March 08, 2019
by Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, Greg Coleridge
Because corporations are not people,
and big problems require bold solutions,
we must fix the deepening crisis of corporate rule
that assaults people, places and the planet
and makes authentic democracy impossible.
The We the People Amendment (HJR 48), introduced by Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA), would establish that:
- “The rights protected by the Constitution…are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities…shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People.”
- “Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures…The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.”
- “Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.”
The rigging or fixing of our political and economic systems to benefit corporations and economic elites predates the current moment, transcends any one political party or business entity, and is more deeply rooted than any single law or regulation. It’s foundational (i.e. validated by Supreme Court decisions), historical (i.e. going back well over a century) and substantial (i.e. numerous Constitutional Amendment “rights” have been bestowed upon corporate entities and to spending/investing money in elections).
The “fixers” for corporate agents and economic elites in all these schemes has been Supreme Court Justices. Despite no reference to corporations anywhere in the Constitution, the Supreme Court concocted time and again that the civil and property rights of corporations trump human and community rights, which disproportionately harms people of color, the poor, working people, seniors and children.
By hijacking the Constitution, corporations and economic elites have gained multiple tools to not merely influence elections, but to capture government with all its power to create or overturn laws and regulations to serve their interests. Business corporations have become the single most powerful institution of governance in our nation while billionaires are co-conspirators in the system of legalized bribery otherwise known as political elections and pay-to-play law making. Government is broken because the system is fixed. No wonder so many people are angry at governments not meeting their needs—at this point the system isn’t designed to meet them at all!
The We the People Amendment is based on the uncompromising and unapologetic belief that, among many other concerns, the crises of widespread climate collapse, inadequate and unaffordable health coverage, widening rich-poor wealth gap, rising gun violence, legalized poisoning of our food and bodies, inability of local communities to protect the health and safety of their residents, and the next looming economic crash (which will be the worst yet if not prevented) all have two things in common. They are largely the result of corporate rule and oligarchy and the solution is radical democracy.
Big problems require big solutions.
The We the People Amendment contrasts with two other recently introduced measures in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The For the People Act (HR 1), passed Friday through the House and backed by several prominent national political reform groups and the Democratic Party, includes reasonable and urgent provisions addressing campaign finance reform, ethics and voting access. Separately, the Democracy for All Amendment (HJR 2) constitutional amendment proposal would overturn parts of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and permit Congress and the States to set campaign spending limits.
Supporters of both measures are to be commended for responding to surging public demands to end political corruption that favors corporate and wealthy interests and which prevents people’s voices from being heard.
But neither measure acknowledges or addresses the immense governing power of corporations.
Neither will do anything to abolish corporate constitutional rights. The legislative reforms in HR1 are very good as far as they go, but they don’t alter the fundamental constitutional ground rules that allow corporations to circumvent democratically enacted laws and regulations. Meaning even if HR1 was to pass, there’s no way to protect it from being gutted by the Supreme Court “fixers” with their agenda of allowing corporations to wield the Constitution as a trump card to overturn legislation that doesn’t suit their corporate bottom line.
Meanwhile, HJR2 is more symbolic than prescriptive in proposing that Congress and the States “may regulate and set limits” on campaign spending and “may distinguish between natural persons and corporations” when it comes to election spending. “May” distinguish? How about “shall,” “will” or “damn right must!” And zero mention is made of calling for the abolition of all the other constitutional rights that corporations have hijacked beyond First Amendment free speech.
The mid-term election results reflected a new cultural consciousness and democratic movement opportunity. There is growing interest, expectations and demands for different visions, proposals and actions. There is more honesty and realization that the scale of change must be consistent with the scale of systemic problems. More people, led by young people, are rising up and taking nonviolent direct action in response to our multiple crises.
It’s no time for self-censorship or to imprison ourselves by limited vision of what’s “doable,” “realistic,” or “achievable.” History has shown time and again what has seemed impossible in one moment has become inevitable in the next. As our political system, economy, ecology and public trust in government approaches various lethal limits, thresholds, and tipping points, can self-governing people afford to work for anything else than transformative change?
The We the People Amendment is authentically grassroots and populist. It is honest, transparent, visionary and anti-establishment. It’s time we tear down our mental walls and act to expand the democratic space that makes possible this and so many other needed constitutional, political, economic and social structural changes.
Self-governing people don’t simply work to elect better representatives, pass better laws, enact better regulations or merely suggest that certain conditions that “may” or might be done. They take charge of their lives, communities, government and, yes, especially their Constitution.
It’s time to take control away from the “fixers” responsible for the constitutional governing rules that has legalized corporate rule and oligarchy.
The We the People Amendment is one fundamental way to democratically fix our democracy crisis. It’s time We the People act like the self-governing people that we supposedly are, and make it happen. Our planet depends on it.
To learn more or join the grassroots movement to pass the We the People Amendment, visit www.MoveToAmend.org/join.