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Why Corporations Are People; Except When They’re Not

August 11, 2011


A social media explosion surrounding Romney’s statements on why the U.S. shouldn’t raise taxes on corporations in an effort to shield Social Security and Medicare from cuts began earlier today. The cutaway line from the conversation seems to be “corporations are people, my friend…. Everything corporations earn goes to people.” Quite frankly Romney isn’t wrong—he just completely correct either.

There is strong precedent dealing with corporate personhood (the question of whether or not corporations have rights). Taken at face value cases such as Darmouth College v Woodward and Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad don’t simply imply, but give certain rights to corporations. The Supreme Court has interpreted the word ‘person’ in the Fourteenth Amendment to extend in certain cases to protect corporations.

The question is levels and that’s what the I think today’s outcry was primarily focused on. In regards to tax law and free speech corporation personhood law has reached a great deal of public disagreement. Most of the controversy stems from the belief that corporate personhood doesn’t entitle corporations the full rights of a person but rather some of the privileges Congress (and the Supreme Court in most cases) grant them. The overall argument is that human interests don’t always line up with corporate interests. The public and private sectors are ultimately two vastly different systems and the will of one if granted the full rights of a citizen will undoubtedly drown out the voices of everyday citizens.

Take political speech as an example during the 2008 campaign Obama raised about 47 million dollars which was groundbreaking. In any given year for-profit corporations make about one billion dollars in annual profit. It’s not hard to envision a world in which corporations are able to ‘outvote’ the general public.

This argument has been stemming every since the Supreme Court extended corporation speech rights. If the chatter in the news and on social media sites is any indication this may just be a bigger campaign issue in 2012 than was assumed earlier.

In case you’d like to see an example of some of the social media reactions check out the hashtag #RomneyLyrics.

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