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.
(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
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
“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)
[FYI] The bio and email weren’t updated based on what was submitted.
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.
1558 U.S. 310 (2010)
2424 US 1 (1976)
3435 U.S. 765 (1978)
Portion of remarks at Labor Fightback Network conference
July 22, 2017 | Cleveland, Ohio
July 19-25, 2017
Four years ago, we met around a table, smacked our foreheads and decided it was high time we featured Clevelanders doing cool things in the region. We put together a long list of candidates. The only real qualifications were that we thought our subjects were interesting: They were young, old, black, brown, white, straight, gay, trans, cis, artistic, entrepreneurial, social, political and smart. They were weird and wonderful and enthusiastic about things that we sometimes were, and sometimes were not, also enthusiastic about. We had so much fun talking to our subjects that we did the same thing the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.
This is our fifth annual People Issue, and once again we’ve been bowled over by the energy and diversity of the human beings with whom we share a city. In the following pages, you’ll meet artists, activists and an architect; writers, teachers and chefs. You’ll meet a rapper and a lawyer, a hardwood restoration specialist and a naturalist. You might meet someone you know — but you’ll certainly meet 27 people who you’ll want to know.
This is the Scene People Issue: Don’t be shy.
People 2017 photos by Ken Blaze Photography.