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We Regulate People, But Deregulate Corporations

By Marty Keenan
Opinion | June 21, 2010

two-men-in-mercantile-300px-best-size.gifGREAT BEND, Kan. - Our local, state, and federal governments heavily regulate individual conduct by people. Let's say I took a gallon of gas and threw it on my neighbor's front lawn. I would find myself in the Barton County jail for "criminal damage to property."

When I drive to work each day, I can only travel 20 mph through school zones, and 30 miles per hour elsewhere in town. If I break the law, I get pulled over and get a traffic ticket. The criminal codes that regulate people prevent you from hurting others, or yourself.

For good reason, we make it illegal for people to speed, text while driving, steal, commit arson, and drive while drunk. We make it illegal for people to push another person down on the street, to pull a gun or knife on another person. We make it illegal to smoke marijuana, to smoke in public, and to use illegal drugs.

We regulate people because we know that if you don't regulate people, they will do bad things. The Christian faith teaches that people are born with "original sin" and are basically born "bad." Baptism, or conversion to Christianity, allows one to defeat their sin nature, and to be good. But even the most religious person still has a "sin nature" and still breaks God's law and man's law.

So we all agree that people can be bad if they aren't regulated. Yet most Republicans, and a disturbing number of Democrats, want to lift all laws and regulations over corporations. Deregulation of corporations is considered a good thing. Yet a corporation is nothing more than a piece of paper filed at the Secretary of State's office. A corporation can't breathe. As has been said, "A corporation has no body to throw into jail, nor a soul to throw into hell."

And who runs these corporations? People! The same people we regulate the heck out of to make sure they don't hurt themselves or others. So we don't trust people to do the right thing, but conservatives want us to trust corporations to do the right thing, with no oversight whatsoever. And corporations are told that they have no moral obligations to anyone, except the stockholders. And this leads to greed and exploitation and conduct that hurts people.

But corporations, because they hide behind the corporate name, and because the people working for them are doing things "for the company" and don't feel personally or legally responsible for their actions, do awful things. Corporations are capable of great good and great evil. So why not regulate them like we do people? Why not regulate them MORE than we regulate people?

The U.S. Supreme Court says that corporations are "persons," under the law, so why not keep an eye on them to make sure they do the right thing? The "free market" is a good thing, but just like a basketball game, you need rules. You have to have "do's and don'ts" so that corporations don't hurt others.

The Democratic party in recent years has cozy'd up to the big corporations so much that's it's hard to tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats anymore. The recent Rolling Stone article about Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's failure to crack down on the big oil companies and their offshore drilling is sickening.

Why did our economy collapse in 2008? Deregulation of banks. Why did the BP oil spill occur? Deregulation again.

If you think "deregulation" is a good thing, then repeal the criminal laws on people for 24 hours. During that 24 hours, you would see hell on earth --- murders, bank robberies, rape, arson, theft, and a total collapse of civilization.

People need to be regulated. And so do corporations.

And until Democrats insist that corporations follow the same rules you and I have to follow, the Democrats not only will lose elections, but should. I throw a gallon of gas on my neighbors lawn, and go to jail. British Petroleum throws millions of gallons of gas on the Gulf Coast, and no one goes to jail.

Since Reagan was elected, the "free market" was lionized, and deregulation became the goal for corporations. We deregulated about every corporate activity out there, and sadly, the Clinton administration went along with the massive deregulation of banks that led to the current recession/depression. Clinton happily went along with Republicans in repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, which stopped banks from becoming "too big to fail." Clinton's deregulation of the financial industry, in concert with a Republican Congress, caused the recession we are in right now.

Again, go back to theology. People are capable of evil, and so are corporations, because they are run by people. But corporations are deregulated, not because it is right, but because they finance the campaigns of the politicians who regulate them, and they give perks to the regulators who regulate them. But Joe Sixpack, who gets a speeding ticket? He doesn't finance anyone's campaign. He can't afford to pay "protection money" to the political class.

After all, laws, like taxes, are "for the little people."


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