Jewish World Review August 31, 2011 / 1 Elul, 5771
Corporations are people? Yes, Count the ways
By Jay Ambrose
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Here's what I want readers to do. Put your hands together with fingers interlaced and pointing downwards next to your palms and bring the heels of the palms together. Then stick your two index fingers and thumbs up until the next to last paragraph while I talk to you about corporations, Republican Mitt Romney and a widespread misconception.
It's that corporations are reptiles. Recently, when presidential candidate Romney was confronted by Democratic demonstrators, he said taxing corporations is taxing people, that corporations are people. Though he happens to have made millions as a corporate whiz, many responded with derision, including a TV reporter who committed a gaffe by calling it a gaffe.
Please. Someone or something has to own those corporations, run them and work in them. The only creatures we know of with enough brainpower are people, unless there is such a thing as corporate-caused Darwinian devolution, leaving these souls with rough, green skin, long tails, sharp teeth and barely more alertness than TV reporters.
I don't think so. I do think I can identify two sources of the confusion. One is the legal fiction that a corporation is a person with an accountability of its own. While this device accomplishes vital purposes -- for instance, by making purchases of corporate shares more likely through non-liability for debts -- it's a fraction of the reality, like defining a marriage as only legal advantages instead of the uniting of two people.
The bigger picture is that when corporations go broke and close down, lots of everyday Americans (aka, people) find themselves unemployed. Shareholders (aka, people) also lose. When the firms do well in a non-scary economy, they will often expand and hire more workers (aka, people) while stock values go up, giving succor among others to retired baby boomers (aka, people) relying on invested savings. People are absolutely affected by corporation taxes (including those known as consumers).
It's also the case that people continue to be full-fledged citizens in an association. Many corporations are small, non-profit and sometimes organized as a means of people having their rightful say in public affairs. Even people in corporations out to make a buck -- thank God for them -- are similarly entitled to free speech and other liberties sometimes undermined by judges and politicians.
That thought brings us to the next reason for saying corporations are not people -- the political objective of dehumanizing them, of making it seem that while government is by, of and for the people, corporations are sly, alien and against the people, commonly led by CEOs with marginal homo sapiens ratings.
Let's concede some CEOs behave atrociously while adding that you can also find villains among legislators, TV reporters, columnists, you name it. I'll agree, too, that campaign donations can cause corrupt politicians to bow deeply.
But you really don't understand American politics if you don't get it that pleasing voters is a more significant determinant of action -- that the government delivers considerable pain to corporations and that the main reason for cronyism is intrusiveness. Control too much as an institution vastly more powerful than all corporations put together, and those who are controlled try to influence you back.
Corporations are primarily friends, providing us with such desirables as food, clothing, shelter, the highest productivity of any nation in the world and wages (aka, money). Government coercively takes much of that money to spend wastefully. Fiscal recklessness now has us in one of the most threatening predicaments of recent times.
Now, let's come back to those two hands of yours, saying first off that some may think of churches as just buildings. Not so. Recall the childhood rhyme, saying, "Here's the church, here's the steeple," and then turn your hands upside down with the fingers sticking in the air and conclude, "open the doors and see all the people."
People -- good people, people you know, maybe you yourself, definitely the errant TV reporter -- also constitute corporations.
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Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
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