In this video of his March 4, 2010 lecture, David Cobb, a “pissed off American,” presents important historical background regarding the relationship between the United States government and corporations. “Corporation” never appears in the U.S. Constitution, while “people” appears 34 times. It was traditionally a privilege to form a corporation, not a right, and corporations failing to act in the public interest could have their charters revoked.
The United States is, technically speaking, a constitutional representative democracy. “Democracy” means “rule by the people.” After offering this definition (that exactly matches the etymology), Cobb asked how many people in his audience believed that we currently have a functioning democracy in the United States, and the answer was overwhelmingly no. He argues that Citizens United eliminates our ability to have a functioning democracy. Unelected and unaccountable corporate CEO’s are deciding how much toxic waste will be dumping into the environment and what choices we will have regarding transportation and health care. They are even deciding whether the U.S. goes to war.
Thus he (along with Riki Ott, seen in the latter half of the video) are working with the Ultimate Civics and Campaign to Legalize Democracy, an effort to establish that corporations are not “persons.” This group seeks systemic changes. He reminds us that many organizations that are now well-recognized as having effected important changes were disparaged and harassed when they were making those changes. It’s time for the people to make dramatic change in how we run our society instead of begging “for a few less parts per billion.” He argues that the abolitionists didn’t tinker at the margins. They demanded substantial and immediate change. They exhibited courage.
As Ott asks, “Do we care enough to make a difference?” Are we willing to take real steps to make sure that “human values count?”
Here’s the bottom line: Abolish corporate personhood. “Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to Constitutional rights.” Further, we need to establish that “Money is not speech, so that we can have appropriate and proper campaign finance laws” that won’t allow corporations, or any other party to control the electoral process. Local communities need to be able to regain control. It is a movement from the grassroots. Cobb argues that he doesn’t expect any visionary leadership to come from NGOs, because they are too wrapped up in the corporate culture.
To sum up, here are the goals:
- Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
- Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our votes and participation count.
- Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate “preemption” actions by global, national, and state governments.