Vol 1 Number 1

Here we go again. Now the U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear another case that may enhance the “personhood” status of corporations (made notorious by Mitt Romney’s infamous 2012 quote, “Corporations are people, my friend.”) This relates to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, which requires for-profit corporations to provide contraceptive protection for its employees. In two related cases, Hobby Lobby (no kidding, that really is the name) and Conestoga companies both essentially claim the Act is impinging on their religious beliefs.

Using the 14th Amendment as the basis for their objections, the principals of the companies claim that forcing them to give full contraceptive coverage to their employees defies their religious beliefs. In other words, their rights are being impinged. This claim has already been upheld by lower courts and a final decision will be forthcoming in June, 2014. The conservative majority in the Court can be expected to rule that religious rights will be added to the human qualities of corporations.

Seems ridiculous, but the U.S. Supreme Court already upheld this notion of corporate personhood in a sweeping decision in 2010. The case was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. A bitterly divided 5-4 Court ruled that corporations are protected by the 14th Amendment and are entitled to free speech. They can, therefore, make unlimited political contributions. Yippee, every dollar can now vote. In the next several years this unleashed a torrent of political contributions, mostly to the Republican Party, that has made the election process even more dollar sensitive than in the past.

We are faced with the possibility that corporations, like people, can have religion and vote. So it is not unreasonable to ask, ‘What other human qualities or traits do corporations have?’

Turns out, if you think about it, there are quite a few. Like people, corporations can:

  • Be born or incorporate.

  • Have feelings. This is a tender offer.

  • Get angry in a hostile takeover.

  • Go through adolescence in an emerging technology.

  • Have sex. Think of all the shareholders, customers and vendors large corporations have screwed.

  • Get married. They call it a merger.

  • Have children. Called a spin-off.

  • Get divorced. It’s a corporate breakup.

  • Be a good friend. Being put on the Board of Directors.

  • Have to pay a fine for indecent exposure. This one is a cost of doing business.

  • Get away with murder. They call it a golden parachute.

  • Be senile, or obsolete.

  • Become very ill, or file for bankruptcy.

  • Finally, die or dissolve.

So not only do corporations have many of the qualities of humans, they also follow our life cycle. By reverse logic, next, the Court may carry this one step further. The justices by a vote of 5-4 could decide, ‘A person is not human, only corporations are.’

Don’t be surprised. After all there is a precedent: the awful Dred Scott v. Sanford decision. In effect, in their 1857 ruling, the Court decided that African-Americans were not human. This was only to be rectified after the Civil War. What’s to stop them from doing something like that again, and in a bow to equality put us all under the corporate umbrella?

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