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National Op-Ed

Corporate Rights Are Human Rights

A work of satire by Ardian Shaholli 

In recent years, corporate profits have soared to record highs – much to the chagrin of Big Worker. However, these fortuitous economic trends are a form of overdue reparations. A reassuring sign that our republic still works. 

It wasn’t until 1886 in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company that corporations began to be considered people. Unfortunately, many prominent Presidents held draconian views on corporate rights. 

Despite styling himself as a proponent of small government, Thomas Jefferson reviled corporations. He lamented the prospect of corporate civic participation, declaring, “I hope we shall crush … in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.” Often we revere our founding fathers without evaluating their moral lapses. Jefferson was a demagogue. Pitting “real Americans” against “corporations” creates a divisive political climate. Corporate Americans (who could not even vote, serve in government, or form Super-PACs at the time) were scapegoated for the nation’s problems. 

Abraham Lincoln’s desire for equality was strictly confined to non-corporate Americans. Lincoln scolded Congress for attempting to, “…place capital on an equal footing…with labor.” His bigotry led to him flippantly remarking, “…labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much [higher] consideration.” 

The vicious rhetoric expressed by Jefferson and Lincoln functioned as termites gnawing at the social fabric connecting corporate Americans with their non-corporate neighbors.

The centuries-long dehumanization campaign of corporate Americans provided fertile ground for Theodore  Roosevelt to introduce a grotesque family separation policy. If the federal government arbitrarily took the kids of adoptive parents, we would all be rightfully mortified. No reasonable person would allow some pencil-neck bureaucrat to decide that four kids is just fine, but five is one too many. 

Well, this is the horror Roosevelt’s administration inflicted upon corporate Americans via “trust busting.” A “trust” refers to when multiple smaller corporations merge under a single board of directors. Applying humane language we would realize that a “merger” is the equivalent of forming a family, where parents (i.e. board of directors) adopt disadvantaged children (i.e. corporations who are insufficiently profitable on their own) into a welcoming home.

Roosevelt’s justice department notoriously dissolved the Standard Oil Company family and tossed these 34 companies out onto the streets to fend for themselves. Aside from this most egregious example, this traumatic process was inflicted on 43 additional trusts during the Roosevelt administration, separating families and unjustly targeting corporate american households. 

Our K-12 curriculum tends to overlook and demonize civil rights icons who were unpopular during their time. This is especially true for Richard Nixon. From a young age, we are taught to disregard Nixon as corrupt. Yet, if Nixon had not appointed Warren Burger, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court – corporate rights would still be in jeopardy today. 

These justices were instrumental in narrowly granting Corporate Americans their First Amendment rights – Buckley v. Valeo (1976) – and the right to contribute to state and local ballot propositionsFirst National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978). These rulings set the stage for Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) which established that limitations on campaign contributions violated a corporation’s first amendment rights. Citizens United empowered corporations to form their own civic associations (i.e. Super PACs). Some might argue that corporations should either be limited or outright barred from donating to campaigns. Sure, they typically have more money than the average non-corporate American. However, it is morally bankrupt to hinder a group’s political participation because of an immutable characteristic. If you’re not a corporation then you do not have an army of accountants and lawyers on the payroll so they can go on a scavenger hunt for every available deduction. You can just rest easy and allow TurboTax to do all that work for free. Ask yourself why you are so spiteful of those who have to work harder to accomplish what is handed to you on a silver platter. 

I am not an anarcho-capitalist, or even your run-of-the-mill crypto-obsessed libertarian. I am an FDR progressive, much like notorious former Screen Actors Guild (SAG) President Ronald Reagan. I believe wealth redistribution is effective when funneled towards the most historically maligned. 

For example, since 1989, the top one percent gained $21 trillion of collective wealth, while the bottom 50% lost $900 billion. Corporate Americans are disproportionately represented in this demographic. This is fantastic news.This is equity in action. However, corrosive forms of wealth redistribution – like progressive taxation or a higher minimum wage would lead to mob rule.

Increased wealth in the hands of the many would be used to suffocate the historically marginalized few. Let us not kid ourselves “corporate profits” is a dog-whistle for “theft.” This is repugnant. These “profits” are redressing centuries of discrimination and upholding our repulic’s principles. I propose we more aptly refer to them as “justice earnings” from now on. 

There are still many structural obstacles for corporate americans to overcome. For example, 300,000 corporations are packed like sardines into a tiny office building in Wilmington, Delaware. Think about the absurdity of this situation. While Delaware’s roughly 974,000 non-corporate residents enjoy the rest of the state, they abandon their corporate brethren in squalid living conditions worse than that of 19th-century tenements. 

Luckily, it is becoming increasingly common for investment firms to purchase entire neighborhoods. This practice is often referred to as “speculation.” In actuality, it is a rare affordable housing initiative tailored to vulnerable corporate americans. After all, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 excluded anti-discrimination protections for corporate tenants and homeowners. 

This country has routinely and relentlessly disregarded corporate Americans as third-class citizens. It does not matter if they are S corporations, LLCs, or C corporations. They are Americans first and foremost. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it in one of Paul Ryan’s fever dreams, “We must not judge corporations by their tax status, but by the size of their campaign contributions!” A society is ultimately judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members.  Failing to ensure equal rights for corporate Americans puts the rest of our rights at risk.

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