Five Ways Corporate Personhood Directly Impacts You

Lawyer, activist, and author Jeffrey Clements has been fighting for years to overturn the Citizens United case which granted corporations the same rights as citizens in terms of campaign spending and free speech.

But doesn't this decision only impact politicians and big business? Actually, no. Jeff presents below five ways in which corporate personhood impacts you directly (and negatively):

1. Your voice and your vote. Corporations now have the ‘free speech’ right to spend unlimited money in every election, from the presidential race to state and local judge elections, from the water district to the local school board elections. Corporations can now influence what happens in your own community and (quite literally) your own back yard.

Example: In the November 2010 mid-term elections for Congress, corporations spent hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed, un-sourced electioneering activity, adding to the most expensive mid-term election in US history. Why would monolithic companies put so much money into local elections? Think about that when the next Wal-Mart opens in town.

2. Your food. Laws requiring disclosure of the use of genetically modified drugs used in animals and in food production are now unconstitutional, held to be violations of the “corporate speaker’s” right not to speak.

Example: Monsanto’s genetically modified bovine growth hormone drug (rBST) that makes cows produce unnatural amounts of milk and is illegal in virtually every democracy on Earth because of potential side effects for humans. In the U.S., the FDA approved the drug. Monsanto has fought successfully to strike down state laws requiring dairy products made from cows treated with rBST to be labeled as such.

3. Your land, water, air, and life.
Corporate ‘speech rights’ have struck down laws that previously required utility corporations to stop promoting energy consumption contrary to the state policy of energy conservation. Unregulated corporate lobbying and election spending results in laws and subsidies favoring multi-billion dollar fossil fuel corporations over innovative but relatively cash-poor alternative energy companies.

Example: 500 mountains, 2500 miles of streams and headwaters, and numerous communities in Appalachia don’t exist anymore, obliterated in the past decade by coal corporations engaged in unregulated mountaintop removal coal extraction; 10,000 excess deaths each year from coal-burning utilities; 29 coal miners killed in April 2010 mine explosion labeled “industrial homicide” by the United Mineworkers Association.

4. Your job and income. Citizens United and corporate ‘rights’ are not about speech, they are about power. When the people are not allowed to regulate corporate election spending and lobbying, we have crony capitalism, where those who fund the policymakers get the policies that favor the few who control the largest corporations. For global corporations that have the capital to ‘pay-to-play,’ the American employment market is the same as any other in the world -- an expense to contain or eliminate.

Example: In 1980, before corporations had a Constitutional trump card over our laws, the average CEO made 42 times the average employee salary. Now that average CEO multiple is 263 times the average employee wage. Between 1950 and 1980, average income rose 75%, from $17,719 to $30,941. Between 1980 and 2008, average income went from $30,941 to $31,244, a gain of $303 in twenty-eight years. The more money that is paid to the people at the top, the less there is for everyone else.

5. Your politics and your time. Corporate personhood will fracture the late 20th century political arrangements. The old alliance of Chamber of Commerce corporatists with small government conservatives and libertarians in the Republican Party will break. The alliance of Wall Street corporatists with progressives in the Democratic Party will break.

Example: The last time that corporate personhood fueled a dangerous Gilded Age, Americans built a movement of Republicans and Democrats, populists and independents to enact four Constitutional amendments between 1913 and 1920. They ensured the Congress had the power to adopt a national progressive income tax; they required that Senators be elected by the people; they guaranteed the right of women to vote. And, well, they also put Prohibition into the Constitution (to be removed by another amendment a decade later).

Today, fundamental reform is coming again: Seventy-eight percent of Republicans, Independents and Democrats oppose Citizens United and support a People’s Rights Amendment to the Constitution to reverse it. More than two million have signed resolutions.


Five Good Reasons NOT to Step Up (and Five Better Reasons to Do It Anyway)

John Izzo's latest book is all about the importance (and difficulty) of stepping up to address and help solve problems and speak when others may not or be afraid to. It's a challenge and there are many good reasons why people don't want to do it.

However, John knows those reasons and has more reasons for why you should do it anyway. In fact, here is his list of the Five Good Reasons You Shouldn't Step Up, and Five Better Reasons Why You Should Anyway:

Reason #1 to NOT Step Up: I Am Only One Person so it Won’t Matter if I Step Up

The Reason to Do It Anyway: It’s easy to forget that every movement or organization started with one person! When one person acts it often inspires others to act. Every action creates a ripple. The power of aggregate influence occurs when our actions are added to the actions of others. All you need is the belief that you can and the willingness to take that first step.

Reason #2 to NOT Step Up: People Who Stick Their Necks Out Get in Trouble

The Reason to Do It Anyway: Sometimes this is true but more often than not, it’s just a myth. The reality is that people who speak up and take action and challenge the status quo are actually perceived as leaders and more likely to get promoted (and research supports this). Did you know that if not for two frontline up-stepping employees at Starbucks who refused to listen to their superiors telling them that the public would never go for it, the Frappuccino would have never been created? Today that one product alone is a billion dollar business.

Reason #3 to NOT Step Up: I Might Fail So I’m not Going to Risk It

The Reason to Do It Anyway:
Yes, you might step up and fail. But failure is not the worst thing -- regret is. Until you step up you may never know how powerful you are. Sitting back and doing nothing when you see a problem while knowing you can do something about it could leave you feeling worse than if you took a risk and failed. What if you succeed? You’ll never know if you sit passively on the sidelines. No risk—no reward.

Reason #4 to NOT Step Up: Who Am I to step up? I Don’t Have Anything to Offer.

The Reason to Do It Anyway: Whenever we think of stepping up it’s easy to think, “Who am I to step up?” Maybe we think we are not talented enough, influential enough, or courageous enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people who most often step up are not especially gifted or powerful people -- just ordinary folks who did extraordinary things. A classic example of this is the story about a homeless, unemployed dumpster diver who started a recycling revolution.

Reason #5 to Not Step Up: Other People (with Greater Responsibility) Should Step Up First

The Reason to Do It Anyway: We have no control over what other people do, whether it’s your boss, your spouse, your coworkers or your neighbours. Just because they should, it doesn’t mean they will. But we have the freedom to take action ourselves. Research shows people who are passive tend to be less happy and less successful than those who actively take responsibility and try to make things happen.


Five Lessons to Learn from China

Long a controversial nation that has drawn media scrutiny and public ire, China still remains a superpower to be contended with. Here are five good lessons to learn from China:

1. Progress at a Fast Pace

A brand-new six-lane highway opened in suburban Shanghai in October, 2009. The whole thing took about two years to build — roughly the time it would take to get the bureaucratic regulatory permits for a new highway in the U.S. If, that is, you could get them at all. There's no direct translation into Chinese of the phrase can-do spirit. But yong wang zhi qian probably suffices. Literally, it means "march forward courageously."

2. Have a Strong and Rigorous Educational System
After decades of investment in an educational system that reaches the remotest peasant villages, the literacy rate in China is now over 90%. (The U.S.'s is 86%.) And in China, students don't just learn to read. Equal emphasis is put on science and maths education, resulting in a rigorous but academically superior educational system. The Chinese understand that there is no substitute for putting in the hours and doing the work and accept the rigors of the educational system. Chinese students, according to a 2006 report by the Asia Society, spend twice as many hours doing homework as do their U.S. peers.

3. Take Care of Your Elders
In China, senior-care costs are, for the most part, borne by families, and putting people in homes is frowned upon. For millions of Chinese, that's a burden as well as a responsibility, and it unquestionably skews both spending and saving patterns. Still, there are benefits that balance the financial burden: grandparents tutor and look after the young children while Mom and Dad work; they acculturate the youngest generation to the values of family and nation; they provide a sense of cultural continuity that helps bind and sustain both community and society.

4. Spend Less, Save More

The savings rate in the U.S. is currently about 4%. In China, the household-savings rate exceeds 20%. It is partly for straightforward policy reasons. As indicated above, wage earners are expected to care for not only their children but also their aging parents. And there is, to date, only the flimsiest of publicly funded health care and pension systems, which increases incentives for individuals to save while they are working. In addition to this, Chinese culture, like the cultures of many other East Asian countries, esteems personal financial prudence, and has done so for centuries.

5. Look for Long-Term Growth Over Short-Term Benefits
The Chinese government isn't frantically building all this infrastructure just to create make-work jobs. And kids aren't studying themselves sleepless because it's a lot of fun. China is striving to become what it has not yet become. Culturally, hard work today means a much better life decades from now for those who will inherit what people today helped create. The benefits of growth are not measured within the span of a single lifetime. The Chinese view of progress is one that stretches over multiple generations.

These were excerpted from several reports on China's growth by Time Magazine and specifically the work of journalist William Powell.

Thoughts? Reactions?


Five Teamwork Lessons from Geese

These facts have been attributed to numerous individuals including a pastor, a biologist, a Buddhist monk, and an environmentalist. The source is not important, the lessons are:

Geese Teamwork Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Geese Teamwork Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Geese Teamwork Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Geese Teamwork Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement is the quality of honking we seek.

Geese Teamwork Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.