In their latest video, Annie Leonard and the Story of Stuff team introduce a useful acronym to help decide if supporting any grass roots movement is worth the time and effort. To be worthy of consideration, the purpose of any new policy should be to achieve all four aspects of the G.O.A.L. criteria:
- Give people more power, instead of corporations
- Open people’s eyes to the true source of happiness
- Account for all costs, instead of externalizing costs to the taxpayer
- Lessen the wealth gap, resulting in a stronger middle class
Note that she says lessen, not eradicate, the wealth gap. And in point of fact, that’s the whole point of capitalism in the first place. Capitalism replaced feudalism and, in the process, created the middle class. Crony corporate socialism is a kind of neo-feudalism that has swung the pendulum back toward increasing the wealth gap. Check out the video and then see how passing an amendment meets the G.O.A.L. standard.
Passing a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and spending money as an expression of speech would be a game-changer that accomplishes all four G.O.A.L. principles and paves the way for other movements to do the same.
First, preventing corporations from asserting constitutional rights that were meant only to protect individuals would take away the extreme advantage they currently have over both people and governments in U.S. courts. Ending the practice of treating their treasuries like a giant box of free speech that the vast majority of Americans will never be able to compete with would take away the extreme leverage corporations have over our electoral process. Taken together, these two provisions would not just level the playing field, they would tip the scales back in favor of the people and popular sovereignty.
Second, joining together to exercise real power, as passing a constitutional amendment requires, is a form of joy in itself. After decades of disenfranchisement, centuries for some groups, actually being a part of the great course-reversal that passing a constitutional amendment would represent would open people’s eyes to the joys of civic engagement. Instead of being perceived as just another cynical exercise, politics becomes empowering and the community engagement it requires leads to a sense of belonging that brings fulfillment.
Third, no externalized costs. Every time the taxpayers have to pay for the consequences of corporate action, instead of the corporation itself, it’s an externalized cost for the corporation. Walmart employs tens of thousands of workers who receive little pay and no benefits, forcing taxpayers to cover the cost of food stamps, WIC checks, medicaid payments and visits to the emergency room. Energy companies don’t pay for every economic impact of oil spills or the damage to the water supply from hydraulic fracturing. General Electric is still trying to foist the cost of cleaning their pollutants from the Hudson River on the taxpayers of New York State. While there is no particular program being implemented here, putting corporations back under the control of the people is a great first step on the road to ending the practice of externalizing costs. A corporation that cannot turn a profit without mooching off the taxpayers every fiscal year doesn’t deserve to call itself a for-profit business.
Fourth, outsourcing, wage stagnation, externalized costs and rigging the tax code through non-stop lobbying have combined to devastate the working class, lower Americans’ standard of living and crushed the demand side of the supply-demand equation. The top Fortune 500 corporations are currently sitting on more than $2 trillion dollars of cash but have no reason to spend it on expanding operations because they aren’t growing the customer base. Gross Domestic Product, the wrong goal as described in the video, increased every year from 1949 to 2008. It went down for the first time in nearly forty years in the fourth quarter of 2008. That only happens in a country with shrinking demand. Even by the corporatists measure, America is lagging badly.
As with so many previous downturns, the biggest loser has been the working class. It’s not just the fault of Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II or Obama. It’s runaway corporate socialism in the guise of “free market” economics. Getting this neo-feudalism under control would go a long way toward reversing that process and putting America back on sound fiscal footing, and, in the process, closing the wealth gap and rebuilding a robust middle class, the kind that America built in the 50s and 60s.
Not only does passing a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate civil rights and the spending of money as an expression of protected speech meet all of the requisite criteria, it is very likely a prerequisite to achieving a multitude of other important issues, from transitioning away from fossil fuels to ensuring a healthy food supply to creating more small businesses and the jobs that go with them. It’s not just the right thing to do, the constitutional thing to do or the economically responsible thing to do, it’s a game-changer in exactly the way Annie Leonard describes. Join us!