The trouble with corporate personhood is that while behemoth corporations like General Electric and Exxon Mobile are entitled to the same basic rights and constitutional protections as you and I, as if they were individual citizens (natural persons), they are not held accountable for their actions in the same ways. For example, if you or I were unable to pay our taxes because of say, unemployment or rising health care costs, the IRS would come down on us with heavy penalties to put us even further into the hole. And if I poisoned my entire community's water supply by drilling into my backyard, using hazardous chemicals to extract natural gas to heat my home, it is likely that I would go to jail. But corporate criminals are not prosecuted the way that individual criminals are; they are afforded a lot more leeway. Meanwhile, our fellow "citizens" the big corporations are entitled to a number of tax loopholes allowing them to legally evade paying the IRS while the rest of us set-up scheduled plans to pay down what we owe.
In the midst of a huge set of government budget cuts primarily targeting programs for low-income Americans, we hear about those companies we bailed out a few years ago posting record profits, giving out record bonuses to their top execs, and failing to pay billions of dollars in corporate income tax.
But some groups are calling them out on their hypocrisy, like US Uncut. Yesterday, in collaboration with the Yes Men, US Uncut released this fake press release from General Electric, stating that the company intends to repay its $3.2 billion tax refund to the government to help alleviate budget cuts affecting the poor. The release stated:
"We know that Americans are going through tough times... While we owe it to our shareholders to use every legal loophole to maximize returns, we also owe something to the American people. We didn't write the laws that let us legally avoid paying taxes. Congress did. But we benefit from those laws, and now we'd like to share those benefits."
Ha! If only... while it is indeed true that these laws were written by congress, by OUR representatives, it is also true that they were written as a result of the massive pressure put onto these representatives (and into their pockets) by corporate lobbyists, in the form of large campaign donations and gifts. Which brings us back to the trouble with corporate personhood. Anyone else notice a pattern here? My head is spinning.