Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Not a modest proposal: The US Supreme Court has saved us from financial ruin

Published in the Portland Phoenix

There has been powerful criticism of the recent US Supreme Court ruling that corporations are truly people, and deserve all the rights people have, including the right to spend as much as they wish to support or oppose candidates in elections. But we should stop this sniping and thank the justices for their guidance: They have offered us a way out of this financial disaster we are in, with state spending plummeting, taxes rising, and an increasing federal debt load. Here's how it works:

-According to the recent Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission ruling, corporations are people.

-People can be charged with crimes. Let's use murder as an example.

-Corporation-people can be charged with murder (and not just negligence or wrongful death).

-When people are convicted of murder, they are typically imprisoned. (Though sometimes they're put to death, and other times involuntarily committed to mental institutions.)

-When a corporation-person is convicted of murder (it's only a matter of time before a smart prosecutor uses the bizarre logic of the Citizens United ruling to accomplish this) it will launch a new sub-specialty in the practice of law: Arguing about how to imprison a corporation. We can hardly lock up every employee, so who do you choose? The CEO? The board of directors?

-This is where we can learn from the Supreme Court's Citizens United logic: People have the right to speak without restriction from the government, and money equals speech, so corporation-people can spend unlimited amounts of money to directly influence elections.

-Following this argument, money equals freedom, so we should not bother arguing about whom to lock up when a corporation-person is convicted, but simply fine the company an amount appropriate for the crime committed.

-And now let's do as the Supreme Court did one more time, and take this logical progression to its logical conclusion, no matter how ridiculous it might sound: If corporation-people can pay fines in lieu of imprisonment, there's no reason people-people shouldn't be able to.

This presents us with the glorious situation that will extract us and our governments from this horrendous financial disaster. Not only can we abolish the prison system, which costs billions in taxpayer dollars every year (with little actual rehabilitation to show for it), but we can use the new revenue from all these criminals' fines to cover all sorts of wonderful programs, like schools, roads, and police officers.

Thanks, justices! Who would have thought that among all the people in Washington and around the country wringing their hands about the state of the economy, that you would turn out to be the geniuses who showed us the way?