Corporations are people?... Really?by P. BrannockP. Brannock discusses the mindless response of Mitt Romney, that corporations are people, and suggests rational and reasonable tax policiy.
It is quite a curiosity that a Harvard educated candidate for the office of president of the United States of America could be as insensitive as he is to one of the most significant economic, political, and social issues of our day, while thinking of himself as a qualified prospect for election. But then, then there’s Sarah Palin who thought being able to see a glimpse of Russia across the Bering Strait qualified her in the area of foreign policy. What is it, I wonder, about the Republican Party that consistently fails to vet out the propensity for the absurd in selecting its candidates?
Most of us who have had even a cursory brush with small business have been confronted with considering whether to incorporate and learning about the legal concept of the “corporate person”. A sophomoric observation to this effect, in response to an opportunity to show a little sensitivity about the reality of gargantuan corporations whose individual economies dwarf the economies of entire nations, provided a significant insight into the mindset of the candidate, and his corporate backers.
Corporations are afforded legal persona status in the legal system. We understand this. This is what makes it possible to bring them to trial as culpable individuals to face up to the consequences of their actions as organizations. This basic legal nuance, however, does not, as Mitt Romney dismissively hoped, put an end to the discussion of corporate irresponsibility as it compares to the individual personal responsibility motivated by the inherent personal risks of functioning, in the alternative, as an individual. This moment could have, for a candidate whose wisdom might exceed that of Mitt, been utilized as the segue to understand and explore the very serious and legitimate issues and concerns of an American population only now experiencing the pulverizing social and economic effects on small business and entrepreneurial opportunity that corporate fascism has left in its wake in countries all over the world for generations.
One might have thought that a High Priest of the Mormon Church, who spent two years preaching the “gospel” to prospective converts in France, and who served both as a Bishop and Stake President (a Mormon “Stake” has been compared to a Catholic Diocese) in later life, would have immediately recognized the opportunity to acknowledge that the endowment of legal persona-hood to corporations, while facilitating legal business, fails to give them a soul. For some of us, Mitt, there is a meaningful difference between a person without a soul, and one who has one. We would be surprised to learn if you are surprised to learn, that they don’t make the same kinds of decisions because they don’t bear the same kind of responsibility for those decisions.
The cold hard reality is that Corporations, while necessary business abstractions, are inherently a-moral entities. That reality has very real social, economic, and ecological consequences that the consuming public has a right to expect to be addressed responsibly by the political representatives that profess to preserve and protect our individual interests. While it is true, and a reasonable position, that stockholders pay tax on corporate earnings when distributed in the form of dividends, and that double taxation of corporate earnings will simply be passed on to the public as a hidden tax disguised as higher prices, it is also true that the risks born by socially irresponsible corporate policy are often born by the consuming public in the form of bailouts, environmental fallout, and counter-productive subsidized competition that often wipes out small business and disrupts entire communities. Many multinational corporations and corporations with multinational alliances channel profits to slave lords in other countries while devastating local economies. The American people have an absolute right to expect a lot more than the mindless platitude that “Corporations are people, my friend” from those political leaders in a position to address the issues of social justice and the economic realities that affect us all.
Corporate taxation should absolutely be responsibly overhauled to encourage corporate responsibility and foster and restore and revive the growth of small, independent, business. A mindless across the board tax on all corporations that is not tied to social, economic, and environmental factors would do nothing to address the reality of the problem. It would simply be passed on to consumers as a tax disguised as inflated prices. Where all corporations, no matter how responsible or irresponsible their business models, were subjected to the same tax increases, no motivation or economic incentive for meaningful change will be realized. What is needed is a thoughtful approach to identifying corporate economic and social impact policy that should be rewarded and economic and social impact policy that should be penalized, and a tax scheme to address the realities of the policies pursued by the individual corporations. Where an abusive corporation is subjected to more tax than one that is socially and economically responsible, it’s propensity to pass that tax on to its consumers is mitigated by the competitive reality that some other more responsible corporation providing the same product or service has not been so taxed.
See also: Corporate Income Tax - How much is enough?