ESRA and a More Perfect Union

By Bill Moore

Posted: 03 Jul 2010

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." -- Preamble to the United States Constitution

July 4th marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the seminal document that spells out the reasons why our colonial American forefathers decided to separate themselves from the British Crown. The signing of that document by representatives of the 13 colonies didn't end the struggle; it marked the beginning. Even after independence was assured and peace reestablished, the road to justice and prosperity would often prove difficult and at times, bloody. The loose confederation of former colonies that was the United States of America in 1790, proved so unworkable that a new Constitution was drafted "in order to form a more perfect Union."

This was accompanied by a Bill of Rights, spelling out more definitively the nature of those "blessings of Liberty", which has been Amended by Congress some twenty seven times, the last being ratified in 1992; and clearly underscoring the fact that the process of perfection isn't yet complete. Additional clarifications of what constitutes the general welfare, justice, tranquility and the common defense" are continually being proposed.

I'd like to share with you one such Amendment offered by the Network of Spiritual Progressives and called the "the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment" or ESRA. Given the increasing influence of large corporations controlled by fewer and fewer individuals in the affairs of the United States government and the lives of its citizens, as illustrated by the corruption of the federal Minerals Management Service by the oil and gas industry, not to mention manipulations of the large banks, pharmaceuticals and military contractors, it is past time to reign in their influence. This is what ESRA is intended to do.

Specifically the Amendment would…

"prohibit the use of private monies in national elections, hence removing the need of candidates to raise money from the wealthy and the corporate elites - and have elections publicly financed, but with much less money spent, because ESRA would also prohibit media advertisements in the last three months before an election and require those media to give free and equal time to all major candidates.

It would also require corporate social and environmental responsibility by requiring that every large corporation get a new corporate charter once every five years, which would only be granted to those corporations that could prove a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens.

And we, the communities who were affected by the operations of that corporation, including its workers, but including anyone whose environment had been shaped by that corporation's activities, would be able to provide testimony to that jury about how environmentally and socially responsible that corporation had been."
When the Supreme Court declared the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law unconstitutional in Citizens United v. FEC earlier this year, it not only removed all constrains to corporate funding of elections, but further affirmed the personhood of corporations without also requiring those corporations to abide by the same rules governing we humans. If you or I were responsible for the deaths of 11 co-workers and the despoiling of an entire coastline, not to mention the destruction of tens of thousands of family businesses, we'd expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law, regardless of whether or not it was an accident or done with malice of forethought. If proven guilty we'd be sentenced to many, many years in jail and possibly even death for our crime.

Yet BP can commit the same act and literally get away with involuntary manslaughter, and that's being charitable. Such is the distortion of American law. ESRA would change that. This Amendment would hold these artificial 'humans' accountable for their actions just as we'd expect for real, flesh and blood human beings. In fact, even without ESRA, it should now be theoretically feasible for individuals or the federal government to seek the "arrest" and prosecution of BP as a corporate being. If corporations now are considered beings and spending money is "free speech" then they can and must be held accountable. If proven guilt -- and the evidence is visible for all to see -- all of BP's assets should be seized and sold to more responsible companies, with the proceeds distributed to its victims and to pay for its damages just like we expect of human criminals. Then the corporation should dissolved (legally "executed"), its management tossed out on the streets and its shareholders left without a penny as punishment for their own greed and neglect.

Sounds harsh? Go down to the Gulf of Mexico and see what BP's (and Tranocean and Halliburton's) avarice and mismanagement have wrought. Frankly, this company has been a corporate thug since it was first formed as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in the early 1900s. Want to know why the Iranians nationalized the company, setting in motion events that would culminate in 1979 Iranian Revolution? Read Blood & Oil: A Prince's Memoir of Iran, from the Shah to the Ayatollah by Manucher and Roxane Farmanfarmaia. From its inception, APOC's British management abused Iranian oil field workers, cooked the books, used its profits to build its international oil business without consulting the Iranian government with whom it was partnered or sharing in those profits, sold Iranian oil at pennies per barrel to the British Navy, and failed to pay its full royalties to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Iranians put up with this for nearly 40 years, afraid to take on the world's most powerful empire. And even after Iran nationalized its own oil fields under Premier Mossadeq -- subsequently ousted in a CIA-coordinated coup -- the international oil industry consortium that finally came about to manage Iran's oil industry as part of the settlement was run by outsiders; thankfully initially led by a couple of very smart and energetic Dutchmen from Shell's Indonesian operations. It was under their watch that Iran began to rebuild its shattered economy and gain some control over its oil profits.

When you look at what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico, don't just think about how it reinforces the need to get off of petroleum but also how we need to start holding corporations accountable for their crimes against humanity and the environment. If we don't, all the electric cars in the world won't stop further abuses of power and influence, and if that happens, we can kiss the Constitution and real democracy goodnight.

Sign the ESRA petition here.

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