Far worse, however, is that the United States will cease to be the country that we have loved for its freedoms and opportunities.
There are two options to save our country. First, Congress, by a vote of two thirds of both houses, may propose a constitutional amendment to expel corporate influence in elections and to prohibit corporate lobbying . After ratification of the proposal by three-fourths of the state legislatures, the amendment is adopted. Such an amendment might take the following form:
Section 1. Corporations and other artificial “persons” are not entitled to any rights, privileges or immunities granted to natural persons by the Constitution or any amendment thereof.
Section 2. No corporation or other artificial “person,” or agent thereof, shall lobby any member of the Legislative, Executive, or Judicial Branch of the National Government.
Section 3. No natural person shall lobby any member of the Legislative, Executive, or Judicial Branch of the National Government on behalf of anyone other than himself.
Section 4. No corporation or other artificial “person” shall, directly or indirectly, contribute any money, services, or thing of value to any candidate for elected office of the National Government.
But why would a corporate-controlled Congress or state legislature propose such an amendment? Only if voters become sufficiently concerned to elect legislators willing to support such an amendment.
The other option is almost unthinkable -- a "revolution." The words of our treasured Declaration of Independence say it well:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
In past years, I have lamented on this page how corporate influence over our political institutions has made institutions unresponsive to the needs and will of the people. See Our Diminishing Democracy (Ludder, 2002). At the time, I expressed concern that "our very democracy is on a collision course with the insatiable demands of corporations" and predicted that someday, when the suffering of the people became intolerable, they would seek to alter or abolish the corporate-controlled government, and institute a new Government capable of providing for their safety and happiness. After the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission authorizing unrestricted corporate expenditures on election "free speech," the corporate takeover of our political institutions will now accelerate.
Wealth is being concentrated in the United States (see chart below) and its influence over government is increasing. And it is no accident. "Washington and Big Business colluded to make the super-rich richer and turn their backs on the rest of us." (See Moyers On Winner-Take-All Politics below).
DID THEY SACRIFICE SO THAT OUR POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS COULD BE CORRUPTED BY CORPORATIONS?
The civil answer to this dilemma is a constitutional amendment limiting corporate influence in elections and political institutions.
Moyers On Winner-Take-All Politics
This increasing disparity of wealth is leading to decreased economic opportunity across generations. In other words, the "American Dream" of doing better than your parents and grandparents is dying. "The confluence of rising inequality and low economic mobility over the past three decades poses a real threat to the future of the United States as a land of opportunity. Social and economic mobility across generations are at risk of declining unless concerted efforts are devoted to providing more opportunities for those born into lower-income households." Economic Report of the President, February 2012, p. 181.
For those who have not contemplated the implications of Citizens United, I invite you to view the videos below. The first two provide general context, background, and implications. The third - commentary by Keith Olbermann - provides a chilling prediction of the demise of democracy and rise of plutocracy (a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy) in the United States.
Unfortunately, I agree with Olbermann's assessment. For environmentalists, watch for the systematic dismantling of existing environmental protection laws and abolition of common law causes of action (nuisance, trespass, etc.) against entities that hold Government-issued pollution permits and the criminalization of corporate criticism.
"We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both." - Attributed to Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in "A Steadfast Friend of Labor," Labor, October 14, 1941, by Edward Keating sub nom. Raymond Lonergan