by Glenn Scherer
Are you struggling paycheck-to-paycheck, unemployed or underemployed, without health insurance or underinsured? Have you lost your home, or is it worth less than the mortgage you owe? Are you one of America’s millions of poor children? A senior who shudders when you hear leaders plotting to undermine Social Security and Medicare? Or has your breadwinner been sent away to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan?
Are you without a financial safety net, fearful for your family’s future?
If so, you need to understand that a key reason for your economic insecurity is the corporate seizure of power in Washington and the states. This power grab started after World War II when President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the threat of the military industrial complex. It accelerated under President Ronald Reagan, as corporations bankrolled candidates and lobbied for laws that turned big companies into super citizens – possessing all the rights and privileges of individuals, but few of the responsibilities.
In decades since, as government gradually shredded the family financial safety net, corporate giveaways multiplied. Subsidies and tax breaks, deregulation and bailouts, privatization, union busting, the sell off of public-owned natural resources, and the dismantling of environmental laws hugely benefited the nation’s largest businesses – with banks, fossil fuel companies and the military industrial complex the big winners. Corporate influence over government surged in 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed unlimited corporate spending on elections as a form of free speech.
The corporate coup d’état in Washington is also a coup d’état in Wisconsin, where a thinly disguised bill to reduce deficits is designed as a deathblow against unions. Gov. Scott Walker also plans to sell off public resources such as power plants to the lowest corporate bidder, to dismantle Medicaid in his state, reduce drinking water safeguards and cut jobs. Similar bills are likely pending in your state.
No one really knows how many U.S. families are on life support, having burned through savings, refinanced homes, and run up massive charge card debt. But the next time the economy tanks we could see desperate people taking to the streets as they have across the Middle East and in Wisconsin. These protesters will be folk who know that neither party has served them. They’ll likely be desperate to feed, clothe and house their kids.
What to do? The system is broken. Elections are rigged to favor corporate candidates. And once in power, those politicians do the bidding of corporate bosses. What is needed is a revised U.S. Constitution – one rewritten to cut corporations out of government.
So why not call for a new Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to draft a corporation-proof governing document? Though non-binding, this document would give Americans something to strive for: a means to achieve real democracy and justice. Here’s how we might re-envision America in Philadelphia:
- End corporate citizenship: Strip corporations of the right to exist as people. Also take away legal protections that shelter CEOs, boards, managers and stockholders from corporate crimes. Establish a corporate death penalty for companies that knowingly imperil the public good and environment.
- Ban political donations by groups: No corporation, association, union, or non-profit should be allowed to fund elections. Only individuals should be allowed to contribute to election funds, and only with limited amounts.
- Reduce corporate welfare: Place restrictions on bailouts, subsidies, tax breaks and other corporate giveaways that favor one company or business over another.
- Outlaw group political lobbying: The buying and selling of influence must end. Only individuals should be allowed to make appeals to government.
- End winner-take-all elections: Create a system of run-off elections to encourage a multi-party system and end the tyranny of the corporate-dominated two party system. Require all eligible citizens to vote.
- Provide fair access to elections: Ban paid political advertising. Instead create a government-funded electronic and print media network providing free and equal time to all candidates.
- Create equality in the courts: Corporate legal teams continue to outspend citizens seeking redress. Revamped courts would put limits on spending for legal counsel and require a level playing field.
- Ban election polling: Polls are easy for special interest groups to pay for and manipulate, and unduly influence elections.
- Close the Revolving Door: Today’s managers move with ease from corporate life to high government office and back. That revolving door must be shut, and the two career tracks separated.
- Ratify a Citizen Bill of Rights: Broaden our current Bill of Rights to guarantee every American the right to affordable food and shelter and a clean environment.
Big corporate government must end. If our democracy is to survive and our families are to be financially secure, we must truly become a nation of, by, and for the people.
Glenn Scherer is senior editor of Blue Ridge Press. To comment go to www.blueridgepress.com. © BRP 2011
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