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.
It’s bad enough we have a system of legalized bribery (huge political “donations” — more like investments from the super wealthy and corporations) in this country backed up by the courts (led by the Supremes), but this decision affirms legalized price gouging of consumers. Nice going Ohio Supreme Court in giving the A-OK to First Energy Corporation — responsible for the 20013 Northeast United States blackout — for overcharging ratepayers for the purchase of electricity generated by renewable technologies. And from where did some of First Energy Corporation’s overly expensive (which were passed on to consumers) electricity purchases come from? Why, of course, from one of its own affiliates — First Energy Solutions corporation. It’s all legal of course — legitimized now by the Ohio Supreme Court.
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
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.
(Photo: Peoples World/flickr/cc)
Trump’s claim that “we are giving them a big, beautiful Christmas present in the form of a tremendous tax cut” is spot on when applied to corporations and the super rich.
by Greg Coleridge