Ingots of Speech
January 22, 2012
1. Is money speech? and 2. Are corporations people?
Our answers to these questions are more fundamental to the survival of the United States as a democratic republic than most others, because if speech is money and you don’t have enough, practically speaking you might as well be as tongueless as a slug. And if corporations are people, with their vast profits of “speech” and clauses of cash you might as well strap on a yoke, moo at your fellow oxen and resign yourself to mutely pull plows and haul water on the plantations of the biggest mouths among us.
Until the Supreme Court took possession of the concepts, throttled and whipped the life out of them and hung them like trophies on pikes on the road to the prosperity of the few, “speech” had to do with utterances, and “people” were understood to have blood running through veins, breath through lungs and a potential for compassion in their hearts.
The absurdity of corporate personhood began when the Justices of the Supreme Courts of 1819 and 1886 (in the cases of Dartmouth College vs. Woodward and Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, respectively) tore a page from Genesis, reached down together, grabbed handfuls of the muck of privilege, formed a likeness of themselves and breathed life into it.
Paraphrasing a line from the Old Testament, “So The Court created corporations in its own image, in the image of Privilege It created them, un-man and un-woman It created them.”
Then, adding insult to injury (to those who until then had been the only God-endowed persons on earth), the Court (again aping God, but this time verbatim) said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.” Which is exactly what corporations have been up to since day one. So now we’re left to battle wealth-addicted zombies who prowl the earth for whatever they can suck-up through straws of rolled greenbacks all the while doling War-and-Peace-sized fictions of “free speech” to politicians.
By the clout of ingots of speech do they suck.
This all falls into the category of laws-are-made-first–for-the-folks-who-wrote-them-or-their-providers.
Laws may be laws but interpretations rule. In fact the Fourteenth Amendment to the constitution (which the Supreme Court of 1886 so cynically corrupted to create the “corporate person”) refers to, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States…,” then goes on to spell out what privileges and immunities such persons are entitled to. It posits “born and naturalized” persons. It doesn’t say persons created by legal manipulation. As far as the constitution was concerned, it took nine months of gestation in a woman’s womb to become a person, not a few weeks stewing in the skulls of nine-men-with-an-agenda getting their ducks in a row.
No reasonable person would construe the Fourteenth Amendment’s words the way the Supreme Court did. What it took was a cabal of justices with the cojones, cynicism, and vast hypocrisy of Newt Gingrich and the empathetic disconnect of Mitt Romney to twist the Fourteenth Amendment into a uterus for corporate persons.
But 1819 and 1886 were then, and this is now, right?
Well, physicists are not so sure about time and we shouldn’t be either. Quantum physics and the theory of relativity have given us some cud to chew regarding to properties of space and time and time’s an uruly thing. Now we have the Court’s ruling of 2010 in the Citizens United case to contend with. That decision gave corporate persons the right to “contribute” unlimited amounts of money to influence political campaigns. So the hop from 1819 to 2010 may have been a mere blink. It seems so at least. In practical terms (for the 99%) the lightning-like connections between those two years is monumental. Taking its earlier ruling that “corporations are persons” to the next and obvious level, the Courts of 1819/1886/2010 have now granted corporate persons not only actual being but the power of diamond-studded palaver.
Corporations can now palaver the monumental wealth gained through the privilege and protections afforded natural persons into political power by barking into super-sized mics, through bank accounts with Koch-sized speakers, over the pesky din of the tiny middle-class purses of gnat-persons and, once and for all, over the mute eloquence of the poor, because today money is “speech” …and therefore (logically) speech means “money”.
Lots more money. SUPER-PACS of money. Enough speech to turn the ears, heads and votes of every natural-born “representative of the people” into a echo chamber of gilded corporate oratory.
As Roshi Bob said the other day,
“If speech is money and money is speech only naturally-born deaf mute persons of the 99% will know the bliss of both silence and poverty.”
by Jim Culleny