EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

October 4, 2012

Letter: Corporations must not have same rights as people

To the editor:

Our democracy is under attack. Not by a socialist president or terrorists, but by the power and wealth of giant, multinational corporations.

For the past 130 years, a very dangerous concept has been circulating — that corporations have constitutional rights as if they were people. However, the truth is that they are not granted personhood in the Constitution. They are not even mentioned there or in the Bill of Rights. Indeed, much of the correspondence by the founding fathers around the writing of the Constitution indicates that its authors considered corporations to be a “necessary evil” that needed to be strictly constrained to prevent them from gaining too much power over citizens and governments.

Instead, corporate personhood is purely a construct of Supreme Court decisions by justices who appear to have a strong pro-corporate bias. They have ruled that “money is speech” and that corporations have the First Amendment right to spend as much as they want on political campaigns.

Some say that corporations need these rights to engage in activities such as entering into contracts and paying bills. But, such abilities can be granted by statute without the need to extend them “rights.” Similarly, public advocacy organizations could be granted the ability to promote their agendas, but not necessarily to spend overwhelming amounts of money to do so.

What has happened is that giant corporations have used the “rights” given them by the Supreme Court to use their vast wealth to completely dominate the political process, squeezing out the real people that “our” government is supposed to represent. This leads to abuses such as bailing out banks that bribed their way into being deregulated and multi-billion dollar corporations paying negative taxes.

To prevent these abuses we must return political control to real citizens. We must amend the Constitution to hold that corporations are not people, money is not speech, and the government of the people has the right and the power to regulate campaign spending. Politicians do not need to continue to take bribes from or to cower at the power of corporations. They need to serve the best interests of our country as a whole.

This November, there will be a ballot initiative in about 70 cities and towns in Massachusetts on this issue. I urge you to support it and send the message that we want our democracy back.

Michael Bleiweiss

Methuen

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