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It’s Time to Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty


It’s Time to Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty

Thom Hartmann

“The prevalence of the corporation in America has led men of this generation to act, at times, as if the privilege of doing business in corporate form were inherent in the citizen, and has led them to accept the evils attendant upon the free and unrestricted use of the corporate mechanism as if these evils were the inescapable price of civilized life, and, hence to be borne with resignation.

“Throughout the greater part of our history, a different view prevailed.


Yes, we do need rules. We need to enforce them, as well. Capitalism has some attractions, but like everything else, it needs rules. Although there is no such thing as “free market” capitalism, because in fact countries like the US actively break or overrule the freedom of market forces in order to protect their own industries (nationalism) and individual businesses and sectors (simple corruption), but this is always on the side of the corporation, and wealthy elite, and not the common citizen. I was married to a Russian woman who preferred capitalism to communism, noting that when people don’t have a personal stake in their productivity, they aren’t ultimately very productive. But allowing people to act in a free-for-all, creating vast corporations answerable to no one, results in what we have, particularly in the US. You would never place a bunch of small children in a room and allow them to share, all on their own, a birthday cake, without oversight, because there will always be someone who takes more than their fair share. Adults are no different. We need to combine capitalism with limits: limits to total wealth, to income, minimum limits on taxation (the rich must pay at least X amount) because otherwise, we have what we have now: a nation with 90% of the private wealth concentrated in 1% of the population while a very large percentage of the population has real trouble simply surviving. Limiting personal wealth to, for example, $50 million will not result in ambitious people refusing to work and preferring to sit around and drink or ask for government handouts and just manage to squeak by - no, they will try their hardest to get “to the top” or to have more than others or to become wealthy enough to have everything they could ever reasonably want to have. And rules regarding minimum pay would allow everyone to have the opportunity to not only get by, but prosper and not worry about not having enough money to deal with the unfortunate possibility of becoming ill, losing one’s job, taking a vacation, having enough to eat…


Want to get their attention?

Set a minimum corporate tax rate of 40%.

With no exceptions.


A good history lessons “it is not our first rodeo”. There was a reason the United States of America was formed and broke away from the King of England and the big tea conglomerate company/corporation of the day.

I would be a genius if I remembered everything I’ve learned from Thom Hartmann over the last 15 years. I do have a little bit of a problem with his insistence that we worked thru the dem party which I feel is a huge conglomerate corrupted by power/money and since Clinton does not deserve to exist as it does not work for the interest of the people.


The corporate death penalty is a prerequisite to democracy being born.
Unfortunately, we do not have socially accountable governments to do the job properly - that’s why they are called corporate governance.
Waking up from illusion is hard to do. Faux democracy is a bad dream that won’t go away under Pub and Dem rule.


I too believe in “capitalism”; but I treat it as a game. All “games” need rules. The rules we had/have were/are “regulations”. Those regulations (rules) have been eroded over our historical existence all in the name of, “free markets”. Until there is no such thing as “free markets”; only those that can be overseen/controlled in some way shape or manner by corporations thru their monetary control of our legislators. To have passed Citizens United is to have validated: “Kill them all and let God sort them out” kind of society.
Our first step towards real freedom is the overturning of that infamous legislation: Citizens United. Until then we are simply slaves.


Keep in mind that the Justice system itself is part of what can be described as a criminal cabal.

Take the example of Wells Fargo. They recently agreed to pay a fine of 575 million to all the states in the Union and in return will not be prosecuted for Criminal activity. That criminal activity netted them far more then 575 million dollars in the way of profits.

That 575 million dollars now flows to the States as “revenues”.

The State took a cut from the proceeds of crime in return promising not to prosecute those that committed the crimes. The State “profits” off crime and this means when it comes to White Collar or Corporate crime there no real incentive to end it. The Corporation exists to ensure the persons investing in such enterprises can never be charged.


Just the opposite: corporations give sovereign nations the death penalty for acting against the corporate good. The USA gives the corporations their muscle, on steroids, to impose the death penalty. This was out in the open during the Eisenhower administration when Guatemala was given the death penalty for trying to buy back land from United Fruit at the tax valuation price. America imposed the death penalty on the Chilean government when Nixon/Kissinger thought newly-elected President Allende would nationalize the assets of American companies. Iraq is another high-profile example of the death penalty (Sadam refusing foreign oil company “investment”). Death penalty advocate John Bolton has condemned Iran, much as Hillary Clinton condemned Libya. So the corporate death penalty is alive and thriving in the Washington swamp. So when will the corporations finally give our own government of the USA the death penalty? It’s coming…


The regulations Hartman mentioned combined with FDR’s New Deal corporate regulations (especially banking regulations) kept the 1% under control and the 99% thriving until Saint Ron’s 1981 ascension to the throne in 1981 launched the decriminalization of those regulations that has resulted in more corporate control of gubmit than ever.

PG&E is an outlier as most corporations are getting away with far more egregious crimes that are not the headline grabbing crimes PG&E has come to be known for.


Nothing really keeps the 1 percent under control. The only legitimate way to keep them under control is to ensure a system where there can not be a 1 percent. With FDR rules these guys where still doing things like leaning on Governments to perform coups in place like Guatemala because re-dstributing the land to poor people would impact profits.


Why bother with a corporate death penalty? CEOs can hide their assets in anticipation of revocation and rise again in another name. The CEO of Lehmann Brothers sold his house to his wife for $100 to protect his assets. Tax finaglers like Trump overvalue or undervalue their assets as it suits their profit.

If these corporations are killing people, why not have an actual death penalty, or life in prison for their CEOs? The biggest finagle in the corporate liability game is CEOs pretending they had no idea all this was happening. It would make sense that if they knew that playing the “I dunno” game could cost their lives, they might take an interest in what their businesses are doing.


I’m sure they’ll get right on that, thom. i mean, it’s not as if the US government isn’t corporate occupied territory or anything like that.


Actually, I believe it was Tom Scott who invented the holding company as a means of buying up all the small railroad companies in the South without them knowing that this was being done by a Northerner during the reconstruction, in order to eventually build the Southern Pacific railway that crossed the country for the first time. He was incorporated in Pennsylvania (see “Gangs of America” by Ted Nace).

And you’re missing the most important question of all, which is whether PG&E’s shareholders should be held liable? Limited liability is what enables capital without responsibility, and ultimately drives the CEO’s of companies like PG&E to cut corners (and worse). Getting rid of it would have the further benefit of essentially forcing every business to be a cooperative in which everyone looks out for one another just to protect themselves. That would also eliminate the desire of companies to not just live forever but also grow without limit, like a cancer.


Ohhh, YES. And with public, or even televised trials.


I wonder how much stake the average American worker actually has in his or her productivity. Corporate profits don’t shower down on the workers, but on the shareholders and C-Suite…


Capitalism is the economic system of our democracy.
It is far past time that democracy acts in the interests of the people.
Capitalism, if it is to continue to exist, must subvert itself to our democracy, a government by and for the people.
Capitalism must take a back seat.

It must bow to what is best for the nation.
Time for the people to take the reins of government.


“We need a capitalist system with limits. Limits on wealth, income, taxation, absurd wealth for the 1% while far too many have trouble simply surviving. Rules on minimum wage should allow anyone to not only get by, but to prosper and not worry about terrible outcomes of family illnesses that become disabling and losing an income.”

I really liked this basic salvaged rough edit, but I wanted to add the specific “Misuse of Money” - how or what the wealthy invest in. Coal/oil/gas, WMD stocks, luxury air travel, vacation suites, landlord and slumlord car-dependent housing, profits that exploit suffering. Mr Bill Gate’s latest missive unfortunately does not include converting cars to EVs nor rooftop PV panels to match and complement any utility grid. Whoops? Mr Bill likes self-driving cars, so he says, and he wants us to wait for that. He’s lying.


No secret settlements and no writing off fines as part of doing business.
No more fines that are less than profits gained from the violations. All these protection only guarantee criminal behavior will continue because it is profitable even after judgements or fines to be criminal.


First bring back the death penalty for politicians.


With advent of the “corporations are people” crap in 2008, maybe putting some liability in the collective lap(s) of shareholders would be a good way to limit what corporations can get away with. Bust the corporations, and then go after the shareholders “jointly and separately”. That could start to chip away some of the trustee relationships that often substitute for individual, retail share ownership.