corporations

Dora Dogood strikes again!

Haven't heard from the old battleaxe dear in a while. Turns out she's been taking a few turns in her Sopwith Camel.  

In this essay, Dora makes Hallmark's Maxine

 

look like

 

***

A few days ago, I was sitting in Dryden’s Queen Diner having coffee, reading my copy of the ever shrinking Ithaca Journal.  There, I learned that not only was our county legislature about to vote on the minimum wage but that it was also considering a vote on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to withdraw person status from corporations.  This last item led me to almost choke on my coffee.  It should have been in the comics section.
 
Indeed, it would be humorous, if it was not so sad, to see a local government body concerning itself with an amendment of that type.  I hope we all learned in social studies classes what it takes to pass a constitutional amendment, a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the states.  This process is so rigorous that while many amendments have been introduced, very few have been adopted.  That’s for good reason, tampering with our constitution for any but the most serious reasons is at best unwise, at worst likely to be foolish.  As a practical matter, such voting by our county legislature is a total waste of time and resources, a blatant political statement, that will be dead on arrival wherever it is sent. And, we’re actually paying them to pretend to work on our behalf.
 
Thinking back to the last election of county board members about three years ago, I cannot remember anyone questioning candidates on their views about the American constitution or anyone voting to give them the power to speak for county residents on constitutional law.  Perhaps my memory has lapsed now that I’ve reached age 88, but I think not.
 
Have Albany and Washington been abolished?  Are we unrepresented there?  Have Jim Seward, Richard Hanna, Tom O’Mara, and Mike Nazzolio gone home?  A quick check on my iPhone said they are still in office.  But what do we need them for when we have Martha Robertson and her dwarfs to vote on these issues?
 
If a corporation wasn’t a person, who could we sue if wronged?  What would happen to the investments that support our pensions, including a lot of stock?  Who would risk their money by putting it into a non-entity?  It would be nice if occasionally people who come up with schemes like corporate non-personhood would think about where their proposals would take us.  Perhaps I’m expecting too much when asking people to think.
 
Local power grabs... For most of my long lifetime, local governments including our Dryden and county governments stuck to what local governments do best, mostly roads and a bit of public safety.  They checked on septic systems and made sure they met public health needs.  But, they did not vote on banning activities they didn’t like, far reaching zoning and environmental controls, minimum wages, or constitutional amendments.  Now, we have “home rule,” which means local officials erode our rights, take away our choices, and enact local laws about matters they haven’t the first clue about. Government of the uninformed, by the uninformed, and for the uniformed, where the loudest voice gets served and fears rather than information rule.

I’ll inevitably be “checking out” before too many more years.  What will happen to my children, grandchildren and beyond, I dread, particularly if they choose to live in this area.  Enough said, I’m off to do some flying.  Aerobatics, if mishandled, are a good way to realize how short life can be.
 
 
  
 
 
Town of Dryden
 

Corporations for Dummies

In the wake of the Octopi Wall Street protests, One of Nine contributor Publius (Annie Leonard he's not) comments on all the fuss: 

Corporations – Hamilton v. Jefferson

Why is it that the Wall Street protesters hate corporations so much?  Perhaps they have little knowledge of how corporations work, what corporations do for us, and what life would be like without profit making corporations.

Early in the history of our republic, a tension arose between those who followed Alexander Hamilton and saw the United States as a commercial nation that could take on privately large scale projects and those who followed Thomas Jefferson and preferred that the United States remain a country of small family farms and land cultivators.  The former became the federalists (predecessors of the Whigs and then the Republicans), the latter the Democratic Republicans (predecessor of today’s Democrat Party).

That tension still exists and is exemplified by the protesters in New York City and by the “Banana” people (build almost nothing anywhere near anything) that we see here in Central New York and particularly in Tompkins County.  The Wall Street protesters carry signs condemning corporations.

Just what is a for profit corporation?  Corporations are groups of people who pool wealth and risk that wealth to achieve gain.  Most large corporations are publicly held.  Their stock is owned by many people, some directly, some via pension plans and other investment vehicles.  Employees of the corporation find jobs through it.  Vendors and suppliers obtain business.  The government taxes it before it passes on wealth to others, then taxes the wealth passed on to individuals.  Corporations are convenient legal fictions, ultimately all taxes are and must be paid by individuals.

But, first and foremost, modern corporations are indispensable to life in today’s complex world.  Few if any individuals could organize and fund massive enterprises such as natural gas drilling or the design and production of new airplanes, some of which take years before providing a return on investment.  Corporations make possible the doing of things that individuals can’t do.

All this aside, corporations are groups of people, working cooperatively together for a common end result, economic growth.  They share all of society’s virtues and all of its faults.  They are no better than the rest of us, no worse.  There are a few bad apples, most respect and operate within the law, concerned with our safety and our environment to the same extent we are.

Image, if you will, what society would be like if the protesters were successful and for profit corporations disappeared?  Who would take on projects such as building a telecommunications system?  Government would be the only entity left with large enough resources.  But, would you want a government that took years for Hurricane Katrina relief to try to figure out and meet market demand and market wages?  You simply cannot effectively run a complex technological society without corporations.

We could of course return to a bucolic pastoral existence and live as Jefferson wanted us to live, as rural people growing food for our subsistence.  Or we can embrace change and development and live in a Hamiltonian world, a dynamic economic place, not afraid of change or growth.

                                                                                    Publius Ithacanus
                                                                                    October, 2011

Michael Ramirez' take:

Pajamas Media: "Obama Executive Order Intends to Implement Portions of DISCLOSE Act"

In a column this morning by Hans A. von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission:

An impeccable source has provided me with a copy of a draft Executive Order that the White House is apparently circulating for comments from several government agencies. Titled “Disclosure of Political Spending By Government Contractors,” it appears to be an attempt by the Obama administration to implement — by executive fiat — portions of the DISCLOSE Act.

This was the bill introduced last year by Sen. Chuck Schumer [emphasis mine] and Rep. Chris Van Hollen to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC. The bill had onerous requirements that were duplicative of existing law and burdensome to political speech. It never passed Congress because of principled opposition to its unfair, one-side requirements that benefited labor unions at the expense of corporations. Democratic commissioners at the Federal Election Commission then tried to implement portions of the bill in new regulations.  Fortunately, those regulations were not adopted because of the united opposition of the Republican commissioners.

As my source says:

It really is amazing — they lost in the Supreme Court, they lost in Congress, they lost at the FEC, so now the president is just going to do it by edict.

[....] this will require companies to delve into the personal political activities of their officers and directors — and require them to report political contributions those employees have made, not out of corporate funds (which is illegal), but out of their personal funds.
 

And note that these disclosure requirements will only apply to companies that make bids on government contracts. Federal employee unions that negotiate contracts for their members worth many times the value of some government contracts are not affected by this order. Neither are the recipients of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal grants.

[....] This administration completely mischaracterized the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United,especially when President Obama attacked the Court in his State of the Union speech. It misrepresented the intended effects and requirements of the DISCLOSE Act, which former FEC Chairman Brad Smith correctly observed should really have been called the “Democratic Incumbents Seeking to Contain Losses by Outlawing Speech in Elections Now” Act....

There's more—read the whole thing. For related posts at One of Nine, see here, here, and here.

Pass the popcorn

If you've never seen any of Annie Leonard's videos such as The Story of Stuff, you should probably watch one for some context.  Her nemesis, Lee Doren of How the World Works, has produced a critique of her latest rant, The Story of Citizens United v. FEC; it's relevant to Tom's post, below.

Lee's video (via Legal Insurrection) is longish but well worth the time—grab a cup of coffee (or some popcorn):

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