‘Occupy Wall Street’ Is Obsessed with Corporations

October 4th, 2011 at 10:45 am | 75 Comments |

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The “Occupy Wall Street” protestors’ “NYC General Assembly” has issued a manifesto of indictments of corporate America, sale on matters including war, pollution, cruelty to animals, housing foreclosures and much more. Fundamentally, the protestors display an antipathy to the very idea of corporations.

That is evident for one thing in the blanket nature of their complaints, for instance:

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

And so on. Note it is all being done by “they” as opposed to by “some” or specified companies. I could compose a similarly sweeping list of positive corporate actions, such as “They have developed medical products that have saved millions of lives.” But the protests are less about specific grievances than free-floating anti-corporate rage.

Thus the manifesto denounces a supposed inherent lack of accountability in corporations, stating:

…that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth…

And furthermore:

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

These assertions suffer from a lack of cogency. Start with the business about corporations “extracting” wealth from people without consent. Such “extraction” far better describes taxation — which by necessity even democratic governments do without individual consent — than it does the voluntary decisions by consumers to hand over money for products. As for extracting wealth from the Earth, besides being necessary for civilization’s survival, that is something done by state-owned oil companies and other government entities around the world, as well as by private-sector corporations.

Then there is the complaint about the doctrine of a corporation as “legal person.” That complaint is motivated partly by desire to slap restrictions on corporate political ads and donations (regardless of legal persons’ free speech rights) and more broadly by a dislike of the idea that “corporations are people,” as Mitt Romney said in a supposed gaffe recently. In fact, corporations are of course organizations of people, but the deeper point is that legal personhood enables a degree of accountability that would not be possible otherwise.

Let’s say a company dumped some toxic waste a few decades ago. The executives of that company may no longer be the same people, the shareholders may have entirely turned over; the people working there or holding stock may have had nothing to do with the waste dumping back then. It doesn’t matter — the corporation can still be held responsible, forced to do cleanup, pay damages and so on.

The opening of the Occupy Wall Street manifesto says that “the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members.” Quite right. As it happens, a great advance enabling humans to cooperate and achieve things they could not individually is the organizational form known as the corporation.

Recent Posts by Kenneth Silber

75 Comments so far ↓

  • tommybones

    Yeah, those silly protesters. Can’t they see how great billion dollar corporations have been to the general welfare of the world? And those awesome Wall Street banks? Where would we be without them?

    Instead of protesting, they should be thanking our Galtian Overlords for blessing us with their superior intellect and work-ethic.

    • MattP

      I think you meant to type “dailykos.com” in your web browser.

      • TerryF98

        I think you meant to type “redstate” in your web browser.

        • MattP

          Isn’t Frum Forum supposed to be a community of moderate Republicans? Did I miss something?

          I doubt either David Frum or Erick Erickson feel any sort of solidarity with the crazies and hippies occupying the NY financial district…

        • greg_barton

          FrumForum is a forum of anyone Frum allows to post.

          Take that as you will.

        • NRA Liberal

          I’ve been down to the Occupation three times already to lend my support and I’m a clean cut union construction worker, stock market investor, and eminently sane person.

    • Slide

      You got that right tommybones….. where would this country be without these great corporations and their magnificent benevolence. Who cares if they use tax loopholes and pay zero taxes, damn it that is the American way. Who cares if they outsource all jobs overseas to save a few bucks for their stockholders, that is their responsibility. Who cares if they can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections, not for the greater good but for their own self interest. That’s what we all do right? Corporations are people after all. Who cares if they pay their top executives huge compensation packages (even when they fail) while cutting the pensions, benefits and hourly pay of their workers. The whole notion of a middle class is outdated anyway. If they can’t afford cake, let them eat bread.

  • Graychin

    The headline makes me think of a tune being whistled as one walks past a graveyard.

    I imagine that the rulers of Tunisia felt the same way about their silly protesters.

  • Slide

    Americans are angry. They have been angry for a long time. Their anger caused the Republicans to suffer huge defeats in 2006 and 2008. Their anger caused the Democrats to suffer huge defeats in 2010. They see the American Dream slipping through their fingers. They see that their children will have fewer opportunities than they did. But… they don’t know exactly where to focus that anger. The right takes full advantage of that anger. Hell, Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Coulter, Beck et al have been angry for years. They were angry when the Republicans controlled the Presidency, the Supreme Court and both houses of Congress. And they still managed to make government the enemy. Government is the problem as their glorified hero once told them.

    The Tea Party is an outgrowth of this anti-government sentiment. I think the Wall Street protestors will demonstrate some anger from the left. No, its not the government.. it is the greed, corruption and avarice of Wall Street that is the problem. People are going to gravitate to that anger. Already demonstrations are popping up all over the country. Failure? Maybe, but it is way too early to say that, they are just getting started creating the narrative that the Tea Party had almost exclusively to themselves. Hold on to your hats boys and girls and lets see where this goes.

    • armstp

      Unfortunately or fortunately for the rest of the planet, I think a lot of this has do with globalization. America is no longer the only game in town. The world is alot more competitive these days. The EU, Asia and even countries like Brazil are out-competing America in a lot of ways, as should be expected. It is inevitable that America’s relative standard of living is and will decline. We are just seeing an America that can no longer always get what it wants, its way and will find it much tougher to build wealth than in the past.

      • balconesfault

        America is no longer the only game in town.

        America still is, however, the most desirable marketplace in the world … and the fact that we feel compelled to give access to it away for free is the best illustration of the power that Corporate America has on our politics.

  • medinnus

    If its such a bonafide failure, why two hit pieces almost back to back? If they’re failures, they’re not particularly newsworthy, right?

    Medinnus Rule #3 – Its not finished until the check clears the bank.

  • rbottoms

    On Monday afternoon, the Transport Workers Union, Local 100, went to court to ask for an injunction to stop the New York Police Department from compelling city bus drivers to transport arrested Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. “We’re a pretty mainstream blue-collar union,” says spokesman Jim Gannon. “We view the protests as young people who are articulating the same kind of things that we’ve been trying to articulate.”

    A couple of weeks ago, Occupy Wall Street seemed destined for marginality. In July, when the Canadian anti-corporate organization AdBusters put out the call for demonstrators to camp out in the heart of American finance, it envisioned 90,000 participants, but only about a thousand showed up. For the first week, there was hardly any mainstream media coverage at all. But now, helped in part by publicity from police brutality and mass arrests, the demonstrations are mushrooming, capturing the attention of people all over the country. More and more people are turning up in New York’s Zuccotti Park, while similar protests are breaking out in dozens of cities nationwide. Suddenly, mainstream progressives are wondering if this could be the beginning of the left-wing populist uprising they’ve been waiting for.

    “It’s so thrilling,” says Van Jones. The former Obama adviser is a founder of the American Dream Movement, whose inaugural conference kicked off Monday in Washington, D.C., with a live feed from the demonstrations. The protesters, he says, “are calling the conscience of America back to this economic catastrophe. Nobody has been able to do that.”


    Just a 24 hour story.

  • Slide

    I’m having a hard time reconciling the headline of this article with the headlines that I get when I Google Wall Street Protests. Here is but a very brief sampling.

    Protests against Wall Street spread across US
    Anti-Wall Street Protests Spreading to Cities Large and Small
    Wall Street protests spread across US
    Wall Street protests spread nationwide
    Occupy Wall Street protests spread to Baltimore, other cities
    Wall Street protests continue and grow across the country
    On Wall Street, a Protest Matures
    Wall Street Protests Spread, Channeling Anger at Corporate, Political Forces

    going nowhere? Really? That is your take?

  • Slide

    Oh…. I see you changed your headline. I’m glad I could have such an immediate effect.

  • Kenneth Silber Completely Misses The Point – Textual Fisticuffs

    [...] Silber Completely Misses The Point The title pretty much says it all. Kenneth Silber writes to express his puzzlement at the Occupy Wall Street protesters’ hatred [...]

  • ottovbvs

    I see they’ve changed the headline. Maybe Silber now thinks the protest is going somewhere. And Ken given Wall Street’s record over the past ten years they haven’t exactly covered the corporate world in glory have they? And I say that as someone who isn’t in the least anti corporation and recognises their essential role in the modern world. Essentially what these folks who I admit are a bit inchoate and OTT, are complaining about is the complete irresponsibility and indeed contempt for society and the law exhibited by many major financial houses.

  • Demosthenes

    I think Mr. Silber’s premise is basically sound, despite the changed headline. I don’t think he was saying that the protestors’ grievances are illegitimate, as much as he is pointing out the strain of thought in the movement that is anti-corporate and not merely anti-corporatist. In other words, corporations are not and cannot be any more inherently evil than people. Corporations have made the information revolution that is making these protests possible, possible. Are there huge systemic problems with Wall Street and its relationship to the federal government? Sure. Is railing against “corporations” the answer? I doubt it.

  • HighCountry

    Seems to me that the protests aren’t so much about corporations in and of themselves, but about the power they have been given in our political system.

  • Kenneth Silber

    Much ado about the headline. For the record, I never wrote the original or the current headline (editors writing headlines is a very common journalistic practice). My working title was, as I recall: “Why ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Is a Road to Nowhere” which was a reference to its substance, not a prediction of its political impact.

    Also, since the protestors’ manifesto is a broad-brush attack on all corporate America, trying to defend them by pointing out malfeasance in the financial industry strikes me as inadequate. And on the subject of the financial houses, it would be better if critics understood that many foolish and irresponsible actions they took were legal, which is the key reason we don’t see massive criminal trials. For anyone interested in that topic, I suggest my video interview of some months ago with Greg Farrell, who wrote an excellent book about Merrill Lynch/BofA:


  • armstp


    I think you should read Frum’s post just before this post (“This is What Anonymous Funding Looks Like”) to answer why many at the Wall Street protest are angry with corporations.

    And Ken if you have been paying attention you would know that there is not one focus of the protests. The “Manifesto” you link to is just one of many.

    If you want a better idea of what is going on I suggest your read this:


    David Graeber is an anthropologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, and author of ‘Direct Action: An Ethnography.’ He was also one of the initial organizers of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests. And he thinks the people asking for a list of demands are missing the point of the movement quite dramatically. We spoke this morning by phone.

    Ezra Klein: So when did your involvement with these protests begin?

    David Graeber: July 2nd. That was the first actual meeting. What happened was AdBusters put out this call for these protests. We had heard there was supposed to be a general assembly on July 2nd. So I just showed up. But it was a rally, not an assembly. Some Marxist groups had set up stages and megaphones and was making speeches and were planning a march. So we said we don’t need to do this. We pulled a small group together and decided to have a real assembly.

    So we wandered over to another part of the area and began a meeting and people kept migrating over. But we had a problem because we only had six weeks. AdBusters had already advertised the date to 80,000 people. And their date was a Saturday. You can’t really shut down Wall Street on a Saturday. So we were working under some significant constraints. We assembled 80 or 100 people and formed working groups for outreach, process, so forth and so on. And we began meeting every week.

    One thing that helped a lot was a smattering of people from Spain and Greece and Tunisia who had been doing this sort of thing more recently. They explained that the model that seemed to work was to take something that seemed to be public space, reclaim it, and build up an organization headquarters around that from which you can begin doing other things.

    EK: This movement is organized rather differently than most protest movements. There isn’t really a list of demands, or goals, or even much of an identifiable leadership. But if I understand you correctly, that’s sort of the point.

    DG: It’s very similar to the globalization movement. You see the same criticisms in the press. It’s a bunch of kids who don’t know economics and only know what they’re against. But there’s a reason for that. it’s pre-figurative, so to speak. You’re creating a vision of the sort of society you want to have in miniature. And it’s a way of juxtaposing yourself against these powerful, undemocratic forces you’re protesting. If you make demands, you’re saying, in a way, that you’re asking the people in power and the existing institutions to do something different. And one reason people have been hesitant to do that is they see these institutions as the problem.

    EK: So if you say, for instance, that you want a tax on Wall Street and then you’ll be happy, you’re implicitly saying that you’re willing to be happy with a slightly modified version of the current system.

    DG: Right. The tax on Wall Street will go to people controlled by Wall Street.

    EK: By which you mean government.

    DG: Yes. So we are keeping it open-ended. In a way, what we want is to create spaces where people can think about questions like that. In New York, according to law, any unpermitted assembly of more than 12 people is illegal in New York. Space itself is not an openly available resource. But the one resource that isn’t scarce is smart people with ideas. So we’re trying to reframe things away from the rhetoric of demands to a questions of visons and solutions. Now how that translates into actual social change is an interesting question. One way this has been done elsewhere is you have local initiatives that come out of the local assemblies.

    EK: It also seems that the tradeoff here, from an organizational standpoint, is that if you say you want, say, a tax on Wall Street, then the people who aren’t interested in a tax on Wall Street stay home. So remaining vague on demands can make the tent bigger. But it also seems that, at some point, people are going to need to be working towards concrete goals and experiencing dicrete successes in order to sustain the energy of a movement like this.

    GB: As the thing grows, new organizational forms will develop. At this point, the New York occupation has 30 different working groups for everything from handling sanitation to discussing labor issues and tax policy. So we’re trying to set up ways that people with different interests can plug into the movement. There’s even a newspaper. The ‘Occupied Wall Street Journal.’ Of course, this is nothing compared to what happened in Tahrir Square, where they even had dry cleaners.

    EK: We’re also beginning to see “Occupy Wall Street” link up with with more traditional activist groups. Some members of the protest were speaking via videofeed at today’s big confab of liberal groups in Washington. MoveOn.org and organized labor are planning a march in support of the occupiers for Wednesday. How does that change what is, for now, a very decentralized movement?

    DG: It is organically happening but there are definite problems that occur. We found this back in the days of the globalization movement. Unions were very supportive and provided resources but they’re very different organizations. The real difficulty is how to work with people who are top-down and have a funding base, as it means there are things they can say in public and things they can’t, and groups where people can say whatever they want and the whole idea is to be decentralized. One problem I’ve already heard of is that people are coming in and changing the tenor of the general assemblies to speeches, and that’s not really what it’s supposed to be about. So you have to balance the aspect where you’re trying to show what direct democracy could be like and the effort to link up with groups that have a form of organization we’ve rejected.

    EK: The name of the group is “Occupy Wall Street,” but from what I can tell by listening to interviews with the protesters and reading messages at ‘We are the 99,’ it’s not just about Wall Street, it’s about the powerful in general, which include politicians and wealthy folks who don’t make their money in finance, and beyond that, it’s really about the less-powerful. The real running theme I’m hearing is hopelessness: that we did everything right and played by the rules and went to school or got a job and now we’re buried in debt and can’t make ends meet, while these folks at the top of the economy seem to just keep prospering and prospering.

    DG: Right, and Wall Street is just a beautiful illustration of that. Here we have these guys who were just greedy crooks, who crashed the global economy and did terrible things to the lives of people all over the world. None of them have paid at all. There was a debate about whether their bonuses should be lowered. On the other hand, if people point out to vigorously that this has happened, they do get arrested. And that helps to point out the essential double standard of the system.

    • Slide

      thanks for that excerpt armstp, it was really helpful in understanding the goals of the protests.

  • Slide

    Kenneth Silber // Oct 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm: “And on the subject of the financial houses, it would be better if critics understood that many foolish and irresponsible actions they took were legal, which is the key reason we don’t see massive criminal trials”

    I think that is the point Ken. I’m not so much concerned about the corruption that is illegal, I’m concerned about the corruption that is legal.

    • Banty

      … and WHY it is legal. It was legal because of deregulation (yes, both Dems and Reps had something to do with it) that was pressed by our money-talks political system of lobbies and influence-buying.

  • valkayec

    Here’s what one person wrote as a comment to a Wonkblog (Klein’s WaPo blog) post on the nascent Occupy DC movement that is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall St movement.

    “There are plenty of lawyers, engineers, and skilled laborers out of work, too. Not just those liberal arts majors that you and others seem to despise (probably because you think they’re hippies, or something). But all that is really beside the point, which you have missed.

    It’s about a dangerous concentration of power and wealth in the hands of an elite few that can steer the direction of this country more swiftly and unilaterally than the voting public. In other words, “Wall Street” (a convenient term for the financial/corporate/political system) has caused such damage to this country and accumulated so much power and influence that voters are essentially disenfranchised.

    Since the movement in question has no concise political agenda, you’re going to get a mix of different viewpoints that probably conflict. But the underlying problem has to do with the few vs. the many — which is a classical political problem. There’s nothing new under the sun, after all.

    An immensely powerful central government with corporate backers is inconsistent with a free and thriving democracy. Don’t conflate these ideas with the “narcissistic” demands of liberals — in addition to being unsightly, it does a disservice to the majority of us, conservative, liberal, or otherwise, who are impacted by the establishment. For the record, I’m a philosophy major with gainful employment, and a libertarian who believes in free markets and free people.

    You’ll see me out in this crowd soon, dressed in business casual.”

    This comment encapsulates how I and thousands of other average voters feel. We’re tired of being lied to. We’re tired of being used and abused. We’re tired of feeling like our voices don’t count.

    As one protester’s sign read: I can’t afford my own politician so I made this sign.

  • hisgirlfriday

    In fact, corporations are of course organizations of people, but the deeper point is that legal personhood enables a degree of accountability that would not be possible otherwise.

    Yeah, corporate personhood enables a WORSE DEGREE OF ACCOUNTABILITY than would be possible otherwise. The whole point of corporations is to shield individual human beings who mess up from being held individually accountable for their actions in a court of law. That’s precisely what sets them apart from other types of organizations of people (like your book club or bowling league team or garden party which offer no liability shield).

    What I think these people at the Wall Street protesters want is INDIVIDUAL accountability for the wrongs perpetrated against them as individuals and that’s just not something our current political-legal-corporate structure provides when it comes to societal problems like pollution, public corruption and our screwed-up economy.

    Now we’ve decided as a society that the benefits of corporations outweigh that downside of lack of individual accountability because corporations encourage creativity and risk-taking and entrepreneurship because of their liability shield. In addition, the corporate structure can help facilitate the most efficient organization of capital to maximize profits for shareholders. I agree with this.

    But this has nothing to do with the issue of corporate personhood. The legal fiction of corporate personhood is a problem because it takes corporations from being a tool for human beings and mutates them into superhuman beings that human beings can no longer control – a Frankenstein’s monster situation.

    Thus, corporate persons have MORE rights and more power than human persons in our legal system, in our economy and in our politics.

    1. Corporations can’t be put in jail when they commit wrongs against society.

    2. Corporations don’t die and even when they’ve done something so horrible to society like maybe cause people to die that we would like to put them to death, we can’t.

    3. Corporations are mobile in a way that human beings are not as a practical and economic matter.

    4. The corporate personality is that of a sociopath, but it cannot be treated by psychiatric professionals or committed if a recovery for this condition is not possible. Its sociopathy is by design.

    5. Corporations can reap all the benefits of citizenship with very few of the obligations of citizenship.

    6. Thanks to Citizens United, as a human person I am STILL limited on how much money I can individually spend to support my federal political candidate of choice. But corporate persons can spend however much they want.

    Now as I said before, I do not disagree that benefits to corporate structures are many and corporations have been very useful in our democratic capitalistic society. But to pretend there’s no downside to them or no downside to corporate personhood is just foolish.

    • valkayec

      A note on corporate personhood.

      “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886) was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with taxation of railroad properties. The decision was instrumental in laying the foundation for modern laws regarding corporate personhood, ruling that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause granted constitutional protections to corporations as well as to natural persons.”


      The case itself is rather minor in the overall scheme of things, but what makes this case so important is something the court reporter wrote – something that was not an issue in the case per se but was added because of the court reporters personal financial interests.

      “Preceding every case entry is a headnote, a short summary in which a court reporter summarizes the opinion as well as outlining the main facts and arguments. For example, in United States v. Detroit Timber Lumber Company (1906), headnotes are defined as “not the work of the Court, but are simply the work of the Reporter, giving his understanding of the decision, prepared for the convenience of the profession.”[3]

      The court reporter, former president of the Newburgh and New York Railway Company, J.C. Bancroft Davis, wrote the following as part of the headnote for the case:

      “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”[4]

      In other words, the headnote indicated that corporations enjoyed the same rights under the Fourteenth Amendment as did natural persons.[5] However, this issue was not decided by the Court.”

      Prior to this headnote, corporations were considered artificial persons for various legal reasons. However, no where in law before this headnote was a corporation considered a person or given personhood under the 1st, 5th or 14th Amendments. And in cases previous to Citizen’s United, the Justices Black and Douglas denied that corporations had protections under these amendments as persons.

      Thus, this notion that corporations have the legal right to free speech in elections because of their personhood is a fiction based on an intentional error.

    • armstp

      ” degree of accountability that would not be possible otherwise.”

      Actually, it is completely the opposite. Corporations are formed to deflect or limit legal liability.

  • Carney

    The limited liability joint stock corporation is one of the greatest achievements of Western Civilization, one unique to us and exported elsewhere. It enables people to come together to achieve far more for their lives than they ever could alone, and not merely blood relatives or personal friends but perfect strangers.

  • Southern Populist

    This group is on the money with many of its points. It’s too bad they link their scathing critique to peripheral kookery like animal rights.

    - DSP

    • LauraNo

      Protests always attract kooks. Remember the KKK trying to hook up with the tea parties? And #OccupyWallStreet has a bunch of Ron Paul supporters. It’s part of the show.

    • Banty

      That’s always been one of my beefs with progressive causes. Believe in one such cause, anything you do for activism, you get tied up with all of these other ones from the agglomeration of causes.

      And it goes beyond the usual set of peripheral kooks. Have a concern about strip mining? You better love animals, believe in homeopathy, want to free Tibet, oppose nuclear power, be pro-choice, yadda yadda yadda too.

      • Demosthenes

        As a strong proponent of nuclear power and an even stronger proponent of Tibetan freedom who is concerned about strip-mining and leans heavily toward the “pro-life” camp (although it is something of a false dichotomy), I agree!

        • Traveler

          Hear hear!

          But I am no PETA fan. And I want most deer eliminated. Venison steaks are good!

  • chephren

    It’s about time citizen activists marched in the streets against the bankers, insiders and traders who blew a hole in the economy and walked away scott-free with their bailouts.

    So what if the Occupy Wall St. crowd is focused on corporations? The Tea Partiers are obsessed with government – to the point where they moronically attack reasonable, timely, badly-needed measures like infrastructure programs. The Tea Party gave a pass from the start to the 800 gorillas who ran the unregulated mortgage derivatives markets and levered themselves up 30-to-1 for the benefit of CEOs and their compensation packages.

    If the Tea Party movement didn’t have such a massive blind spot, and had not been co-opted by the corporate-owned Republican party, there would be no need for an alternative, genuinely grassroots protest movement.

    • valkayec

      The co-founder of the Florida Tea Party is all for the OWS protests and is in agreement with the protesters.

  • LauraNo

    I don’t think it’s antipathy to corps, well maybe it is for some, but antipathy toward rampant, unregulated, unrestrained greed with criminal behavior not only not being punished but rewarded and seemingly no ethics of any kind on display. Mines ignoring safety regs and not being charged even after people dies. Banks making ridiculous loans, foreclosing on homes they have no way of knowing they own. military contractors run amok. BP flooding the Gulf with oil due to not following regs and again, no punishment, etc. If and when the corps behave properly, thanks to appropriate oversight, the people will have no issues with the corps. Of course, the GOP has no intention of letting that come to pass so…

  • Nanotek

    “‘Occupy Wall Street’ Is Obsessed with Corporations” sounds like saying the Arab Spring is obsessed with freedom … but if so, the Occupy Wall Street movement has a noble lineage.

    “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” Thomas Jefferson

  • SteveT

    There’s places this movement could go that would have a real effect. Many people who would not empathize culturally with OWS are angry about the BoA fees. This is getting a lot of press. Citibank –for one– is scheduled to follow suit. A movement of accounts out of banks to credit unions could be of some concern (naturally the amount of the account is important)

    Also the nascent movement by corporations to return their overseas holdings to the US in a tax free holiday, the type of thing that normally happens in the dark could be fought. This would be of serious concern to large corporations and financial markets.

    The holiday shopping season is coming up. A perfect time to go after corporations you don’t like with protests and civil disobedience.

    If this movement has any success at all they should name an award for Anthony Bolonga like “Best Media Campaign” for without him the whole thing would be dead.

  • LauraNo

    SWAT Teams in St. Louis Protecting Bank of America; Refusing Customer Withdrawals; Directing Customers to Broken BofA Web Site


  • balconesfault

    Let’s say a company dumped some toxic waste a few decades ago. The executives of that company may no longer be the same people, the shareholders may have entirely turned over; the people working there or holding stock may have had nothing to do with the waste dumping back then. It doesn’t matter — the corporation can still be held responsible, forced to do cleanup, pay damages and so on.

    I don’t see where Corporate “personhood” has anything to do with this. Because this is purely a civil, contractual dispute between the Government and the Corporate Entity.

    Now, if the Corporation could be declared to have acted criminally, with all its assets confiscated by the Government the way they’ll do if you’re convicted on various felony counts, that might make some sense. But of course, that doesn’t happen.

    The reality is that the biggest issue with the scenario you posit is that the Corporation is more likely to have been dissolved years ago because of the potential liabilities from the toxic dumping, and the individual shareholders and corporate officials are all exempted from any responsibility from the dumping they profited from. If it was set up as an LLC, assets can be moved around prior to it declaring bankrupt, with some larger Corporate umbrella severing itself from much of the responsibility you claim.

  • Southern Populist

    The left plutocrats like George Soros are already moving to co-opt this movement the way the Koch brothers neutralized and co-opted the grassroots Tea Party movement. The powerful are very good at neutralizing potential threats.

    - DSP

    • armstp

      “The left plutocrats like George Soros are already moving to co-opt this movement..”

      Southern Populist do you have any actual proof to support your statement? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

      There is plenty of well documented proof on the direct influence of the Koch brothers. All you “conservatives” like to say Soros is the equivalent, but there is never any proof that even comes close to matching what there is for the Koch brothers to prove your Soros statements and accusations.

      • Southern Populist

        Your own post from Ezra Klein mentioned that moveon.org is getting involved with this protest movement. moveon.org is Soros-funded.

        Also, I am not a conservative, but here is some more information on the many front groups that Soros funds.


        • armstp

          Southern Populist,

          More bullshit from you. First of all Move-on.org has 5 million members and has raised tens of millions from both its members ($60 million from these members who donated on average $50 in 2004 alone) and from many many different contributors. According to financial reports, which are required for 527s, Soros has only donated $1.46 million, which is only a very small part of what this organization has raised and hardly makes Move-on.org an organization controlled by Soros.

          Second, these protests are grassroots protests, as Move-on.org is a grassroots organization, and involve many many different people, groups and concerns. I would hardly say that Move-on.org is in a position to co-opt anything. And what exactly does co-opt mean anyway?

          From the article I reference and you point to:

          “MoveOn.org and organized labor are planning a march in support of the occupiers for Wednesday.”

          Marching is support of the protestors by MoveOn.org is hardly co-opting the protests.

          You will have to do better than that to prove that Soros is co-opting anything. Again, you give the thinnest of evidence and proof to back-up your claims.

          You link to that ridiculous “discover the networks” website that does not even itself say who funds it and provides absolutely no proof of any of its statements. That website is run by that kook David Horowitz. That moron has a very long and large history of misinformation. He has also been called a racist by the SPLC, as Horowitz blamed blacks themselves for slavery.

        • Southern Populist

          Horowitz has been called a racist by the SPLC? lol, so what.

          George Soros has been funding lefty causes for years. The fact that you are denying it shows you are either uninformed or dishonest. In 2004, he went on record pledging his fortune to defeat George W. Bush. Here is some more information.


        • armstp

          I am not denying that Soros has been funding different political cause. I am saying (1) that he through a very small donation to Move.On.org is in no position to co-opt the Wall Street protests as you say and (2) that your in formation from Horowitz is BS. Horowitz or anyone else does not know who and by how much Soros has funded. What are the sources of Horowitz’s information. He does not even give us that.

          You do not even seem to read your own links. Your Wiki link says that Soros has donated less than $100 million over the years and your Horowitz link says Soros has donated $5 billion. Which is it?

          SPLC is a very important and respectable organization that has been fight against all kinds of inequalities and has spoken truths for years. If you have a problem with SPLC, then why don’t you tell us what it is and give us some actual proof to what you say?

  • Graychin

    If Mr. Silber can already see that Occupy Wall Street is “obsessed with corporations,” then their movement is coalescing on exactly the correct target.

    The amoral, soulless, government-created profit-seeking machines known as large public corporations have the same rights in America as human beings. The Supreme Court said so. And since money is the same as speech (the Court said that too), corporations have more right to free speech than the “other 99.9%” of us.”

    And the speech can be anonymous! The court said that too.

    I expect the American Autumn to settle soon on corporate personhood as the greatest enemy of the American public.

  • Southern Populist

    A must read for anyone who thinks Barack Obama is not in Wall Street’s corner.


    - DSP

    • armstp

      Yeah, Wall Street just loves Obama. They certainly got their campaign contribution dollars worth from him, as Obama restricted their bonuses and pushed for Frank Dodd, the biggest financial sector reform in decades. In fact, Wall Street loves Obama so much that they felt it was important to spend tens of millions and an army of lobbyists to lobby against Obama bills and to campaign hugely against him and the Democrats in 2010. Goldman particularly loves Obama after his adminstration outted Goldman for improper trading and forced them to pay a record +$500 million fine, which left their relations with the clients in tatters. Or how about Bank of America, which is beginning to face some serious lawsuits from the U.S. government resulting in a massive drop in their stock price? They must love Obama.

      That is such a lame opinion article you quote. The author really does not know what he is talking about. Yeah, Wall Street loves Obama so much that every stock of every major financial institution has collapsed. I am sure they love that. No where in that article does the author claim that Obama is in Wall Street’s corner, as you say. All he says in the banks have gotten off pretty scott free for the mess they created and the fed policies designed to stablize the financial markets have helped Wall Street. That is far from assuming that Obama is in Wall Street’s corner, as you say.

      • Southern Populist

        That article is filled with facts — not opinion — like this one.

        From the beginning, Obama has been nurtured and supported by an array of influential leaders in finance, technology and real estate who supported his rise. In the run-up to his nomination, he attracted more money from Wall Street than Hillary Clinton, New York’s senator. Later, he pummeled the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), by a wide margin among financiers.

        It makes little real sense for anyone concerned about the influence of Wall Street on American politics to make excuses for Obama.

        • hisgirlfriday

          Both parties are corrupted by Wall Street cash.

          But at least Obama signed Dodd-Frank and attempted SOMETHING to reign in the excesses of Wall Street.

          The only answer from the Republicans to the financial crisis has been LESS regulation of Wall Street.

          And that’s why so many Wall Street/hedge fund types that supported Obama in 2008 (betting on a winner) have moved to the Romney camp for 2012.

        • Polifan

          +1 Both parties!

        • armstp

          You need to think a little harder. Both parties have over the years received large amounts of money from Wall Street, but Republicans have generally gotten more. In addition, Wall Street generally tends to back the horse that is most likely to win.

          Just because Obama and the Democrats got there fair share or maybe even more of the Wall Street money (as they were expected to win) in 2008 does not exactly mean that, as you say, Obama is in Wall Streets corner. Almost everyone I have met that works on Wall Street is a Republican.

          As I point out above, Obama actions, although not as strong as those on the left would have liked, have been anything but completely favorable to Wall Street.

          Again, where in the article that you cite does it say that Obama is in Wall Street’s corner?

  • Rob_654

    How about if we start by stripping away Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks?

    After all those are ALL a Government boot on the throat of the Free Market and true competition.

    As we have seen Corporations privatize their profits and then when the screw up so badly and are ready to go under, they use their money to buy influence and get politicians to Socialize their losses by given these corporations Taxpayer Dollars to save their skins, and then when those same people say “Hey, how about you start contributing a little extra back to society” we hear “Class Warfare” – “An assault on “job creators”".

    These are the same companies who have used their money to buy politicians who craft legislation that not only allows companies a far easier time – but actually encourages them to ship jobs overseas, bring people from other countries into the US to give jobs to, etc…

    Corporations are fine but let us NEVER forget that their goal is not the benefit of the United States, nor the citizens of the United States – their only goal is to their bottom line, their executives and of course their shareholders – and all of that is judged every 3 months.

    These Corporations are not on the side of America, in fact many don’t even call themselves American companies any longer they are “Global Companies” – many of them no longer even publicly release what percentage of their workforce is in the United States and how many are not here.

    I think we need to get real about Corporations and realize that they are not our enemies – but they are not our friends either – and that they need us more than we need them – after all if they want to give us the finger, we can simply tell them to go elsewhere and I can guarantee you another company will be MORE than happy to take their place.

    • balconesfault

      Corporations are fine but let us NEVER forget that their goal is not the benefit of the United States, nor the citizens of the United States – their only goal is to their bottom line, their executives and of course their shareholders – and all of that is judged every 3 months.

      This is the key. I don’t care how many American flags WalMart might place all over their stores, the Waltons couldn’t give a flying F whether Americans or Chinese are being put to work manufacturing the goods that are sold in their aisles … or what the long-term implications to the American economy of shipping jobs abroad might be. For all their nice Sunday morning advertisements about securing Americas energy future and creating jobs with domestic drilling, US major oil companies could care less where in the world they drill for oil, as long as there’s oil at the bottom of the well. And even if higher consumption of energy and fuel puts America at an economic disadvantage versus the rest of the world, our private power and oil companies will – unless encouraged by tax policies to do otherwise – neglect any investments in alternative fuels and push combustion of coal and gasoline to power our grids and move 2-ton boxes on wheels around.

      The problem is that yes – investors have increasingly little loyalty to any corporation, and will quickly move their portfolios over to another company projected to provide a greater return in the next quarter. So corporations can’t afford to worry about American jobs, or the strategic implications of balance of trade, or climate change. Because those that do lose money and investors, and quickly their CEOs who are replaced with someone who won’t care.

    • zephae

      Corporations are fine but let us NEVER forget that their goal is not the benefit of the United States, nor the citizens of the United States – their only goal is to their bottom line, their executives and of course their shareholders

      This may be true today, but I actually don’t think this is the true role of a corporation. IMO, its true role is to provide the greatest possible value to its customers and I think we would be a lot better off if that viewpoint were to be collectively adopted by business at large. After all, whatever happened to customer loyalty programs that are all but a thing of the past?

      • hisgirlfriday

        This may be true today, but I actually don’t think this is the true role of a corporation. IMO, its true role is to provide the greatest possible value to its customers and I think we would be a lot better off if that viewpoint were to be collectively adopted by business at large. After all, whatever happened to customer loyalty programs that are all but a thing of the past?

        I’m not sure what you mean by “true role.” If you are talking about an ideal role for corporations in an ideal society, then I agree.

        But in terms of corporate law, corporations have next to nothing to do with customer interests. The executives at Bank of America imposing that new debit card fee that all B of A customers hate are acting in accordance with their fiduciary duty to the shareholders of B of A. That is to whom those B of A executives owe a duty of loyalty and a duty of care – not to B of A customers.

        • Banty

          Actually, the debit use fee is a result of merchant’s fee revenues to the banks, which all consumers paid, being smoked out into the open by a law limiting merchant’s fees. Now, consumers can decide to be customers, or not, and therefore pay that part of the bank revenue stream, or not. The greater good of consumers, is better served by *not* making the good of the customers the goal.

      • Slide

        I actually don’t think this is the true role of a corporation. IMO, its true role is to provide the greatest possible value to its customers and I think we would be a lot better off if that viewpoint were to be collectively adopted by business at large

        That is rather naive and quite frankly, wrong. The role of a corporation is to make a profit for it’s shareholders, period. If a corporation believes that providing value to it’s customers is the appropriate business model to maximize their profits so be it, but it is never the goal in and of itself.

        • zephae

          @HGF: It’s somewhat of an ideal wolrd scenario, but not exactly and i’ll elaborate below

          @Slide: Corporations certainly must make profits for their shareholders, but they depend upon their customers more than investors. I mean, you can’t make money without a decent customer base, and the unyeilding drive to cost-cut, which i think is an out growth of trying to maximize quarterly profits for shareholders rather than long-term success, has actually hurt businesses. Dell is a prime example of that.

          Ultimately, everything that a corporation does depends on customers. Attract them with greater values and most everything else will follow.

  • mannie

    I think these people have a right to be angry. Most all of them played the game, got an education, bought homes, started families, and have now found themselves out on their asses. And while their rage may be misdirected, I think it is rooted in the fact they feel they are feeling all the pain, while the upper class is making out like bandits, and preaching that hoary old saw about “dont taxes on the wealthy because they create the jobs!!”.

  • zephae

    On Mr. Sibler’s bit about corporate personhood:

    Is there any reason that this legal and accounting structure must be treated as though it were a real person (except when it would be to its disadvantage as in, say, criminal activity)? A corporation doesn’t have any money of its own after all, only that of its shareholders, so when it engages in any activity it uses other people’s money to do so. It seems that because investors give their expressed consent for all its commercial activities, it is also assumed this extends to the political sphere as well. Is there any good reason for this when the corp can already lobby and has influence of its own by market power and those it employs? I see no reason to allow any business to use other people’s money to engage in political speech that is very often counter to its shareholder’s personal and political, even financial, interest.

    • hisgirlfriday

      Is there any reason that this legal and accounting structure must be treated as though it were a real person (except when it would be to its disadvantage as in, say, criminal activity)?


      The legal fiction of personhood can be useful just in terms of allowing corps to sue and be sued in court. We extend this same legal fiction of personhood to governmental bodies to allow them to sue and be sued in court as well.

      For example, you can file a lawsuit against your state, or the EPA or your mosquito abatement board even though those things are not people just like you can sue McDonald’s even though it’s not a person.

      Yet we do not extend the legal fiction of personhood when it comes to the state or the EPA or the mosquito abatement board (even though they are chartered creations of the state made up of people managing other people’s money JUST LIKE A CORPORATION) to the point we act like they have the same natural rights of human persons the way that we do for corporations.

      It’s insanity.

  • jamesj

    “Thus the manifesto denounces a supposed inherent lack of accountability in corporations… …These assertions suffer from a lack of cogency.”

    I own and run an S-Corp. The very point of corporate charterhood is to insulate a human being from some of the downside risks involved in running a business. This inherent lack of the usual accountability encourages enterprise and investment. It also encourages bigger risk taking and negative externalities by any measure. It is clearly a form of regulation or distortion in an otherwise free market. A free market would subject men to the full upside potential and downside risk of their actions and investments.

    Just sayin’… the general point must be considered logically true by the very definition of what a corporation is, despite your claim that the specific examples raised in this manifesto lack cogency (which I mostly agree with).

  • Kenneth Silber

    Those of you claiming that corporations do nothing to enhance accountability, please explain this situation:


    >>The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said Tuesday that it fined Merrill Lynch $1 million for supervisory failures that allowed a financial advisor at a branch in San Antonio to use a Merrill account to operate a Ponzi scheme. <<

    If there were no legally recognized, unified entity such as Merrill Lynch — that is, no legal person accountable other than the fraudulent financial advisor — there would be far less prospect for justice or compensation, to say the least. In fact, the crime might never have been spotted, as it was Merrill that alerted regulators when it found irregularities in its accounts.

  • more5600

    It is unfortunate that this wasn’t the immediate reaction to the crisis back in 2008, there is nothing wrong with strong populist movements, especially forming at the grassroots level. While the Tea Party was largely an astroturf creation, the underlying anger was real, but instead of going after the actual people responsible they where co-opted by the Koch Bros. and Dick Army’s TP Express, so they chased conspiracy theories and straw men. They are rightfully angry but horribly misguided. Odd that a person like Santelli, who made his career on Wall Street would be the catalyst for such a movement but it does explain how they wondered so far afield.

  • gmckee1985

    These Wall Street protesters are the lowest scum on the earth. Go take a bath, get a job flipping burgers and get life.

    • Nanotek

      Exactly. How dare working people fight back against the GOP’s class warfare.

      Looks like they intend to take back their country.

  • seadonkey

    n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

    The problem with corporate personhood in many cases is that it allows consequences for bad-faith actions committed by ‘real’ people to be shifted to the corporation. This drastically changes the incentives for such actions, and as we all know, incentives matter.