We Are Not Helpless. Support ‘We The People’ Amendment
Thu, 08/15/2019 - 8:07pm Heraldgroton
Michael H. Metzger
Most of us -- Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents – want the same things: quality health care, low student debt, a clean environment, and well-paying jobs. The major obstacle to these goals is the vast amount of money large corporations, unions, and PACs can pour into elections. Anonymously and unrestrainedly, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Oil, Big Banks, and Big Labor buy politicians who will keep immense profits flowing to them.
The influence of money on our political system is nothing new, but it has exponentially increased with the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Citizens United, asserts that corporations and unions are, in the eyes of the law, people, with the same Constitutional rights as individual human beings; that money is a form of free speech; that there are no limits to the amount of money that can be given to a candidate by a corporation or union; and that the sources of campaign funds need not be disclosed.
With Citizens United, the Bigs can keep their power over our elected officials by financing their campaigns or threatening to support rivals if the officials won’t “go along”. Candidates may be secretly financed by people who do not have the best interests of the U.S. at heart. And, corporations exist for one purpose only – to make profits for top executives and shareholders. A corporation has no obligations to its workers, the community, or the country. The public good, the health and safety of the environment, loyalty to the nation, are no required part of a corporation’s agenda. Many corporations do not go beyond the profit motive.
Corporations and unions are not human beings. They are artificial creations of the legal system. They are immortal. They can exist in more than one place at a time. They do not share the responsibilities of individual citizens – they cannot be drafted into the military; they do not serve jury duty; they cannot be tried for murder or treason or other capital crimes. They have limited liability. They possess resources unavailable to any one person. They are even taxed under a different set of rules.
None of us as an individual has resources remotely sufficient to challenge what these immensely wealthy and powerful organizations enjoy. But together we can curb their control over our politics. The one thing politicians respect more than the dollar is the vote. If enough of their constituents tell them that we want something done, they will listen. If enough of us demand that they represent the interests of the people rather than of the corporations and unions, they will act.
The Citizens United decision can be overturned, but the only sure way is through a Constitutional amendment. A mere court ruling could be reversed again by another court. What is required is an amendment affirming that 1) rights protected under the Constitution are the inalienable rights of human individuals and not of incorporated entities, and 2) money spent to influence elections is not protected free speech under the First Amendment, and shall be regulated by Congress and the states.
Such an amendment is proposed by the We the People Amendment (House Joint Resolution 48), introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in February of this year with 55 co-sponsors, including our own Lori Trahan, and now referred to a subcommittee of the House Committee on the Judiciary. No such resolution has yet been presented to the U.S. Senate.
What you can do is contact our senators (Elizabeth Warren – 202-224-4543; Ed Markey – 202-224-2742) to ask them to file the We the People Amendment (HJR 48) in the U.S. Senate. That will help get things moving.
On the MA state level, Senator Jamie Eldridge has introduced Senate Bill 2163, which calls for the MA state legislature to support an amendment reflecting the one in the U.S. House. A similar bill (House Bill 3208), with Representative Jen Benson as a co-sponsor, has been introduced in the MA House of Representatives. These bills are currently awaiting a hearing in the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. What you can do here is to contact your legislators in the MA Senate and House to ask them to work to schedule a hearing on these bills in the near future.
If we want the United States to remain a democratic republic responsive to the will of the people rather than to become a plutocratic oligarchy controlled by the corporations, unions, and PACs, we have the power to do something. We are not helpless. Contacting our elected legislators at the state and national levels is one of those things we can do.
I hope you will contact yours to urge them to support the We the People Amendment.
Michael H. Metzger
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