I am humbled and proud to serve on the Green Shadow Cabinet as the Chair of the Commission on Corporations and Democracy. In my inaugural statement, I am obliged to acknowledge that corporations have become the most dominant institution in America.
The largest of the transnational corporations are not merely exercising power today. They are ruling over us. As surely as Masters once ruled slaves, as surely as Kings once ruled subjects, unelected and unaccountable corporate CEOs are ruling in this country. They are making the fundamental public policy decisions that affect our lives.
Corporate CEOs are deciding our energy policy, whether we address the global climate crisis, who gets access health care, who gets credit, who gets a job (and how much they get paid to do that job). Corporate CEOs decided that this country would go to war. And corporate media decides what stories are told and how they are told.
But it was not always this way. When our country was founded the state tightly controlled the issuance of all state charters (the “birth certificate” for a corporation). Limited liability corporations were created sparingly, and were always understood to be a tool to provide public benefit.
Limited liability was understood to be privilege, and every corporate charter application required a majority vote of the state House of Representatives or Assembly and a majority vote of the state senate and the Governor had to be willing to sign it. In other words, limited liability required the same political act as passing legislation.
Charters were only good for a limited time (typically 5-10 years), at which point the limited liability charter automatically dissolved. If any corporation did any business other than what it had specifically been chartered to do, it was dissolved for being ultra vires (beyond the authority of why it had been allowed to exist). And if any corporation was ever found to be acting in violation of the public trust, the charter was revoked.
Can we imagine a single one of the Fortune 500 corporations even being able to operate today if we had those same political restrictions in place that our Founders insisted upon?
I do not romanticize the founding era. The disgusting and depraved institution of slavery was codified into our Constitution. The indigenous population of this continent was subjected to intentional and deliberate genocide. The patriarchal oppression of women was systemic. And most white men were either indentured servants or second-class citizens.
But the limited liability corporation was properly controlled and utilized as a tool for public projects. How low we have sunk.
Today, the wealthy elite use the corporation to dictate virtually every aspect of our lives. And because of the illegitimate, court-created doctrine that a corporation is a “person” with inherent and unalienable rights, corporate lawyers can even go into court and attempt to overturn any democratically elected law. Corporate lawyers use this doctrine to overturn laws designed to protect the environment, workers, public health and safety, and even campaign finance laws designed to protect the integrity of our elections.
Our only hope is to help build a mass social movement of educated and engaged citizens to reign in these runaway entities.
We must replicate the abolitionists, the women’s suffrage movement, the trade union movement, the civil rights movement, and the struggle for queer liberation. We must educate, agitate and organize. In other words, we must change the culture of this country.
In my role as Chair of the Commission on Corporations and Democracy I will be proposing concrete steps that can and should be taken to do just that.
My first recommendation is to have folks join us at www.MoveToAmend.org
Move To Amend is a multi-racial coalition of over 280,000 individuals, several thousand endorsing organizations, and over 200 local affiliate groups all demanding a constitutional amendment to abolish the illegitimate court-created legal doctrines that hold that a corporation is a person with constitutional rights and that money equals speech.
We are getting larger, stronger and better organized each day.
We look forward to collaborating with the Green Shadow Cabinet, and working with ordinary Americans to make the promise of a democratic Republic a reality in the United States of America.