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The Fascinating History of How Corporations Became "People" -- Thanks to Corrupt Courts Working for the 1%

Occupiers could direct their energy not only at Wall Street, but also at its enablers, in Congress, and ultimately, at the high court.

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Nike asserted before the Supreme Court . . . as Sinclair Broadcasting did in a press release last month, that these corporations have First Amendment rights of free speech. Dow Chemical in a case it took to the Supreme Court asserted it has Fourth Amendment privacy rights and could refuse to allow the EPA to do surprise inspections of its facilities. J.C. Penney asserted before the Supreme Court that it had a Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from discrimination—the Fourteenth Amendment was passed to free the slaves after the Civil War—and that communities that were trying to keep out chain stores were practicing illegal discrimination. Tobacco and asbestos companies asserted that they had Fifth Amendment rights to keep secret what they knew about the dangers of their products. With the exception of the Nike case, all of these attempts to obtain human rights for corporations were successful, and now they wield this huge club against government that was meant to protect relatively helpless and fragile human beings.

Such is the power of a corrupt judiciary.

Returning to the present, while Citizens United is arguably the Roberts court's most widely criticized ruling, it was not the only time the majority has bent over backward to protect the interests of corporate America and the 1 percent. Legal reporter Dahlia Lithwick, writing on Slate, condemned the court's “systematic dismantling of existing legal protections for women, workers, the environment, minorities and the disenfranchised.” Those who care about spiraling inequality, she wrote, “need look no further than last term at the high court to see what happens when—just for instance—one’s right to sue AT&T, one’s ability to being a class action against Wal-Mart, and one’s ability to hold an investment management fund responsible for its lies, are all eroded by a sweep of the court’s pen.”

The takeaway is that those camping out in town squares across the country must direct their energy not only at Wall Street, but also at its enablers, in Congress, and ultimately, at the high court.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America . Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

 
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