CORPORATE DEMOCRACY

This article appeared in Home Power Magazine #57. I thought it put the economic/political situation we face quite clearly although it deals with energy issues instead of GE. Makes one appreciate the wisdom of something like the Natural Law Party which is dealing with GE on all of these fronts simultaneously.

DOE- Department of Energy
R&D- Research & Development
RE- Renewable Energy or Renewables & Energy ?

CORPORATE DEMOCRACY
Michael Welch

Does our constitution say that the U.S. Government is "of the corporation, for the corporation, and by the corporation?" It doesn't, but over 100 years abo the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that corporations are to b considered persons under the law.

The corporation has become the voter of today. Politicians have figured out that they no longer have to win votes with grass roots effort. They can buy votes by spending incredible amounts of money on media campaigns. These kinds of campaigns cost several dollars per vote attained. That kind of money can only come from the corporate world.

Energy policy is probably the ultimate example of the ill effects of our corporate democracy. What is coming out of federal and state governments is not what the public wants placed into law. The facts and figures come from an November 1996 survey entitled "America Speaks Out on Energy: A Survey of 1996 Post-Election Views." Republican polling firm Research/Strategy/Management was retained to do the work.

66% of those responding would give the highest priority for DOE R&D funding to renewables and energy efficiency. 56% of those that voted responded the same way. That's an awful lot if you remember that politicians consider it a 'mandate' for their policies when they win by 4 to 5%. So RE has a HUGE mandate under that definition, yet is largely ignored. Why? The influential corporaions in the fields of RE are few and far between. And those that are influential are very much involved in the highly profitable fossil fuel and/or nuclear fields.

When asked which R&D programs should be the first to be cut from the DOE budget, 31% said nuclear and 21% ssaid fossil fuel. Once again, what is happening in congress does not reflect what the people and the voters want. It is what the corporations want.

73% of respondents say that they base their Congresional choices at least in part on willingness to cut taxes. Congres has used this public desire to cut and slash away at many programs. But, if you'll notice, the programs cut are not the ones that help out corporations. They are also not the ones tham most people want cut. 62% of respondents support tax incentives for RE and efficiency. And astounding 83% noted their preference fro redirecting tax breaks to renewable fuels while only 10% felt they should continue to be given to oil companies.

71% of voters said they viewed global climate change as a serious threat. Ye the government seems unwilling to do anything significant about it. Corporate polluters have paid for their candidates, and are getting their money's worth.

RESTRUCTURING

Utility restructuring is also being driven by corporate influence. They want cheap rates, no matter what is good for the public, environment, and voters. For many years the public has been in favor of a choice between electricity suppliers, but it wasn't until the huge manufacturing and resource extraction industries wanted cheaper rates that such a choice started moving forward. The unspoken result is that if electricity suppliers (also big corporations) are allowed to make the same profits as before (and they will be) and the big corporate customers are going to be getting cheaper power, then somebody is going to have to pay more to make up the difference. Who will that be? Right, we the people.

The corporate utilities are also getting their way under restructuring. They want customers to pay for their poor investment decisions in building uneconomic power generation facilities like nuclear plants. But, a lopsided 70% of the people polled feel that the utilitie companies and their shareholders should have to pay the debt on these plants that connot compete in an open market. Only 14% thought those costs should be recovered from customers. Only another 8% thought they should be recovered from the tax base rather than the ratepayers.

CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE TOO

As mentioned, corporations have been given legal status as persons. That entitles them to freedom of speech and the other Consitutional protections that the rest of us have. As "persons", corporations have exercised and vehemently protected their "rights" to interfere in elections, lawmaking, in our courts, and in our policy debates.

Of course, corporations couldn't overwhelm populace rule if they did not have the kind of resources they have at their disposal. You or I can call staffpersons for Congress or the President about an issue, but the corporation can hire a bevy of lobbyists to be on Capital Hill full time. Or they can give so much money to a political party that their CEO or Chairman is invited to spend the night in one of the guest rooms at the White House.

There are other areas where that huge resource comes into play. When the government needs or wants to protct the environment, public health, or workers' rights, corporations use their extensive wealth and influence to fight those laws tooth and nail. They call it "takings" and hid behind the banner of "property rights" and an individuals Consitutional right to redress. And they often get their way, only because they have the resources to do it. It's kindof like OJ's resources-guilty or not, it was universally recognied that hiring the best attorneys in the world was likely to get him off.

STRATEGY #2

Regular readers of this column have often heard my opinion that the only way to make our government responsive to the needs of the citiens is through campaign finance and lobby reforms. It is still necessary to follow through on these things, but there is another tool that needs to be prusued. We need to cut off corporate power at its source.

Nation wide efforts are underway to change the legal doctirines and laws which give corporations overwhelming advantage over people, communities, and nature. We must overturn the precedent that the corporationas are treated as persons under the law. This one huge step will do more for the environment and the health and well being of all our planet's inhabitants than any other law or regulation.

The right to redefine the status of corporations still rests with us. It will be very difficult, but it is time to start educating and talking among ourselve about reclaiming peoples' rights back from the corporate thieves.

Of course, not all corporationas are bad. For example, this magaine is published by a closely held corporation whoe primary motivatins are not profit-making (although HP certainly couldn't do this without pay). The evil comes into play when any business or individual operates purely on the motive of profit without dealing with the side effects of making those profits.

Its just a lot more likely to happen with publicly traded corporations. They have no conscience. Even the collective good ethics of all the corporate shareholders is kept out of the business decision-making. The heads of such a corporation are held to one standard only: make as much profit as possible for the shareholders. If they don't, they go down the road. These are the kinds of people that are making important daily decisions about our environment, health, safety, and economy.

Other less ominous corporations include non-profits that are required by law to incorporate before they qualify for tax exemption. And closely held corporations are not allowed to sell and trade stock on the open market, so they can maintain the conscience of the handful fo owners that started the business.

It is time to find out more about how we can stop the corporate takeover of our freedoms and rights. Contact Richard Grossman of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) P.O. Box 806, Cambridge, MA 02140 (Phone/fax 508-487-3151) for information and educational materials that can help us get back our due.


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