Sunday, November 25, 2012

Responding to my Responders: 'The Corporations Are People, My Friends' Edition.

I would normally not do this but sometimes a reply to a reply gets too long and unwieldy.

Krellen stated:
"Y'know, the Supreme Court actually never ruled that Corporations are people. They ruled that Corporations should be treated as people FOR TAX PURPOSES. Some clerk translated that to "Corporations are people", and the fallacy has stuck with us."

It is sadly a bit more complicated than that.  In 1886 the case 'Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad Company' was brought to the Supreme Court's attention.  In the case, Santa Clara County was trying to levy a property tax against the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.  Because, like most corporations, the SPRC did not wish to pay said tax they argued about it.  One of their arguments was based on the 14th amendments 'Equal Protection' law.  The railroad was simply being held to a different standard than human taxpayers.

This is, of course, ridiculous.  First graders would laugh this out of their classroom.  But law is far more ridiculous than anything else, including quantum mechanics.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice, Morrison Waite, said preceding the proceedings: 
"The Court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids a state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."

In their published opinion, however, they did not include that.  Ducking the question, as it were.  So technically that should not have established a precedent.  

Enter the court reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis.  A court reporter is much more esteemed than a simple clerk.  They digest the dense rulings and summarize key findings in published headnotes.  Well, Mr. Davis sent a letter to Mr. Waite asking if he could include the preface in the headnote.  Waite gave an ambivalent response that Davis took as a yes.  And thus was a precedent formed.  Now why would this man push for this?  Well it would not be fair of me to speculate.

But this is a blog, and thus I have no journalistic standing or integrity expected upon me.  While Mr. Davis had a very long and varied career in the public service, he also at one point was the president of the board of directors of Newburgh & New York Railroad Company.  Now when he did this he was not in that position any longer, but one can speculate that he was very obviously a standard 19th century (21st century?  Are we entering a new gilded age?) businessman and wanted to pave the way for businesses to have less government hassle.

This is what I meant in my previous post when I said "Unethical" because it was.  Due to this the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment, designed to help former slaves, was used to strike down regulations placed upon corporations countless times until the New Deal.  In fact, it was used to protect corporations from regulations more often than it was used to protect former slaves. 

And, of course, corporations still love to use the First Amendment to argue certain things.  Like that they can lie freely.  Or that they can give unlimited campaign contributions.  The Supreme Court had a chance to update this ruling and fix things but alas, they decided to be pro business.  And they're so smug in thinking they're right about it.  Yes I'm bitter.

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