America, Inc.: How to Take the Country Back from Corporate Control

After the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission that gave corporations even more influence in American elections, I began to envision a new American flag for America, Inc. with the stars replaced by the major American and international corporations that finance political campaigns and often call the shots on policy. The red stripes would symbolize the blood shed to keep corporate profits high at the expense of American lives. Red for continued warfare without benefit to Americans except for the contractors and the oil industry. Red for the toxic chemicals each American newborn inherits in the womb from corporations that are allowed to keep these chemicals in our everyday products as trade secrets. The white stripes on the America, Inc. flag would symbolize rhetorical bandages used to placate us: God Bless The Troops, and the ubiquitous false advertising of polluters like Dow Chemical (the largest chemical corporation in the world bringing us such wonders as DDT, Agent Orange, Asbestos, BPA and the Bhopal disaster) that bills itself as "The Human Element."

The fact that corporations have achieved the protection and rights ascribed to actual persons is dangerous because corporations have the resources to drown out the voices of individuals, and the ability to buy silence from individuals who need jobs or corporate funding for local projects. Think of BP in New Orleans. In addition, corporations have no interest more important than the bottom line. Real humans have much more at stake. We value such non-monitized human rights as a clean environment, health, liberty, education... Often the interests of corporations and the interests of humanity and the planet are at odds.

And while corporations may buy and control the government, including the agencies that are supposed to protect us from corporate greed, many non-profits whose missions are to protect nature and humanity are also compromised by corporate leadership and funding. Before you contribute to a charity, check if that charity takes money from companies that may compromise the vision and the effectiveness of the charity.

Maybe the playing field would be more even if Nature had at least the same standing as corporations. Activists in Cancún and Mexico City are currently supporting a document called the "People's Agreement on Climate Change," which includes a "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth." This document was produced with input from 56 countries, not including the world's biggest polluters China and America, Inc. The document declares that everybody has rights to basic natural elements like clean water and clean air. It also states that the planet's ecosystems have rights of their own.

If our Supreme Court protects the rights of non-human entities in the form of corporations, why not protect the rights of the trees, whales and rivers? Humans can't survive without nature, though we could survive without Dow Chemical. In September 2008, Ecuador formally recognized the rights of nature in its new constitution. In the United States, a handful of local governments have passed resolutions recognizing that nature has rights, including, recently, the city of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's ordinance elevates the rights of people, the community, and nature over corporate "rights" and challenges the authority of the state to pre-empt community decision-making. The law was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a leader in the rights of nature movement.

Until humans and nature have the power of corporations, we will continue to see education, health and the environment suffer, while warfare, pollution cleanup costs, and costs for our diminishing resources escalate.