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Corporations are people!

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." ~Thomas Jefferson, 1812
"Corporations are people, my friend" - Mitt Romney to Thomas Jefferson 2011
....and there you have it, my friends!!!!

To read the comments that all of you have left on this blog AND Charlie's comments back to you, click on the link comments HERE OR at the bottom of this blog where it says, for example, 26 comments. Also, be aware that we moderate the comments, (we do not censor however) we don't allow anonymous comments anymore (you can log in with many different accounts) and are on West Coast Time, so they will get approved as soon as we see them.


  1. Charlie, I know this will stun you--but I'm with Thomas Jefferson on this one. At heart, I'm a Jeffersonian Republican: strict interpretation of the Constitution (with some obviously flexibility-- after all, nowhere does the Constitution state that the U.S. could buy land from another country); looking out for the interests of the common man over the wealthy and privileged; and seeing the United States as a debtor nation (in the sense that it looked out for the interests of people who owed money--such as the yeoman farmer--over those of bankers, financiers, etc.). Of course, when Jefferson made this statement in 1812, corporations were generally intrastate operations chartered by state legislatures and certainly were not the international businesses we see today--and it is doubtful that Jefferson envisioned the rise of industrial America when he made this statement. Jefferson’s vision for the nation was that of a nation of small farmers and perhaps small businesses; at heart, he distrusted bankers, financiers, and industrial growth. Also, these corporations had limited capital, and the corporate charters were for a fixed length of time--and if the legislature chose not to renew the charter, the corporations’ assets were dissolved and spread among shareholders.

    The concept of “corporate personhood” stems from an 1886 Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people (Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railway), and it has held that position since, most recently in the Citizens United case last year. After that point, the concept of "corporate personhood" evolved--and since then the 14th amendment (the same one recently was considered to be a way for Obama to resolve the debt ceiling crisis) has been interpreted to protect the individual rights of corporations. Of course, all of the justices on the Court in 1886 were appointed by Republicans (Cleveland hadn't had the opportunity to fill any vacancies, and Republicans had been in control of the White House between 1861-1885), but the fact that the Court hasn’t overturned this ruling in the past 125 years—even when it was dominated by Democrats—perhaps reflects the position that since people comprise corporations, then corporations are people.

    So technically, Mitt Romney is correct in his interpretation, although it is still hard to fathom that corporations should have the same rights as individuals. Finally, to resolve the confusion about why at heart I’m a Jeffersonian Republican—the term “Republican” meant something a bit different in the 1790s when the party was formed than it does today (although in some ways it’s still the same). The two political parties in the 1790s were the Federalists (founded by Alexander Hamilton) and the Republicans (founded by Jefferson and James Madison). They were called Republicans (later Democratic-Republicans) because, well, they didn’t want to be called Democrats. Democrats were those folks chopping off the king’s head in France, and they really didn’t want to be associated with (or confused with) the Jacobins.

  2. Now THAT explains A LOT! Isn't any wonder why the parties are so divided! Thanks for that prime example quote! Easy now to see how we made it to where we are. At least now we now WE didn't cause all this hoopla. We are a mere continuation of... Seeing the forest for the trees anyone? Or at least seeing the trees?

  3. I do understand that according to the Supreme Court Mitt is technically correct in his interpretation of 'corporate personhood' but like Karen, it is hard to embrace the idea that a multi-billion dollar corporation should have the same rights as an individual. And, if a corporation is a person, why the need for a person to create a corporation to hide behind a $1,000,000 donation. It certainly creates transparency problems. I, personally, do not agree with the Supreme Court's ruling, after all, the primary reason for the existence of a corporation is to remove its identity from that of its members, thus shielding them from personal liability and creating an entirely different legal entity. If any of the Supreme Court Justices should happen to ask me for my opinion, I will be happy to share this with them.

    In the meantime, I do not believe that most people in our nation want to believe that a corporation is a person. I especially do not think they want to hear it from one who has amassed millions of dollars through his corporate successes.

  4. I was about to say; "people?" wtf?!! But then, i read Karen's comment. Thanks Karen! You go Mr. Jefferson sir, RIP!

  5. What is that saying come on pepole smell the roses well i guess in this case the roses have no smell are all some of us smell is GREED! i'am so tryed of being labled i'am either poor, middle class. are rich, that's not who i am i'am a wife a mother a sister a daughter and afriend and sometimes afan i don't want to be know for how much money i have are don't have i understand that this is how some of us see each other but the bottom lines is we all cry , we all bleed and we all hurt so do we do this differntly by class i dont think so if someone rich losses a child does it hurt less than someone who is poor NO! SO the bottom line is we are just pepole and we are in this to gether so let's act like it we are all on the same team it's called life so let's live it if i have to live mine with less than some one else then so be it and if i have the chance to help some one else with less than me i will my mother inlaw use to say to me all the time no matter how bad you think you have it there is alway's some worst off than you i'am so tiered of the polition's all they do is cut each other down say what they think you want to hear and yes some of us fall for that so stop cutting each other down and just say what you think you can do to help the pepole and if we like it we will vote for you if not then so be it.

  6. While I don't believe that corporations are people, Mitt Romney is a corporation! (at about a 500 million dollar net worth I might add).
    Of course he wants corporations to be people because the Citizens United vs. Fed. Election Commission (Supreme Court 2010) decision ruled that corporate funding of political candidates cannot be limited because of the first amendment, so Mitt seeks to gain alot from this as he can get unlimited campaign funding from corporations. When he says 'What corporations earn go to the people,' - he is 'the people' (and his friends). This unfair ruling tips the balance of power, assumes that corporations have the same rights as people under the first amendment, and of course he is a benefactor of this. The First Amendment protects the free speech of people not corporations. As Justice Steven argued, 'corporations are not members of society and there are compelling government interests to curb corporations'.
    Have to say it - just hope Michele Bachmann winning in Iowa is not foreshadowing events to come. Talk about divisive actions - she said, this is downpayment for taking the country back - what has been taken from her and her constituents, and who has taken it from her? What happened to politicians working for the common good and not just their narrow self-serving base?

  7. @Karen thanks for your info in this blog. Jefferson was a wise man, but unfortunately no one These days take notice.
    Now Charlie as passionate as you are in your opinions I think you are a little blue eyed as far as this administration is concerned. If Obama was really serious about taxes ,spending and Corporations he should put to congress or at least try to forbid short sales like some European countries have at present done, for at least 10 days. This is short lived of course but at least it will give the stockmarkets a chance to recover a little.
    In fact there is now aim to forbid these Worldwide per se.
    Here is my critique obviously neither the Obama admistration nor Congress are interested as they ALL have their corporate buddies or some Senators even even have a chairmanship or similar, and they need these people to finance their campaigns.That is the tragedy of the US.Here in Germany for intance , each party gets Gov funding according to their membership. Of course there are "donations" but they are given to the parties and not to the candidate, which lies in the voting system here . Here the party get the vote first.
    "Corporation "BTW means a gathering of many as one, so that each member stays anonimous.
    I do admit I have money which I saved for a comfortable retirement in Bonds or shares , so I´m also interested that these corporate hawks are stopped.
    These make my travels possible including seeing you perform!!Also I didn´t steal that money I saved it over many years!
    as I didn´t indulge in consumer terrorisn and kept up "with the Joneses"!Maybe that is just my generation !
    For those not familiar what short sales are please look at WIkepedia they explain better than I can.

  8. I'm with the rest of you here, that I don't like the way the original ruling has not been overturned(given the changes in corporate structure, influence and globalism). BUT...Mitt went on to explain himself, albeit in "politician-speak"(the whole "the backbone of America is our small businesses" spiel where you can almost hear "God Bless America" playing in the background).
    He was responding to a heckler(charming thing to do during a debate, btw), not a question about Citizens United or the original SCOTUS ruling. He gave a one sentence retort to the heckler, and it became the "sound byte of the election". Romney(says he) meant that corporations ARE "people"...that taxing corporations hurts the people who work for them, who have their pensions tied up in profits, the shareholders, etc. And he's right in that regard. It also hurts the consumer, as any increase in the cost of doing business is going to be passed on to us.
    THAT, and the SCOTUS decision, are 2 entirely different animals, and I think this sound byte is confusing the 2 issues...making it sound like Romney was defending the SCOTUS instead of aRomney was defending the SCOTUS instead of answering a heckler. Does that make sense?
    I'm right there complaining with the rest of you about the corporate control of our politicians...ON BOTH SIDES. They ALL take big money from corporations, PACs, non-profits, and unions. The people ALL want campaign finance reform, but will we get it? It is really scary how much power these corporations have, and now that they are multinational, even more frightening.
    Someone on Charlie's FB page mentioned that we are ALL corporately owned...we have stocks, shareholdings, pensions, etc. I would assume most of us don't have cash in our mattresses. We get an IRA or 401K statement, an investment portfolio..with no thought to the ethics of the corporations, the campaign contributions, etc. We're complicit, because we're looking at "our" bottom line.
    So, what do we do? Storm the Bastille? Or just wait to see who tickles our ears with rhetoric but no follow through? I'm feeling pretty powerless right now(from an earthly perspective...spiritually, I am watching prophecy unfold)The love of money is the root of all evil.(1Tim 6:10)

  9. It is quite nice having a resident historian "nearby", Karen. Facts within context make a world of difference.

  10. Karen, I am so impressed you know your stuff(Constitution, history etc). Personally, you are teaching so much just being on this blog has become my learning time and I so appreciate it. Not a big fan of Mitt Romney anyways so not really worried about what he says as I dont share his views. There are other candidates out there to consider. Also, Romney did not get the previous nomination for President so there are others who feel that he may not have what it takes. I can't really say for sure who I am ready to support as I have not begun to do my research. I do think it was a sad shame a man who went to war for his country, spent 7 years as a prisoner of war would not have been a good President but alas I guess it doesn't matter any more if a man gives 7 years of his life for his country. Loyalty counts for nothing in the eyes of Americans in this day and age. I vote for who I think is right for the job. Just because Mitt Romney has millions of dollars doesn't make him a bad person, otherwise there would be many people in this country who are considered bad people. Geez do you want me to start naming how many millionaires there is in this country. What about Oprah Winfrey should we consider her a cooperation(does she run a corporation try Harpo Inc.),she has millions of dollars as well. Is Oprah a bad person? Should Oprah pay more taxes and is she considered to be one of the corporations that should be paying more? Do people have stock in her cooperation? Do people work for her corporation? So does that make people part of her corporation? Answer yes it does. So I can see where the idea of people and corporations coincide. Also I guess we have forgotten that people work for corporations. It words upon words upon words depending on how you look at it. But you shouldn't judge a candidate on words because Obama has said many. Judge on a candidates actions, which again Obama's actions says it all(shove healthcare reform down our throats and tell every person in the US that you have to have insurance to name one). I just stopped believing candidates words long ago because I have heard too many words from all Dems and Republicans and no action through out the years.

  11. Facts can be tricky things. Here are the facts according to the bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office. This is a comparison of debt increases for our national budget:
    Reagan 186%, Bush 54% Clinton 41% Bush II 72% Obama 23%. But I am sure some of you will find facts or contexts that contradict this.

  12. Charlie: You're right. Facts can be tricky things—just like statistics don’t always accurately reflect reality. And yes, people will find contexts that contradict your statement. After all, you cannot legitimately compare debt increases during the 2 1/2 years of Obama’s presidency with 8 years of Bush 43, 8 years of Clinton, 4 years of Bush 41, or 8 years of Reagan. Using an annual average (which I admit is flawed math), after the same length of time in office Bush 43 would have a 22% increase compared to Obama's 23%. Hopefully someone whose math background is much stronger than mine can explain better why the comparisons really don't work--and why you should check back in 5 1/2 years (if Obama is reelected) with updated percentages. Now if it's still 23% in 2017 after he leaves office following the completion of a second full term--then you have a valid point. Otherwise, you're essentially comparing apples and oranges.

    Plus, you seem to overlook one basic fact—it’s Congress that controls the budget, not the president. The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 does require the President to submit a budget to Congress annually, but Congress approves the budget (according to the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974). According to the Constitution (Article I, Section 7), the House of Representatives has the power to appropriate money—and ONLY the House of Representatives—and the Senate approves expenditures, with the President signing the spending bills into law. Only Congress has the power to levy taxes (Article I, Section 8)—and levying taxes includes the power to determine tax rates. The President cannot spend ONE PENNY without Congressional consent, nor can he unilaterally reduce taxes. This means that the process is bi-partisan, and you cannot legitimately blame (or credit) one President for increasing the debt through spending or reducing taxes more than another. Those ARE the facts, and I’m more than willing to discuss them with you further.

  13. Karen, you never cease to amaze me. You are so smart - bless your heart.

    I think from now on I will take Liane's approach and be mainly an observer. A lot of this is way over my head. Your students are lucky to have such an exceptional professor.

  14. Charlie, I'm a little confused. What do the percentages/statistics of the CBO have to do with corporations having too much political power? But...I guess that's what you want to talk about, so here we go!
    I'm not sure what those statistics mean...given that Obama has only been in office for 2 1/2 yrs, and most of the others had 8 yrs...are the numbers truly accurate? And we know what the others spent by the end of their terms, we don't KNOW what Obama will spend if he has 5.5 more years. And is the cost of the health care mess included in that current percentage, or is that yet to be determined? How can you compare four completed presidencies with one that is still in progress?
    Presidents don't all start at inauguration with a clean slate and a brand new budget. Reagan inherited a big mess from Carter. Bill Clinton's numbers "look" really good, but even HE says his financial policies were flawed in hindsight. Clinton's numbers also reflect a Republican Congress(and the Dreaded Darth Newt) keeping him in line. And that "Clinton Surplus" that he passed on to Bush was IMAGINARY. It was projected surplus based on the continued success of both the housing bubble and the bubble..both of which burst under Bush, along with 9/11. Bush did many things wrong that I can't defend, but he didn't "inherit" this amazing monetary situation...he inherited Monopoly money, then spent it(not always wisely).
    I'm not trying to 'argue' your facts, as you are correct...they are statistics put out by the CBO. But it just seems like there are so many factors that influence those figures, that can't be seen by looking at a one-dimensional number. And Obama may end up with a "good percentage" when he's done, but how can they tell that NOW? It's like having 5 students who graduated a college list their final GPA, and comparing that with a first semester freshman who hasn't had to take all of the classes yet. They're not comparable.

  15. Thank you Charlie for the information. Much appreciated and thank you all for your knowledge as well. Didn't GOP leaders (the same ones that are yelling about spending and curbing the debt) vote something like 19 times to increase the debt by $4 trillion ?Wow insanity out there - Perry saying that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are unconsitutional (what about the constitution talking about that government should provide for the general welfare of the people - calling Karen our resident historian and constitution expert :), Bachmann saying Gay families are not families ( then what are they?). But thumbs up to Warren Buffet saying the megawealthy should pay more takes since that is coming from someone who is mega wealthy. He explained that he only paid 17% taxes (and his capital gains were only taxed 15%) where as his office staff paid from 28-36% which is not fair. He said that increasing taxes on the megawealthy would not hurt investment as he never knew an investor who did not invest because of taxes!

  16. This comment will be completely from a mathematical perspective and not at all from a political one. I have currently vowed not to discuss politics.

    There has been discussion about the number of years represented for each of the Presidents and how that might create an unfair comparison. The assumption is that because Obama’s statistic represents fewer years that it gives him an unfair advantage. That may or may not be true. I will use a high school GPA model to explain.

    If a freshman in his first semester of classes receives five A’s and one B, he would have a GPA of 3.83. Now if that student works hard and never gets another B, by the end of his senior year, he would have a GPA of 3.98. In this case, more data actually helped the statistic.

    However, if that same student received all A’s in his first semester and did not receive his B until his last, the first semester would reflect a 4.00 and after his senior year he would still have a 3.98. In this case, more data reflected a decrease in his GPA.

    Therefore, from the information given, no assumption can be made as to what future years would bring. However, if one could compare in more detail the data that was used to calculate these figures, she might be able to determine if there was some out-of-the-ordinary circumstance that could have either skewed the averages positively or negatively. These outliers, in the short run, would have a large effect on the average, but over time would become negligible.

    If we chose for the present time to throw out Obama’s average and compare only the remaining statistics, we could still gain some interesting insights. (O.K. that was somewhat political, but the rest was not--I swear!)

  17. My above comment was assuming that the given statistics were yearly averages, but in reality that information was not given and should not be assumed. In other words, more information would be necessary to determine what we are really comparing. However, if they do represent yearly averages, they do hold valid information that should be considered although one might want to gather more information to determine how well the statistics reflect reality.

  18. RJ: The constitutionality of Social Security was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1937 (Helvering v. Davis). Guy Helvering was IRS Commissioner; George Davis was a stockholder in Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston who didn't want the company to be forced to pay the payroll tax. The interesting part about this case is that the majority of the justices who ruled in favor of the constitutionality of Social Security were conservatives--although some historians have argued that the reason why they ruled that the Social Security Act was constitutional was not because they supported the constitutionality of the law, but because they were afraid that if they struck down the law Congress would support FDR's request to increase the number of justices (FDR was a bit disgruntled because the Court had declared several New Deal programs unconstitutional during his first term, and he had not had the opportunity to appoint any new justices). The Supreme Court has never had to deal with the question of the constitutionality of Medicare or Medicaid because of the 1937 ruling--it is presumed that since Social Security is constitutional, then those two programs are as well.

    By the way, don't trust what Rick Perry has to say. If employment opportunities were as great in Texas as he claims, (a) why has the unemployment rate more than doubled while he has been governor and (b) why do I see so many pickup trucks with Texas plates in northern Pennsylvania?

    Finally, just some food for thought--I know Charlie doesn't like for us to include websites, but this one is worth checking out (especially if you have a clue about what a balance sheet looks like): It goes back to 1789 with the new federal government (under the present Constitution), although 1789-1849 and 1850-1900 are lumped together. The years refer to fiscal years, not calendar years, but you can get a sense of income (receipts) and expenditures (outlays)--and how the U.S. government has been running in the red for years (don't let the years in which receipts exceed outlays fool you; that just means that the overall debt did not increase as much those years). One thing this table doesn't explain, however, is what is going on that would account for these changes--economic downturns, wars, etc. But it is clear that prior to this century, tax cuts often had a positive effect on the debt because they did increase government revenues--so it wasn't that unreasonable for economic advisors during Bush 43's terms to expect the same to happen (and, in fact, during Thomas Jefferson's two terms, the national debt was almost cut in half while he eliminated taxes, raised import duties, fought a war in north Africa, and bought Louisiana territory from France). Anyway, I don't know if statistics from the Office of Management and Budget count as facts, but the tables do provide us with a better context for the debt situation.

  19. Jeannie, Thanks for the mathematical comparison. It works the same going the other direction--and is why some of my students have a hard time accepting the fact that if they have a 2.5 overall GPA after three years of college, their chances of having a 3.0 overall GPA if they get A's in all of their classes in the following semester is impossible.

    By the way, I'd like to thank everyone for the kudos. Yes, I'm a history prof by trade (and training), but I'd like to think I'm more than what I do for a living (just like Charlie is much more than just an actor). I'm also quite fortunate in that Charlie lets me "spread the gospel" on the blog (in other words, throw in historical examples to support my arguments). Charlie is also right in that facts are tricky things--and occasionally they are writ in stone (usually proverbially, although sometimes literally), and other times subject to interpretation (the "why" instead of the "what"). What happened is pretty static, but even newspaper accounts of the same event have different perspectives--and this is where the "why" comes into play. Without the "why" the "what" is pretty meaningless--and that's the main reason a lot of students hate history, because they only memorize the "what" in school without learning or thinking about why something happened.

  20. @ Karen you amaze me with you knowledge! I know it probably took many years to learn everything that you post. I want to be able to shoot off history like you do! Where do you think a good place to start would be?

  21. Karen- Never had a chance to say thank you for the information regarding the constitutionality of Social Security. So helpful and as everyone has said- "You are amazing and know your stuff" ! I appreciate it. Please accep my apologies if there are any typos in this post. I am writing from my iPhone and it has a mind of its own when it auto-corrects. Actually, Karen, as you are an historian you will appreciate this. I am at the New Bedford, MA maritime and whaling national historical park and museum. Love and support the national historical, recreational, and cultural parks- just hope they do not cut them or the 'tea party politicians' declare them unconstitutional :).
    On a lighter note-Charlie, love seeing the blogs of your shows. Would love to see you have a show of your own as others have said.
    As always, thank you all for your knowledgeable, informative, and interesting ideas even if we don't all agree:). Kumbaya.....


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