“Democracy Day” Public Hearing Testimony

DemocracyDayFlier copy 2

Testimony of Greg Coleridge
5th Annual Democracy Day Public Hearing
Cleveland Heights, Ohio | January 25, 2018

The federal Republican tax measure passed at the end of 2017 wasn’t a bill as much as a reward — to corporations and the super wealthy.

According to the Tax Policy Center, the top 1 percent will receive 34 percent of the corporate tax cut benefit, and the top 20 percent, 70 percent of the benefit. Eliminating the estate tax only benefits those individuals with wealth exceeding $5 million ($10 million for married couples). Eliminating the corporate and reducing the individual alternative minimum tax also benefits only corporations and the super rich.

Republican Rep. Chris Collins stated about the bill: “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’” Sen. Lindsey Graham reportedly asserted that if the GOP doesn’t pass the bill, “contributions will stop.” Just 13 days after the tax law was passed, Charles Koch and his wife donated nearly $500,000 to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s joint fundraising committee. This is legalized bribery at its most blatant and sickening form.

So if corporate and individual donors are the winners of the tax bill, who are the losers? The nearly $1.5 trillion increase to the federal deficit will be paid by poor, working and middle class in spending cuts to government programs (including Social Security and Medicare if the Republicans have their way) and tax increases once the very modest tax cuts to the middle class end after eight years. Up to 13 million people also stand to lose their health insurance due to the tax bill/reward. That includes me. I doubt too many of these 13 million were the donors to its Republican supporters. I sure the hell wasn’t.

States and cities are also losers. It will be harder for states and cities to pay their bills. Ending the federal estate tax, reducing individual and corporate taxes and capping federal deductions for state and local taxes will have the double hit of reducing revenue and increasing calls to reduce state and local taxes. I don’t envy any state and local elected official having to deal with these twin challenges.

The rights of corporations and the super wealthy to donate or invest in politics since constitutionally corporations are “persons” and money is “speech” is a major reason for this historic tax heist. But we would be irresponsible here tonight if we did not underline that perversion of the First Amendment by corporations and the super rich is not the only constitutional problem.

Constitutional perversion by corporations claiming “personhood” transcends the First Amendment — and has done so for 130 years. Corporations have claimed 4th Amendment search and seizure rights, 5th Amendment takings rights, 14th Amendment due process and equal protection right — as well as other provisions of the First Amendment beyond the right to speak — including the right not to speak and, thanks to the bizarre Hobby Lobby decision, religious rights. The Commerce and Contracts clauses have also been hijacked to overturn hundreds of democratically enacted laws at the state and local levels.

None of this will ever change is all we do is focus on elections, laws or regulations. I wish it was that easy. It will only chance by changing the foundational governing rules of our nation — by amending the US Constitution, as Move to Amend proposes, to end all never intended corporate constitutional rights and money defined as free speech via the We the People Amendment, H.J.R 48.

In Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass, Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying, one can’t believe impossible things.” In response, the Queen countered, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice…When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

The history of social change in this country via social movements has always been about people believing in the impossible and acting on it. The result – depending on external circumstances and internal preparation – was what was seen as impossible in one year or era became inevitable in the next. Every single social change that expanded the rights to human beings in this nation was considered at first impossible.

Move to Amend’s We the People Amendment is inevitable if we are to avoid the complete evaporation of what’s left of our representative democracy. The Republican tax bill is one more ghastly and in your face reality that our government is fundamentally broken and only We the People can fundamentally fix it.

Advertisements

8th Anniversary of Citizens United

3f34b-img_2904

Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. It’s proponents boasted it would increase democracy by expanded political voices. It sure did — the voices of those with mega cash or who owned corporations gained even greater constitutional “rights” by a majority of Supreme Court justices who believe money is constitutionally-protected free speech and corporations have “personhood” protections. So do you feel your political voice is heard more frequently and forcefully by our elected representatives that 8 years ago? Me neither. #MovetoAmend

Historic Tax Heist letter submission to New York Times

th

Below is my unpublished letter submitted to the Times on December 3…

To the Editor,

While the Senate tax bill may be in many ways “a historic tax heist” (NYT 12/2 editorial), it’s quite ordinary in demonstrating the power of corporations and the superrich to influence public policy. The blatancy of the influence on the tax bill was greater than normal, but the process is a very old story that has been so common for so long that it’s hardly newsworthy. The public’s will has been for decades, was on this issue, and will forever continue to be virtually ignored due to the bizarre constitutional doctrines that money in elections is equal to First Amendment “free speech” and that corporations possess constitutional “personhood” rights, including the right to lobby and contribute/invest in elections. Until these never-intended constitutional rights are abolished, as proposed by the We the People Amendment, HJR 48, we will indefinitely experience (and read editorials commenting on) the growing disconnect between public interests and needs and public policies that serve corporate and wealthy interests.

Greg Coleridge
Outreach Co-Director, Move to Amend Coalition

Democratic Holdouts On “Medicare For All” Have Received Twice As Much Insurance Industry Cash As Sponsors

Here’s a real shocker…actually not.
Not sure we’ll ever have legit human and humane health care until we kick money and corporations out of the constitution under the guise of possessing “rights.”
Human rights, not corporate rights.

With Democracy So Sick, Medicare for All Will Be Uphill Battle

Published on Friday, September 15, 2017 by Common Dreams
Why a massive social movement will be required to humanize and democratize our health care system
by Greg Coleridge

healthcare_4“Both the Affordable Care Act/”Obamacare” and various Republican Congressional proposals are all private, corporate-dominated systems that enrich all parts of the medical industrial complex – from hospitals, to drug corporations to insurance corporations.” (Photo: Joe Brusky/Flickr/cc)

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/09/15/democracy-so-sick-medicare-all-will-be-uphill-battle

[FYI] The bio and email weren’t updated based on what was submitted.

POCLAD at the Democracy Convention

title

by Greg Coleridge and David Cobb

http://poclad.org/BWA/2017/BWA_2017_Aug.html

 

Abolishing Money as Speech and Corporate Constitutional Rights

MTA

The fundamental threat to an authentically representative and direct democracy precedes the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission1 and other Supreme Court decisions asserting money is protected free speech to include the doctrine that corporations possess inalienable constitutional rights.

While there are multiple sources for the increasing perception, if not reality, that government isn’t responsive and accountable to citizens, the inordinate political influence and power of wealthy individuals and corporations may at the moment predominate. Any hope of attaining a political system widely perceived as legitimate and genuinely representing its citizens must include governing rules that sufficiently control the political influence and power of special interests.

Given the current political climate of profound government mistrust and widespread belief that it’s been captured by wealthy individuals and corporate entities for self-serving ends, a constitutional amendment addressing the constitutional roots of these duel threats is urgent and timely. No laws, regulations or Presidential decrees are capable of providing the essential defining authority over the overall role of money in elections and corporate entities in society.

A proposed constitutional amendment has been introduced in Congress, H.J.R 48, the We the People Amendment. It currently has 44 co-sponsors and a nationwide movement, organized by the Move to Amend campaign, behind it.

The We the People Amendment reads:

Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]
Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

 

The proposed amendment’s Section 2 addresses the more familiar issue-area of money in elections. Its main element proposes abolishing the link between money and free speech, first established in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo2 decision. It goes beyond Citizens United because the corrupting role of money in politics predates Citizens United by decades.

If money is defined in elections as free speech, then those individuals and artificial entities who contribute/invest the most money possess the most speech. This drowns out the political voices of most citizens — hardly a recipe for a legitimate democracy.

Section 2 doesn’t establish any precise funding amounts or formulas. Such regulations would shift back from the judicial to the legislative branch – a more democratic arena where the public has greater influence and where regulations can be more easily adjusted as needed.

Section 1 of the proposed amendment identifies an equally important, but less publicly understood, impediment to the creation of an authentic democracy – constitutional rights to artificial legal entities (i.e. business, non-profit corporations and unions). Courts declared over the last century that sections of the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, originally intended exclusively for human persons, applied to corporate entities.

Corporate constitutional “personhood” rights have been used to overturn scores of democratically enacted laws protecting workers, communities, consumers and the environment. Most of these predated Citizens United and the First Amendment “free speech” rights bestowed on corporate entities in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti3.

While no “artificial entities” should possess Constitutional rights, they should have statutory powers and privileges. These would be defined and adjusted legislatively once inalienable rights are abolished. Like Section 2, these decisions would be shifted back where at one time they once existed from the judicial to the democratic legislative arena.

The We the People Amendment would dramatically increase the perception and reality of an authentic democracy.

Notes

1558 U.S. 310 (2010)
2424 US 1 (1976)
3435 U.S. 765 (1978)