What is a Corporation?

So just what are these corporate beings tightening their grip on world power? And how do they operate?

A corporation is defined as a legal entity which has a separate legal personality from its members; it is legally awarded the rights of an individual: to sue, to own property, to sign contracts. However, unlike an individual, these entities also possess three important legal characteristics:

  • transferable shares – ownership may change without affecting legal status
  • limited liability – shareholders’ potential losses for the corporation’s debts and obligations may not exceed their personal contribution paid for shares
  • perpetual lifetime – the assets and structure of the corporation exist beyond the lifetime of any of its shareholders.

Please read those once more and consider their meaning.

These corporations are legally considered to be people, with all the rights of citizens but few of the moral restrictions; plus, with a perpetual lifetime, they can go on forever. Their only concern is to increase profits for the owners, which often has adverse effects on the environment and the community.

The history books are full of incidents of corporate greed and exploitation. Corporations hurt workers of the community with layoffs, outsourcing, union-busting, and sweatshops abroad. They harm consumers with dangerous products, toxic waste, pollution, and synthetic chemicals. They wrong animals with habitat destruction, factory farming, and animal testing. And they damage the earth with carbon dioxide emissions, oil spills, water pollution, and nuclear waste.

In a globalized world of interconnected foreign markets, governments are rendered powerless in setting restrictions on these behemoths. In the meantime, these profit-hungry corporations spend enormous amounts of money on lobbying Congress and financing political campaigns to ensure their financial interests are met. As a result, they are continually bailed out by the US taxpayer with government subsidies that limit their risk and ensure profitability. The mechanism is essentially to socialize risk and cost to the taxpayer, while power and profit is privatized to the corporation.

Media Cheerleaders

It is always best to look at things objectively and honestly in order to understand the true nature of things. Doing so will allow us to approach our problems with the proper mindset. But how do we view our own country? It is not as simple as looking in the mirror. Instead, the window through which the mass of society views their country is the media: television, radio, newspapers, etc.

In the United States, the media is made up of a group of large, multinational, conglomerate corporations, including AOL Time Warner (CNN), CBS/Viacom, Disney (ABC), News Corp.(FOX), and General Electric (NBC). Together, just a handful of corporations own over 90% of US media outlets: television, newspapers, book publishers, magazines, radio, music, and film…nearly everything you see, hear, or read is a product of these corporations.

They function with the sole purpose of any other corporation: to maximize profits for the shareholder. Take it from former Disney CEO Michael Eisner: “We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.”

Wealthy business elites sit on the boards of these corporations, each with financial interests and business contacts in other corporations. For instance, GE and Westinghouse are enormous companies heavily involved in weapons manufacturing and nuclear power; they are owned by the same people as network TV stations NBC and CBS (respectively). There is a severe conflict of interest when the companies you trust for information are the exact same companies that are being awarded millions of dollars in contracts for manufacturing bombs and fighter jets to fight battles abroad.

For a real democracy to function properly, it is absolutely essential that its citizens are well-informed and that its leaders are ruthlessly held to account; in this respect, our media has failed. Most of the mass media serves as a diversion from issues that truly matter. Think of the last news program you happened to see; consider the time devoted to local stories, professional sports, or celebrity gossip.

Topics that fill the news hour are often trivial, blurring information and entertainment in order to boost ratings. The reporting on real issues is often a repetition of government press releases with little independent investigation. To ensure access to top-level government officials, journalists are pressured to accommodate the administration by reporting favorably and not asking tough questions.

Judith Miller’s front page articles in the New York Times relayed misinformation from government sources, and played a critical role in the lead-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq. She claimed: “My job isn’t to assess the government’s information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of the New York Times what the government thought about Iraq’s arsenal.” Funny, I thought the specific function of a journalist was to independently assess information, question their sources and evaluate material before reporting it.

Her critical journalistic mistakes have since led to the selling of a war that has already resulted in nearly 4,000 American deaths (more than occurred on 9-11) plus 30,000 wounded, a cost of over half a trillion dollars to US taxpayers, the deaths of approximately one million Iraqis, and the departure of another two million Iraqis.

On one end US taxpayers have financed the cost of the military invasion and occupation, but on the other we are also funding government contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq, awarded to private corporations with ties to the administration and the media.

So keep in mind that the bulk of information you see, hear, or read in our country has been processed through the filter of a corporate media. Do you think we can trust the benefactors of war to provide us with objective information?

Richard Nixon had it right when he wrote: “Short of changing human nature, therefore, the only way to achieve a practical, livable peace in a world of competing nations is to take the profit out of war.”