you and me, and that money is not speech. For more information, contact Move to Amend Fresno at fresno [at] movetoamend.org.
Stephen Sacks of Fresno is the chair of the Fresno Chapter of Move to Amend.