Understanding What a Corporation Actually Is Can Help Restore Democracy

This post originally appeared at Imagine Democracy.

“Some corporations do bad things.” “Corporations bribe politicians.” “Good corporations don’t harm people.” “Corporations are greedy.”

Almost everything we read and hear about corporations destructively misstates what corporations are and why we have them. Understanding what a corporation really is has enormous implications for our democracy.

Corporations Don’t “Do” Things

Here’s the thing: A corporation is a contract. It is a legal agreement enabled by our (“We the People”) government. That’s it.

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Biden’s Problems Go Back To 2009

This post is in honor of Seeing the Forest’s 20th Anniversary.

As the country dissolves into fascist turmoil, it’s useful to look back at How We Got Here. 2009 was The Year Democrats Could Have Done Something, but chose not to.

The W Bush Years

‘W’ Bush lost the 2000 election but was appointed president by the Republican Supreme Court. The Bush years were terrible for the country and ended in absolute disaster. He oversaw an administration of lies, corruption, enrichment of the rich, scams targeting the poor… The Bush administration ignored warnings so we were attacked on 9/11 Republicans used the attack to polarize the public into an illegal war for oil.

Remember this?

“People like you are still living in what we call the reality-based community. You believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

THAT was how the nation was “governed.” The Bush response to Hurricane Katrina and the financial collapse showed the public how that sort of “governance” works out for them.

And the voters knew it.

2008 Election – The Public DEMANDED Change
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July 16 Marks 20 Years Of Seeing the Forest

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

First post, July 16, 2002, Ralph Nader is a Scab:

In the union movement we learned the hard way that the only way to fight the moneyed interests is to stick together. It’s called SOLIDARITY. It’s what “union” MEANS.

When unions are in a fight the members stick together, and those crossing the lines are called “scabs”.

In the 2000 election it was the usual fragile Democratic coalition fighting the usual moneyed interests. Ralph Nader broke the solidarity, divided the coalition, and lost us the election. Ralph Nader is a scab.

No one was “taught a lesson” by people voting for a 3rd party to “teach the Democrats a lesson.” We got Bush and death and corruption and destruction. OBVIOUSLY “the Democrats” did not learn the lesson.

Vote for the right person in primaries! Get the bad Democrats out. Then show up and vote for the Democrat in the general. No matter what. Otherwise the fascists win.

How To Fix The World

I have come to believe it is a waste of time to discuss “policy” anymore. Billionaires and corporations control the legislative and administrative branches. And that’s that. Period.

We can’t get anything through the Congress, no matter what. The Executive branch lives in a neoliberal mindset. The agencies are controlled by lobbyists. (Once in a while something can happen, but if we fix corruption, we fix all of it.)

Activists should put 100% of effort into fixing this. Fix money in politics and corruption. Nothing we advocate can happen otherwise. Everything we fight for will happen if these are fixed – because the public wants the same things. (That’s why we do what we do.)

There really is no other fight.

The Benefits Of Trade And Automation Were Stolen From Us

This post first appeared at Government Cheese.

The capitalist economist’s argument for “free trade” was the Jetsons Economy argument: the future will be glorious. They explained that when you move production to places where workers were paid less, everyone here would benefit because it freed up resources that would be applied to better jobs with higher wages, more free time, etc. The resulting gains would benefit everyone. And everyone where the jobs were moved to would also benefit from climbing the same ladder.

Sounds nice. A democracy would have made sure that was written into trade agreements, for everyone on both sides: The gains must be shared by everyone.

Same for automation, technology, etc. The gains were supposed to go to everyone. A democracy would have guaranteed that’s what happened.

A democracy would certainly have outlawed what did happen: Big money used “free” trade and automation/technology to pit workers against each other to force wages and benefits DOWN, with all the gains going to the top few.

What actually happened is that the Jetsons economy was stolen from us.

The Brand-Name “NAFTA”

All of this and the consequences — the benefits of trade and automation going to the top, everyone else forced ever downward, homes lost (and bought up by private equity to rent back to the former owners), factories closed and abandoned to rot, businesses closed and replaced by private-equity-owned chains, communities destroyed, etc – is covered by the brand name “NAFTA” for voters who were affected by this. That’s a big part of what brought us Trump and destroyed the Democratic party in the minds of all those voters.

Why Blame Dems?

Those textile mills and furniture manufacturers and all the rest of the manufacturing that went away when the Jetsons Economy future was stolen, the hollowed out cities with abandoned stores & homes downtown, ringed by private equity chains in malls out by the highway, bitter people forced out of the middle class blaming Dems for what happened to them…

The dilemma: This stuff branded NAFTA was a Republican/Wall Street neoliberal project all along but some Dems went along with it. Carter with deregulation, Clinton with trade, Obama with Wall Street. Wall Street/corporate money and propaganda getting them into office. (The famous chart showing the split between productivity and wages started under Carter/Volker. Then driven home by Reagan.)

The reason it’s identified with Dems more than Republicans now is that Dems were supposed to be the party of labor. The Democrats were supposed to protect working people from the things big money wanted to do to us. So Dems get the blame for breaking that wall of solidarity.

It’s like how Dems get the blame for things every single Republican is doing. We expect Republicans to be the party of capital, not Dems. Of course it wasn’t all elected Democrats who did this, but the capital bought enough Dems to get away with it.

Lies vs Democracy

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

Well-funded lies are very effective.

The tobacco companies proved that with well-funded propaganda lies (a.k.a. “marketing”) you can get people to kill themselves while giving you their money.

The firearms industry proved that with well-funded propaganda lies you can convince people to allow kindergarteners to be killed while giving you their money.

Trump proved that well-funded propaganda lies (and media participation) he could convince people to kill democracy while giving him their money.

Now the oil&coal companies are proving that well-funded propaganda lies can get people to kill the planet while giving them their money.

Democracy doesn’t have an advertising agency to counter this stuff. This is why we need a Department of Democracy.

FDR And “Court Packing” – Just One More “Truth” That Isn’t True

A lot of things we “know” about history come from “one side.” For example, we “know” that “protectionism” caused the Great Depression. Except it didn’t.

Who benefits from convincing the public that protecting national interests is bad if it reduces corporate profits? There are so, so many “truths” like that.

Another “Truth”: Court Packing is Bad

Here’s another “truth.” FDR tried to “pack the Supreme Court” and it was very, very bad.

I thought I’d look up what the Supreme Court was actually doing that led to FDR trying to do something to balance the Court, and what happened when he finally did try. Go ahead and try to find answers (the actual truth) to that question. It’s hard to find.

Eventually, if you know the right search terms, you might come across this, at a site called fdr4freedoms. (I’ll be exploring that site further.)

From The New Deal and the Supreme Court,

In 1932 and 1936, Americans enthusiastically embraced FDR’s vision of a federal government ready to use its power to make real improvements in their lives. They voted for him overwhelmingly. With Democratic majorities (augmented by Republican progressives) dominating both houses of Congress, the legislature also resoundingly endorsed FDR’s program of bold experimentation.

… But opponents in business and elsewhere repeatedly sued to block the laws. As these challenges reached the high court in 1935, four justices, with the help of one or two swing votes, began striking down the new laws as unconstitutional.

Summary: FDR worked to save regular people from the suffering caused by the depression. The sensible things he wanted to do were very, very popular. But it threatened corporate profits. The Court struck down FDR’s attempts to use government to help and protect the public.

More specifically,

The court struck down laws securing a minimum wage, maximum work hours, and the right to unionize for workers. It rejected pension programs and child labor restrictions, price codes and farm subsidies.

… “The Constitution grants to Congress no power to regulate for the promotion of the general welfare,” as the majority proclaimed in a 1936 case striking down a minimum wage and other regulation in the coal industry.

The Court said the government has no power to protect the public from anything the rich and corporations do to them! It even ruled that states couldn’t set minimum wages by themselves!

What Happened When FDR Threatened To Add Justices?

FRD proposed a plan to reduce the Court’s workload (badly needed then and even more now) and balance the Court by appointing an additional Supreme Court justice for every sitting justice over the age of seventy.

Result: The Court began to rule for the public! The Court ruled in favor of state minimum wage laws. This was dubbed “the switch in time that saved nine.” Then the Court ruled in favor of the National Labor Relations Act, protecting striking workers. Next it upheld the Security Act’s retirement and unemployment benefits. And then one of the right-wing Justices announced his retirement.

After these reversals, interest in rebalancing and expanding the Court faded.

The “Court Packing” threat WORKED.

FDR proposed rebalancing the Court. Immediately the Court started ruling in the public’s favor. One of the right-wing Justices even retired.

It worked. Threatening to rebalance the court SUCCEEDED! So when you hear that Democrats shouldn’t try to balance the Court today because it was bad when FDR tried to “pack the court,” you’re hearing that because “one side’ has made it a “truth.”

It’s is time to rebalance the Court.

We Need Rule Of Law To Remain A Democracy

If you are considering whether the US will be another “democracy” to fall to authoritarian rule/fascism here’s a question to ask: Is the Democratic Party committed to Rule of Law? Will it fight to protect us and our democracy? How about the Justice Department?

Brett Kavanaugh – Apparent Criminality At The Highest Levels

Here is a test of that: Are Dems willing to fight apparent criminality at the very highest levels? Will the House of Representatives or Justice Dept. investigate the allegations that Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh committed perjury during nomination hearings, and will the Justice Dept. indict, or House Dems impeach Kavanaugh if their investigation concludes he did?

Set Aside The Other Stuff

Keep it simple. There’s too much other stuff about Kavanaugh, muddying the issue. Set aside the other stuff.

Set aside out the questions about why Justice Kennedy resigned when he did (and how it might relate to Deutsche Bank and the Russia investigation), who paid off Kavanaugh’s debts, and the larger issue of the “dark money” machine that puts Federalist Society candidates into judgeships.

And never mind the sham FBI “investigation” of sexual misconduct allegations made against Kavanaugh. (The Trump-appointed FBI Director is one more Federalist Society member.)

Other “Other Stuff”

And, of course, that other “other stuff:

Nearly a year after Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to a lifetime appointment in the Supreme Court, the New York Times has reported a new allegation of sexual misconduct from Kavanaugh’s college years, as well as new corroborating information about Deborah Ramirez’s claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at Yale.

In his confirmation hearings Kavanaugh made several statements about his drinking and sexual misconduct that were obviously not true. (Just one obvious one: His yearbook referred to “ralphing” and Kavanaugh testified that meant eating spicy foods.)

Kavanaugh Perjury

It looks very much like Brett Kavanaugh committed perjury on other issues during nomination hearings for his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit as well as his Supreme Court nomination hearings.

Among many, many reports on Kavanaugh’s contradictions between his testimony that these hearings and evidence that has since been revealed, Pema Levy and Dan Friedman write at Mother Jones, in Five Times Brett Kavanaugh Appears to Have Lied to Congress While Under Oath,

During his 2004 hearing, Kavanaugh denied ever receiving any of the documents Miranda stole. Asked if he “ever come across memos from internal files of any Democratic members given to you or provided to you in any way?” he replied, “No.” In 2006, also under oath, he again denied ever receiving stolen documents.

But newly released documents show that Miranda had indeed sent Kavanaugh information from the stolen internal documents. The nominee continues to deny he knew the information was stolen. But he can no longer deny he received it.

And,

At a 2006 confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that he knew nothing of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, launched under President George W. Bush, until the New York Times revealed it publicly in 2005. Kavanaugh insisted he’d heard “nothing at all” about the program before that, even though he was a senior administration aide. But a September 17, 2001 email provided to the New York Times this week shows that Kavanaugh was involved in at least initial discussions about the widespread surveillance of phones that characterized the NSA program.

Similarly, Kavanaugh testified he had nothing to do with Bush’s torture policies while records now show he was involved in at least 3 discussions of detainee policies.

Kavanaugh also said in hearings he had not been involved in William Pryor’s nomination to the 11th Circuit, new documents and emails show he was “heavily’ involved.

And finally he said in hearings that he was not involved in the nomination of Charles Pickering when new emails show he was.

So Yeah… There’s A Lot Going On

So yeah, there’s a lot going on. And is this such a big deal?

Well yes. A guy is on the Supreme Court and everyone knows he’s a liar and possibly a lot of other things. But the people and institutions that are supposed to do something about that aren’t doing ANYTHING about that. And it’s right in front of our faces.

And on top of that, the guy is doing serious damage to our country!

So … once again WHERE ARE THE DEMOCRATS? Where is the Department of Justice? Where is the Rule of Law?

There is a short time left to hold the authoritarians and the fascists and the liars and the “dark money” accountable, and restore the Rule of Law (and decency). If that doesn’t happen then in the next election the 1776 experiment in self-government will end, and the Cruelty will again be THE POINT.

We all came out and voted for the people who said they would DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE THINGS. When is it going to start happening?

We Deserve A Vote To End The Filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Schumer should call a vote on ending the filibuster. We deserve to know which Democrats vote for democracy and which oppose it.

This is especially important when the filibuster is being used block bills that prevent states from suppressing non-white voters.

We need to know which Democrats are helping Republicans block democracy. Every elected Democrat needs to take a public stand on this.

Until this happens, until most Democrats are demanding a public vote on this, until they force a vote on this, all Democrats should be held accountable for keeping these anti-democracy rules in place.

I Quit Twitter. Is Trump In Jail Yet?

I got off Twitter, for a while at least, and it’s wonderful. My concentration is returning. I’m able to go to the bathroom without my phone. And I’m even writing a blog post! (For better or worse.)

But I have a few questions:

– Has Trump or anyone at the top of things been held accountable for anything yet? I mean actually indicted for their crimes — not “stern letters” from Democratic senators. (Remember that report that detailed how Trump committed Obstruction but couldn’t be indicted because he was resident? Tell the Justice Dept. he’s not president anymore.) (PS His lawyer went to jail for a crime he committed with Trump but Trump couldn’t be indicted because he was president. Tell the Justice Dept. he’s not president anymore.)

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We Need a Department of Democracy

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

This post expands on 2019’s , a “Department of Democracy,” to protect and promote democracy.

Democracy doesn’t have an advertising agency, and our discourse is swamped by well-funded anti-democracy efforts — done by self-interested parties like the tobacco and fossil-fuel companies. For obvious reasons such interests want to get government and its rules that protect the public from harms (a.k.a. regulations) “off their backs.”

Our elections have become a game in which secretly-funded disinformation, spread by secretly-funded propaganda outlets, in rigged districts, with voter suppression and apathy deciding who rules. Those minority-selected elected officials perpetuate these barriers in a “doom loop” that is ending democracy.

If what’s left of self-rule survives we need a government agency to take on the role of protecting and promoting democracy. Perhaps we could call it a Department of Democracy.

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The Democrats’ Dastardly Plan

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

The Democrats have a sinister plan. They are going to trick people into voting for them by doing things to make their lives better.

They plan to use the people’s government to bribe the voters. They are strategically scheming to allocate government resources to deliver things like safety from the Covid-19 virus, health care, education, even modernized infrastructure. They plan to address problem like the climate crisis, racial injustice, even inequality, They will pass laws preventing companies from polluting, committing fraud and other things that companies have been allowed to do for so long! This hijacking of the government by Democrats for their own purposes could mean voters reward them by allowing them to do even more for them.

However the good Republicans also have a plan. To prevent the seizure of the government away from the corporations, they are passing laws to stop the voters from being able to reward the Democrats for their bribery schemes. They are gallantly making sure that it is very, very difficult for the bribed voters to get to polling places – of course prohibiting the ease of voting by mail – and if they get to voting places they will face all kinds of rules designed to keep the from the voting booths themselves.

In case voters actually do make it to the voting booths to cast votes, the districts are carefully drawn in ways that Democrat votes are concentrated into a very few districts, while the majority of districts remain under Republican control, no matter how the statewide vote turns out.

So be aware of this sinister plan by Democrats to bribe voters by making their lives better. Do not let them get away with it.