Have Corporations Become Sovereign Countries ?

The Petronas Twin Towers.

Have corporations become sovereign countries within our country?

Is this the hidden agenda behind Citizens United, the War on Women, voter suppression, the vitriol surrounding the Affordable Care Act?

Few would disagree that the world’s biggest companies appear to have as much influence, if not more, than sovereign nation states.

David Rothkopf argues in his new book, “Power, Inc.:
The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government — And the Reckoning That Lies Ahead
” that there “are probably 2,000”
private-sector companies who have “more impact, more leverage and more global reach than 50 to 80 countries.” These corporations are
increasingly exerting their power and clout in the legislative and regulatory spheres, resulting in a new and alarming world power structure.

“They’re bigger and more powerful than most people have imagined, including people who really ought to be paying attention to these things,” Rothkopf says.

Two such examples of corporations where the sheer size and financial might routinely cause lawmakers to genuflect to their wishes are ExxonMobil (XOM) and Wal-Mart (WMT).

  • Exxon, the world’s second largest company after Apple (AAPL), operates in more than twice as many countries as Sweden has embassies.
  • Exxon’s annual sales, which totaled $350 billion in 2011, were almost equal to Sweden’s GDP.
  • Exxon spent more money on political lobbying than Sweden did on its foreign policy in 2010
  • As one of the largest employers in the world, Wal-Mart’s employees greatly outnumber the populations of more than 100 countries.
  • As of last year, Wal-Mart’s sales revenues are higher than the GDPs of 144 countries

Yes, There’s More

  • Investment firm BlackRock has more assets under management ($3.5 trillion) than China has in hard-currency reserves.
  • International Paper owns more land than the country of Panama.
  • The $33.5 billion-endowed Gates Foundation gave more to charitable causes worldwide in 2010 than the World Health Organization had in its annual budget.

The influence of big business on politics has intensified after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Citizens United case that allowed corporations and unions to give unlimited campaign contributions. These millions of dollars in donations to super PACS have forever changed how elections in the U.S. are managed and operated. The movement to overturn the Supreme Court’s landmark decision has been mounting at the state and national level but it will require a constitutional amendment to reverse the damage already done.

One of the signature issues surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement was to get the corporate influence out of politics. Short of a constitutional amendment it cannot be done and the longer it remains the law of the land the more embedded it will become.

Why? Because over 90% of the time, the candidate that spends the most money ultimately wins elections in the United States. Our “one-person, one-vote” democracy has become irrelevant, ineffective, corrupted and hypocritical. The average U.S. citizen doesn’t even know what the Citizens United ruling entails. Our average level of education per capita is rapidly declining. We are facing the very real probability of inflation as the U.S. economy slowly recovers…barring any unforeseen calamities of course, which could very well send the economy sliding back into recession.

We need to get money out of politics, we need campaign finance reform, we need shorter elections, federally financed elections…and we need a fair tax system in this country.

And finally, after 50 years of  increasingly bitter, partisan wrangling over whether the U.S. will end its barbaric methods of doling out health care to its citizens for massive profit, an equally partisan Supreme Court will decide whether or not to join the rest of the westernized world in providing affordable health care to its citizens.

Money has such a huge, disproportionate and corrupting influence on politicians and has come full circle. The U.S. will be consuming itself in much the same way that the Republican party is doing if this trend continues.

If the U.S. does not fix these imbalances, those which have led to income inequality, financial crises and a much less-competitive U.S., it will become of the special interests, by the special interests, and for the special interests.

Furthermore, far more Americans will die from starvation, disease, homelessness, and other third-world conditions due to the end of our democracy, than died in the attack on 9/11 and the two senseless and unnecessary wars that followed.


Harvey Gold

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