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Obama, Find Your Inner FDR

By Marty Keenan
Opinion | January 31, 2010

GREAT BEND, Kan. - A corporation is not a person. A corporation is a piece of paper filed with the Secretary of State's office. As has been said many times: "A corporation has no body to throw into jail nor soul to throw into hell."

The U.S. Supreme Court, all nine of them, will tell you that the idea that a corporation is a person is a "legal fiction." Although a corporation is not a flesh-and-blood person, the U.S. Courts have ruled for a hundred years that they are "fictional persons" and thus have the same rights as you and I.

Republican economist Milton Friedman, when asked if corporations had any duty other than to make money for stockholders, replied: "No." In other words: "Send American jobs overseas, raid the pension plans of American workers - don't feel guilty corporate officers, because you don't have to have morals."

Politicians from both parties - from Thomas Jefferson to Theodore Roosevelt to Jim Hightower - have railed against the dangers of unfettered corporate power. The Democratic party was always the last line of defense to make sure that "We the People" were never drowned out by big corporations.

And then a terrible thing happened.

After the defeat of his health care package due to corporate intimidation, President Clinton decided to quit being a Democrat and he became what South Carolina Congressman Clyburn today calls a "Corpocrat."

The whole Bill Clinton "New Democrat" movement was simple: 1) Remain inflexibly liberal on social issues; and 2) Start carrying water for the Big Corporations. Take their money.

The old "New Deal" Democrats had their flaws, but they never gave in to the big corporations and sold out the American people. Nor did they run off people of faith by being overly strident about social issues.

Clinton's decision to mainstream corporate rule in the Democratic party was unprecedented in our national history. From Jefferson (the founder of our party) to FDR to Ted Kennedy, the Democratic party represented small farmers, small businesses, everyday people.

William Greider's book, Come Home America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country, claims the sun is setting on the American Empire, and that we did this to ourselves over the last twenty years by allowing the Democratic party to become co-opted by the corporate powers.

NAFTA, WTO, the repeal of Glass Steagall - the list of Democratic cave-ins to the new corpocracy are stunning. And as a result, because the Democrats quit playing defense against corporate largess, Greider makes a sobering statement: "The days of America being Number One are over."

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision granting corporations unlimited rein to spend money for or against political candidates was the coup de grace. Johann Hari's recent article "This Corruption in Washington is Smothering America's Future" in the Huffington Post is so scary that his article should be hidden from small children.

The Republican party has been 100% corporate-run for decades. Of course, that is not how they present themselves to the voters.

No, the corporations get religious folks to carry their water, promising to end abortion, homosexuality, pornography, violence in Hollywood movies, etc.

And the Republicans produce no results on these issues after getting elected. But somebody has to put up yard signs, knock on doors, and make "get out the vote calls" on election day, and the corporate CEO's sure as hell aren't going to do it. Do you honestly expect the CEO of Eli Lily to put up yard signs with the "great unwashed?"

What haunts me is that the Democratic party I grew up in seems to have made a Faustian Pact with Mammon, and although the Democrats aren't 100% corporate-run, it's
at least 60% corporate run in Washington. The Democratic party is now the lesser of two evils.

This is sad, because the Democratic party was supposed to be about people. The root word "Demo" means "People," right? Like the word "demographics" means "the study of people trends." We should be DEMO-crats not CORPO-crats.

It's still not too late for Democrats to repent and lay off the corporate Kool-Aid they've been guzzling.

If I had given up on the Democratic party, I wouldn't be pounding my keyboard in the middle of the night, a "voice crying in the wilderness," an obscure country lawyer trying to get someone to pay attention to what has happened to the Democratic party of my Irish-Catholic grandfather.

I prayed for President Obama tonight. Although I usually pray for his physical safety, tonight I prayed that he would think about becoming an FDR, a Harry Truman, a Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy ripped the bark off U.S. Steel! You should hear the tape recording.

I suspect that Obama thinks about Kansas a lot. How could he not? He was raised by Kansans. And the way out of this mess was shown in 1890 when Kansans got organized against the monopolies and corporate robber barons and made the bastards pay. In 1890, "The People's Party" (known as "The Populist Party") took over the state, and ended the careers of career politicians like Republican Senator John J. Ingalls. They had success nationwide.

Yes, the Democrats were the last line of defense against corporate greed, and they dropped the ball. But something else happened that worked in concert with this failure.

American corporations lost any notion of loyalty or patriotism to the United States of America. Like Milton Friedman said: "Their only duty was to money, not to country."
(my words, not his.)

I still have hope that America can continue to be Number 1. But you can't unring a bell.

And the Democratic party's sellout to Big Business has a ratchet-like irreversibility to it.
It would take a massive grassroots "people movement" to right the ship.

Real people - people who breathe and have beating hearts and dreams and hopes - why can't we fight corporations? After all, they are just a piece a paper, sitting in the Secretary of State's office.

Let the battle begin.


Dear Marty Keenan, thank you so much for this insightful and helpful article. It really clarifies what has happened and where we the American people now stand. It's a very grim situation, but as you imply, the people still inherently have the power to overthrow the corporatocracy. There are so many more of us than them. But we have to get off our couches, stop being lulled to sleep by corporate TV brainwashing and make those calls, write those letters, march on the street. Hats off to you, Mr. Keenan, you are a great resource, a great voice and clarifier.

You hit that nail right on the head. This article deserves several re-reads. It's insightful and compelling - and I particularly like how you teach us about the Democratic party, particularly at the national level, and how it has sold out to the corporations and is no longer the party of the people.

Too many people (also many of the young voters who were not present for the populist driven changes in civil rights, women's rights in the 60s or workers rights in the early part of the the last century) have been purposely duped (by politicians on both sides of the aisle) into thinking that campaigns and voting are all that's necessary for change.

Obama is just as guilty. He led impressionable new voters to believe that elections are the primary way to enact change. He impressed this upon millions by adopting the slogan "Change" as his campaign theme. But, in truth, wide scale change or even measured change never begins nor ends with elections or campaigns or candidates.

It always comes as loud, persistent demands from the people year-round. We're missing that sort of people-powered demand right now. I pray for that. It's our only hope.

Marty this is your best article yet.


This article on 9-1-09 in salon.com: "Can Obama give 'em hell before it's too late?" was prophetic. by michael lind.

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