Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sticky Wicket

I've been a huge fan of Kevin Phillips for some years, having read all four of his recent books starting with the stellar "Wealth & Democracy." He commented here on HuffingtonPost about the current Obama financial team and its plans. Like others, I have big concerns about the likes of Geithner and Bernanke. I discuss my concerns here:

My concerns with these folks are manifold. As quoted above, Geithner's comments about the "basic inherent economic value" of Wall Street assets belies a basic level of nonsense talk. There is nothing "inherent" about the value of these assets. It's like saying that there's some "inherent value" in dollar bills - if there is, I'm now going to declare that toilet paper is money, has "inherent" value, and has increased value after usage, and then further declare that nothing smells about this...

Paper money only has value because we say it does. Wall Street assets have the same inherent value, the value being exactly "nothing".

I believe our problems run far deeper than Wall Street. A more fundamental problem, in my view, is the very position of corporations under the law. Until corporations no longer are viewed as "persons" under the Bill od Rights, something unheard of when the Bill fo Rights was written, until corporations can no longer use advertising and lobbyists as "free speech" under the Bill of Rights, they will continue to wield the inordinately huge influence they have over seemingly every aspect of American and world culture. We all decry the influence of "lobbyists" in DC without questioning WHY they have the right to sit in the offices of our national representatives and do nothing but push for the views of the corporations that pay their salaries.

Until the efforts of corporations, whether through advertising, lobbying, campaign contributions or a myriad of other channels, are no longer viewed as "speech" protected by the Constitution due to their supposed "rights" as "persons", nothing about Wall Street, or governance in DC, will change. Until a corporation no longer has the same voice as a real person, a real human whose free speech is protected by the Bill of Rights, and until the point where real citizens regain the real power over our government, we will see no significant changes on any of these issues.

I'm developing a series of pieces on my blog on this subject. Read these in order. More to come.

I fully admit that I'm sketching out a level of change for this country that is massive. It is difficult to imagine a world where corporations don't have the seemingly omnipresent power and influence they currently enjoy. It is vital, however, to remember the fact that, in large part, the American Revolution was fought over the influence of a corporation - the East India Tea Company - over the colonies, with the support of the then World Empire, Great Britain. We now face the need for a comparable revolutionary force, although hopefully within the context of our Constitution, without the need for a physical uprising. Our American conversation MUST move forward under that premise.

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