Common Cents

I’m not as good a student of the American Revolution as I’d like to be, but what I do know about the founding of our nation — the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, the Federalist Papers, the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and, yes, the Boston Tea Party — makes it all the more infuriating when I hear the intellectually bankrupt, morally confused, and hopelessly misinformed, misguided, and myopic blather of today’s self-styled Tea Party activists.

Bankrolled by right wing think tanks aligned with corporate interests, former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s fabricated Tea Party pretends to be a grass roots movement – and the mainstream media (also controlled by multinational corporate masters) plays right along. Good-looking empty-headed figureheads like quit-term Governor Sarah Palin and GOP Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann help gin up anti-Washington fervor among an eclectic collection of the frustrated, frightened, and fanatical. (And more than a few racists who just don’t cotton to a black man in the White House.)

These new Tea Party “patriots” appropriate American Revolutionary iconography and add their own individual touches of Libertarian orthodoxy, anti-tax “drown government in the bathtub” zealotry, neo-Know Nothing nativism, New World Order conspiracy theory, and a gun-worshipping, survivalist militia mentality. It’s a toxic and combustible mix, stirred up by those who seek to divide the American body politic into opposing camps – and enlist struggling working people in a righteous war against their own best interests.

As we approach the critical mid-term elections of 2010, these are once again “times that try men’s souls”. Where is Thomas Paine when we need him?

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated…” Thomas Paine

If Paine, the influential Revolutionary patriot and pamphleteer, were living today he would, no doubt, be a blogger. After all, there aren’t that many time slots available on MSNBC. (Though I’m sure Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow would have Tom on as a guest.) If he were alive in this moment of crisis, Paine would certainly be rallying his fellow citizens to battle against the real enemy they face: the steady, stealthy loss of their 234-year old democracy to the selfish, greedy, power-grabbing interests of multinational corporations.

Paine would tell these misguided Tea Party tools that their elected government isn’t their enemy. Our representative government is what stands between us and the rapacious depredations of a corporate oligarchy that’s been amassing money and power at a clip not seen since the Gilded Age of the Robber Barons. Our common fight isn’t against Big Government, which protects our water, food and air — and provides a host of other services and protections that individual Americans cannot provide on their own. Rather, we must be vigilant about the rise of corporate personhood and power. The man who wrote “Common Sense” would tell us to be wary of big money. It’s time for “Common Cents”.

In his classic 1776 pamphlet, “Common Sense”, Tom Paine made the patriot’s case against the authority of a royal monarchy. Today, an elite royal monarchy rules from the boardrooms of mega-corporations solely devoted to profit as they offshore American jobs, lend money to hard-pressed wage earners at usurious rates, gamble our pensions away on risky market speculation in the hope of a fat bonus, and continue to pollute our environment — unless they get caught by those pesky government people and their “anti-business” regulations. Educated and aroused by the plain, inspiring language of Thomas Paine, a new generation of American patriots might finally hear the alarm that should have been sounded from sea to shining sea on that fateful day, January 21, 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case.

In their landmark 5-4 decision in the case of Citizens United v The Federal Election Commission, the right-leaning Supreme Court led by Chief Justice and corporate shill, John Roberts, held that the First Amendment protects the right of corporations to plow unlimited funds into independent political broadcasts during candidate elections. Thus, the sluice gates were opened to a torrent of dirty money to flood the airwaves with attack ads, sponsored by big money interests.

Do you think your $5 and $10 contributions to your favorite Congressional candidate can compete with the millions that Target or BP can spend to slime your candidate if he opposes building a shopping mall on your local forest preserve — or if he’s fighting against Big Oil’s right to pollute your shoreline with minimal environmental protections?

In deciding that corporations have the same free speech rights as human individuals – that corporations are, in essence, persons with the same inalienable rights as you and me – the five “conservative” Justices conveniently overlooked the fact that corporations are granted their existence by We the People through licenses issued by our government. As Bill Cosby used to tell his kids on TV, “I brought you in – and I can take you out!” Corporations aren’t persons. We the People grant them license to do business – and we can limit what they’re allowed to do under that license. That’s what the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act attempted to codify in the area of corporate contributions to political campaigns. Alas, the Citizens United decision blew McCain-Feingold to smithereens.

Siding with the corporate elite against the interests of average American people, the Roberts Court has paved the way for Big Money to buy our elections. You’ll hear a lot of screaming on Faux News and in the Right Wing echo chamber about how the Supremes have also allowed those dreaded labor unions to buy elections. But seriously folks, who’s got more money to spend — Citibank, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs — or a labor union? It’s not even close…

And our faux populist friends in the GOP, Faux News and Right Wing Talk Radio – the same blowhards who pretend to support the interests of hard-working, pro-American Tea Party members – don’t even care if foreign companies can buy our elections. Explain to me, my “conservative” friends, why wax-figure Mitch McConnell and teary-eyed, tanning bed addict John Boehner are opposing legislation that would prevent foreign companies from pumping money into U.S. elections? And why would these same GOP leaders be against public disclosure of who is paying how much for all these campaign ads? Don’t We the People have an inalienable right to know who’s behind these million-dollar ad buys?

Tom Paine would have these companies’ names posted on the commons for all true patriots to see.

I’ll end with a final word on the pernicious doctrine of Corporate Personhood: this dubious notion that a corporation is a person entitled to basic human rights. The fact is – corporations are entities created by government (AKA We the People), and thus, can be limited by government (AKA We the People). So, given that the John Roberts-led Supreme Court is so confused (read “bought and paid for”), perhaps we must amend the U.S. Constitution to make it clear that only human beings (We the People) are “persons” with constitutional rights.

It’s We the People vs. Big Money. That’s the battle that is going on right now. And whether or not you’re disappointed that the Obama administration has been progressive enough, try to imagine if McConnell and Boehner crawl back into power. Try to imagine if Dick Armey’s absurd, unenlightened Tea Party is able to set the political agenda for the next six years. Are you ready for the ascendancy of Queen Sarah and her corporate overlords? (Okay, maybe I exaggerate. Maybe.)

Get out the vote this November.

And when your “conservative” friends say something snarky about President Obama or Senator Al Franken or our progressive agenda — smack them down with inarguable facts and the force of your well-reasoned opinion.

And call on the timeless words of Tom Paine

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman…What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated…”


Filed under Politics, Truth

17 responses to “Common Cents

  1. Jerry Getz

    Paul… rent the movie “Corporation”.

    It describes how corporations, for TAX purposes, began to be treated as individuals.

    That is where this stuff began.

    They did a bad, bad thing…


  2. Gus Hastalis

    Right on. Every syllable.

  3. Fat Dave

    Great stuff, so true, and so sad we have come to this. My own personal argument against the notion of corporate ‘personhood’ is that a corporation is only motivated by profit, whereas actual people can be motivated by other things, like love for instance.

  4. AMEN. And we will CLEARLY see during these midterms, the horrible impact of the heinous Citizens United ruling.

  5. emiliab9291

    Wait, I’m confused — these people are all talk. I mean, they’ve been holding all these political rallies and getting all dressed up, but they have yet to hold ONE tea party. You know, before they start calling Obama a fraud, they should take a look at themselves!

  6. And it’s not a proper Tea Party without a Mad Hatter! Oh, wait — they’ve got LOTS of those…

  7. Rush

    Love your passion and turn of a phrase, my friend.
    First off all the Boston Tea Party did not attack England, but the East India Corporation. The Carlin clip of The American Dream explains why today’s Tea Party exists.
    However, as far as corps being people, I think these people corps are UnAmerican, why do they not want to vote, as is a citizen of this country’s right and duty?
    And why do these corps not register for the draft and fight for this country if they love it so?
    And then, if they are crooks, can we please apply the “3 strikes” rule? Any corp that break three laws go to jail and we throw away the key!

  8. Herb

    Great rant, great forum, and thanks for inviting us to join in the dialogue…my addendum to your anger at the Supreme Court decision in Citizen United would be to point to the illogical way in which “volume” (that is, mountains of cash) is equated with “speech”. They are definitely not the same!!! I am also no longer sure that government is entirely absolved from being a part of the problem…the line has been blurred by legislators bought and paid for, who in turn leave the authoring of legislation/regulation to the corporate lobbyists. As long as two branches are bought and paid for, the third branch will do their bidding (an independent judiciary is a rare thing anywhere at anytime). And if the corporations control the media and own the ballot boxes…hey, we can exercise our free speech all we want, and are no better off than Lear on the moor howling into the storm (the American Revolution was also about property interests, avoiding government regulation, and land speculation, I’m afraid…my nostalgia for the Founders ain’t as pure as it used to be).

    To end on an up note, I would also urge anyone interested in an independent media to check out and maybe even subscribe to Truthout when you get online.

  9. Jerry

    By the way:

    Gary Kroeger for President!


  10. Rush

    Yes Herb, long live Zinn!

  11. Amen again from Ohio. Did anyone see Jon Stewart’s “I Give Up” bit on “The Daily Show” the other night…. I know the feeling. Living where I do particularly, I sometimes even sense a type of violence or potential violence in the air. I wore my Obama t’shirt the other day–didn’t even think about it–I actually became a little frightened during several encounters throughout my day. I will say that it has only made me more determined to wear the shirt more often, however. Meanwhile, Paul… you are such a talented writer. I think I might just recognize your writing if it were anonymously posted.
    “Before you turn RIGHT again, see what’s LEFT of your brain.”

    • I did see Stewart’s “I give up” bit. It was pitch perfect. It’s says something about the state of political discourse and journalism in this country when we have to turn to a comedy show to get the real news.

      Then again, with level of insanity rising in our politics, we’ve all got to laugh to keep from crying.

      The other thing that keeps my from getting weepy is the fact that, despite all the sturm and drang from the Right Wing Echo Chamber, progress is still being made on any fronts. Indeed, that’s what’s making the Right so crazy.

      A black President.
      A powerful female Secretary of State
      Three women on the Supreme Court
      The gay marriage ban in CA struck down
      Health Care reform (though not as strong as we’d like)
      Wall Street reform (though not as strong as we’d like)
      The Lily Ledbettter Equal Pay act
      Our forces in Iraq down to 50,000 (from 150,000)
      And the beat goes on.

      Suck on that, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh & Caribou Barbie!

  12. Reid

    It is also a testament to just how powerful Wall Street is that, while people from all across the spectrum seem to be able to agree that greedy bankers and speculators are a big part of the problems we are facing, all we have managed to do is pass weak reform and argue with each other, while they continue to be grossly overpaid for producing nothing.

    • Too true, sir! Too true. I’d like to see Geithner gone, myself. And Larry Summers. They’re too much a part of the Goldman Sachs old boy network. Replace them with Robert Reich and Paul Krugman. (Yeah. Like that’ll happen.)

  13. Vanita

    I found your link via Gary Kroeger. We went to the same high school but I doubt he knows me. Love the blog. I’ve suggested it to a few others.
    If it’s ok, I’m going to make myself a t-shirt which says: Before you turn RIGHT again, see what’s LEFT of your brain. I work at custom t-shirt place let me know if you would like to open a shop. It’s free.

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