Don’t Get Me Started: March 2012

Corporate personhood and the new super citizens; The Lake Powell pipeline: Where the rubber hits the road.

Corporate personhood and the new super citizens

A dozen years ago, on the verge of 50, I was seriously considering going back to school to become a lawyer. My dream was to be able to take three cases to the Supreme Court. And win.

The first one was that corporations are not people. The second was that money is not the same as free speech. The third was that legislative bodies should not be allowed to make their own rules of procedure without the consent of the judicial and executive branches of government. Simple, huh? Three cases, and democracy would be safe again.

The recent Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court giving corporations permission to spend unlimited funds on political campaigns has made it crystal clear that our democracy will be demolished if we allow the ruling to stand. The Citizens United ruling was built on a string of rulings dating back to the 19th century that have extended the rights of citizens to corporations. A previous Supreme Court ruling held that a corporation’s mode of speech is money. In Citizens United, the Supremes ruled that corporations’ ability to exercise their “right of free speech” was unlimited. Rather than one-person-one-vote it’s now one corporation – millions of dollars of free speech.

David and Charles Koch and their corporate persons, among the biggest polluters in the country, are committed to shoving hundreds of millions of dollars of “free speech” through the judicial loophole that the Citizens United decision opened up. They have already given Gingrich millions of dollars. And they’ve got their posse saddled up as well.

The dirty truth is that what we no longer live in a democracy, but in a plutocracy. Rule by the rich, which follows the (other) Golden Rule, “Those who have the gold make the rules.”

I’m afraid that taking any of these cases to the Supreme Court any time soon will just result in more bad law, or what conservatives bemoan as judicial activism, unless it serves their interests. So the only way to do something is to pass a constitutional amendment that puts corporations in their proper place. Not outlaw them, but restore their status as a legal fiction, with no more rights than the collective sum of their owners’, employees’ and customers’ rights.

Real persons in 50 cities across the country are trying to get a referendum on corporate personhood on ballots in November. In Salt Lake City, Move To Amend organizers have begun the petitioning process and need 9,000 signatures by April 15 for the question to be put on the ballot. This is not a vote to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot but rather a referendum on the need to pass such an amendment at some point in the future. Passing this referendum can restore democracy to America.

If you see me at the Coffee Garden, or anyone else with a Move To Amend badge around town, sign the petition.

For more information visit http://movetoamend.org/utah.

The Lake Powell pipeline: Where the rubber hits the road

By the time you read this, the bill to fund a wet dream in Utah’s Dixie, HB 174, will probably be in Governor Herbert’s hands. The bill, if signed by the governor, will use at least $1.4 billion of statewide tax proceeds to build a concrete straw from Lake Powell to Washington County.

Proponents of the pipeline claim they are not actually using taxpayer dollars because the funds will be repaid, at a measly 3-4% interest rate, to the state water projects fund. Which will then be tapped to build other wet dreams such as the Bear River Project. There’s no way we’ll ever see our money again.

Call it what they will, hundreds of millions of Utah’s taxpayer dollars will be withheld from important programs that have suffered budget cuts during the current “unpleasantness.” As such, the Lake Powell pipeline is a Republican’s ideal earmark: It will tie up future streams of tax revenue making mortgage payments on this $1.4 billion piece of pork; a lucky construction company will get its own gravy train for a dozen years, at taxpayers expense; the lucky corporation will most certainly reward its “benefactors” (our legislators) in future campaign gift-giving seasons—whenever the legislature isn’t in session. And—bonus round!—a bunch of socialist programs such as education, health care and enforcement of environmental regulations will be effectively defunded. For Republicans it’s a win-win-win situation.

In a way, it makes sense that the Washington County Water District would expect taxpayers to fund their water project. Washington County water users, the most prolific in the nation—which is to say most wasteful—pay only half of the costs of water because the rest of the cost is covered by property taxes. Who knows how much water Washington County would use if they were paying the full cost.

The biggest problem with this project is the camel’s-nose-in-the-tent (or, more aptly, the anchor-over-the-side) nature of the process. Once money has been spent on the project, it will become difficult to stop the project, no matter how ill-advised it is. And it’s an extremely stupid idea for several reasons. The first is that Utah’s claimed share of Colorado River water probably does not exist anywhere but on Colorado River Commission spread sheets. The second reason is that the greater St. George area wastes so much water that they could probably double their population with the water they already have.

The good ol’ boy network that is our legislature pretty much insures that both houses of our legislature will pass this bill, but not by a veto-proof margin, so it’s up to us to let the governor know that we beleive that re-funding programs that have been slashed during the last belt tightening are more important than giving water users in St. George a massive subsidy.