Corporate Influence on Government.
The increase of corporation’s influence on government of the United States has been dramatic over the years. Lobbyists and special interest groups representing corporations have mushroomed and so has their influence. Many are supportive of this trend and believe that money is free speech. This has led to the government representing corporations more than it represents people. The gap between rich and poor is at one of the highest rates in the history of the United States and is increasing. The influence and power of the corporation is detrimental to our democracy, but the problem is one that can be solved. It will not be easy but with political activity and law suits through the courts, the power of the corporations can be lessened and our government can represent the people as it should.
\ In the early history of the United States corporations were viewed with distrust and were not able to have any influence over government and elections. In that time corporations were very few and had to get a charter to exist. The charter would limit corporations to a purpose which was generally for the good of the public, for example building a bridge. The corporation was set up for a certain number of years unless the charter was renewed. Once the purpose of the charter was completed, the corporation was usually disbanded (Kaufman 402). The corporations prior to the Civil War and during the industrial era used the newspapers and corruption effectively to bypass the restricting laws and form trusts and monopolies. In 1886 the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad to give corporations the rights of a person. The corporations were now protected under the Constitution. Corporations influence on the government was now legal. The corporations were now able to legally purchase land and afforded all the other opportunities of the individual. Over the years the corporations’ power and influence over government have steadily grown in the United States. The recent Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee has given corporations even more power over the electoral process than they have already had. They are now able fund political commercials and documentaries to influence a campaign and are also given a green light to engage in expanded candidate advocacy among their employees.
The corporation being considered a person is in fact unconstitutional, according to the 13th amendment, section 1, which states:"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. “ If a corporation is a “person,” then how can a corporation be owned by another person and still be constitutional? It simply can not. A corporation being considered a person is absurd. Human beings own corporations, and corporations own other corporations. If a corporation were in fact a person, then slavery would have to be made constitutional to maintain corporate structure as it is.
Furthermore, corporate influence is increasing corruption and giving the wealthy too much influence while those in other classes are being over looked. It seems to those that are against the corporate influence that elections are now up for sale, that the candidate who has acquired the most money usually wins. Those who make large donations are liable to have more influence and access to the candidate, thus the candidate will enact or support laws more favorable to the corporations. This can and has been a danger to quality of living and keeping jobs in America. What is good for Wall Street and the corporate elite is some time detrimental to the majority of Americans. An example of this is the bipartisan support of NAFTA(North American Free Trade Association). NAFTA has been devastating to workers and has lessened environmental protections. It has been responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousand high paying manufacturing jobs. Also, it has suppressed real wages, weakened workers’ collective bargaining power, and reduced fringe benefits. Although NAFTA has been a boon to the American worker, it has been a blessing for corporations and Wall Street. It has enabled corporations to save money on labor cost and avoid costly environmental protections. NAFTA has caused an increase of money for investors(Scott). President Obama during the 2008 promised to renegotiate NAFTA, but it was just another broken promise among many made by the President. Obama is proving himself to be another corporate controlled puppet in a long line of corporate controlled Presidents, pretending to represent the people of America.
Those that represent us and are chosen to regulate certain areas increasingly have been lobbyists or employed by corporations that they will be regulating. This is a danger to the American public because those that are supposed to be the watching the corporations for illegal and un ethical actions are biased towards the corporations that they are regulating. This has the potential to allow more polluting, allow food and products that are unsafe, to let corporations monopolize or make profits in un ethical fashion. For example, Richard Cheney, who was our vice president was formerly a CEO of Haliburton. Haliburton received many lucrative no bid contracts during Cheney’s time of service. Gary Gensler who is the chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, he is also former partner of Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is majorly involved in the futures trading and have been caught in the past in financial chicanery. Gary Gensler has a major conflict of interest and it is an insult to the American people that President Obama would appoint him to this position.
Campaign contributions have been an indicator of whom government officials have been serving. Most top contributers are major corporations. Goldman Sachs, Micro Soft, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Time Warner were all top 10 contributers in Barrack Obama’s presidential campaign of 2008. This could have very well contributed to the banker friendly bail-outs. The banks were bailed out even though it was their greed and incompetence that caused the mess, yet those that lost their 401ks and retirement packages were ignored by the government. Greed and stupidity were rewarded by the government as some of the top contributers to Obama not only were bailed out but ended up making a profit and absorbing smaller banks. Michael Sclachter, managing director of Wilshire Associates said “Absolutely Ridiculous, some of them created this mess, and they are making a killing undoing it”. There have been no consequences for these actions, such as increased regulation and oversight.
Another problem are most major corporations are multi national today. These corporations do not have loyalty to the United States. Their influence on our government could be seen as not only a danger to our democracy but a danger to our financial well being as well. Ted Nace points out in his book Gangs of America that multi national corporations can use free trade agreements to override local and national laws for safety standards and protecting the environment by claiming they are barriers to trade.It was a bipartisan effort to enact these free trade laws in the United States which reduce our sovereignty. It would probably be impossible for the United States to go back to the limited corporation of its early history, but that would be the best solution. The Supreme Court rulings that gave corporations the rights of an individual need to be overturned. Campaign finance and rules on lobbying need to be reformed to make corporation what they are, a thing, not a person. The influence and access of corporations to our elected officials are too great. The imbalance of power is unacceptable in a democracy.
The first step for the American people in solving this dilemma is to become more politically active. The government is hearing to little from the people and too much from the corporations. It is easy to become more active. Citizens can write letters, e-mail, and/or call elected officials and let them know what they believe in and that they will be held accountable for actions which are detrimental to the United States. Join a social group or organization that battles for the rights of the American People. Public Citizen is an example of an organization that fights against corporate power. Protest and enact civil disturbance against the government when they are acting in a way that serves the corporations more than the people, such as protesting the wars, both Iraq and Afghanistan wars were pre planned before 9-11. Neither country is a threat to the United States but our war with them benefits the energy and military industries greatly and are a drain on the United States. The lack of state funding and decline in social programs are greatly due to the wars. Another way that corporate influence can be controlled is through the courts by having laws favorable to corporations overturned. Organizations such as the ACLU sue the government to pass laws more representative to the American people. A great solution would be refusing to vote for Republican or Democratic candidates. Both are corporate controlled and do little to serve the American People. As Ralph Nader said in the 2000 presidential election campaign “The only difference between Bush and Gore is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations bang at their door”. If the majority of Americans abandoned the two party system, corporate control would be greatly weakened. Most third parties are against corporatism and would enact laws and increase regulation of the corporations.
Corporations are ingrained in our daily lives and affect much of what we do and what we see. It will not be easy to take our government and our country back from them. It will only happen if the American people realize that there is a class war being waged against them and decide to fight back. As our standards of living keep decreasing, more and more people will wake up to the fact that there is a serious problem in our nation. Social movements in the past have been effective in making change. The Civil Rights Movement is an example of this. We need equal rights for persons of the human variety. If our energy is focused and properly directed, our nation could very well serve the people instead of the corporations. We as a people must decide if we want to live in a democracy or a plutocracy.