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Intro: "Despite what the Supreme Court and Mitt Romney say, corporations aren't people. (I’ll believe they are when Georgia and Texas start executing them.)"

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

The Corporate Pledge of Allegiance

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

08 November 11


espite what the Supreme Court and Mitt Romney say, corporations aren't people. (I'll believe they are when Georgia and Texas start executing them.)

The Court thinks corporations have First Amendment rights to spend as much as they want on politics, and Romney (and most of his fellow Regressives) think they need lower taxes and fewer regulations in order to be competitive.

These positions are absurd on their face. By flooding our democracy with their shareholders' money, big corporations are violating their shareholders' First Amendment rights because shareholders aren't consulted. They're simultaneously suppressing the First Amendment rights of the rest of us because, given how much money they're throwing around, we don't have enough money to be heard.

And they're indirectly giving non-Americans (that is, all their foreign owners, investors, and executives) a say in how Americans are governed. Pardon me for being old-fashioned but I didn't think foreign money was supposed to be funneled into American elections.

Romney's belief big corporations need more money and lower costs in order to create jobs is equally baffling. Big corporations are now sitting on $2 trillion of cash and enjoying near-record profits. The ratio of profits to wages is higher than it's been since before the Great Depression. And a larger and larger portion of those profits are going to top executives. (CEO pay was 40 times the typical worker in the 1980s; it's now upwards of 300 times.)

But, hey, if the Supreme Court and regressive Republicans insist big corporations are people and want to treat them as American citizens, then why not demand big corporations take a pledge of allegiance to the United States?

And if they don't take the pledge, we should boycott them. (Occupiers - are you listening?)

Here's what a Corporate Pledge of Allegiance might look like:

The Corporate Pledge of Allegiance to the United States

The [fill in blank] company pledges allegiance to the United States of America. To that end:

We pledge to create more jobs in the United States than we create outside the United States, either directly or in our foreign subsidiaries and subcontractors.

If we have to lay off American workers, we will give them severance payments equal to their weekly wage times the number of weeks they've worked for us.

We further pledge that no more than 20 percent of our total labor costs will be outsourced abroad.

We pledge to keep a lid on executive pay so no executive is paid more than 50 times the median pay of American workers. We define "pay" to include salary, bonuses, health benefits, pension benefits, deferred salary, stock options, and every other form of compensation.

We pledge to pay at least 30 percent of money earned in the United States in taxes to the United States. We won't shift our money to offshore tax havens and won't use accounting gimmicks to fake how much we earn.

We pledge not to use our money to influence elections.

Companies that make the pledge are free to use it in their ads over the Christmas shopping season.

Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet," "Supercapitalism" and his latest book, "AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America's Future." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on and iTunes. your social media marketing partner


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+39 # BradFromSalem 2011-11-08 19:29
I have to disagree with Robert Reich on this one. Even if a corporation was to take such a pledge, they are sure to create puppet corporations. These puppets will then go about business as usual, while the name brand corporation gets to boast about what a good citizen it is.

If corporations want to be treated like people then subject them to the same disclosure rules and limits that real people are subject to. If their actions lead to another person's injury or death subject them to the same penalties as humans.


We could just change the Constitution to clarify the issue, impose regulations and restrictions on corporate activities and corporate governance. Establish usury laws and enforce anti-trust laws.
+20 # pbbrodie 2011-11-09 07:52
I believe you missed Mr. Reich's point. He wasn't saying to replace all of the things you suggest with his pledge, he wants to add this to everything you suggested. He didn't even so much as suggest doing so.
+20 # pbbrodie 2011-11-09 07:55
I forgot to mention that Mr. Reich's idea doesn't require any laws to be passed, isn't subject o obfuscation and filibuster by the Party of No, and can be implemented immediately, while still pursuing all of the solutions you outlined. What's to disagree with?
+1 # BradFromSalem 2011-11-09 09:00
Because as I noted the corporations would use such a pledge as a cover story so that they can claim that real solutions are not be needed. It creates an illusion of reigning in corporate power, but its only a diversion.
+13 # GROVIE 2011-11-09 11:03


+3 # mwd870 2011-11-09 14:05
Taking this pledge would be a token of good faith, but it would be difficult to monitor corporations who could use it as nothing more than a way to placate consumers.

Still good ideas, even expressed as a pledge, are a step in the right direction. We need to push for the enforcement of existing financial regulations and enact laws to keep Wall Street from continuing to suck the wealth out of the economy (one of Dylan Ratigan's descriptive phrases).
+24 # Unca Mikey 2011-11-08 21:47
A tiny but wonderful start.
+23 # reiverpacific 2011-11-09 00:06
My Gawd, if I could get my hands on just $20,000-$30,000 right now (pocket change to the owner class), I could put three people to work and with some marketing help, probably more + a couple of apprenticeships ! But I'm struggling myself just to stay afloat from a relatively prosperous business base four years ago.
I don't particularly want to be stinkin' rich financially; just self-sustaining and secure based on merit and pride in what I produce but I see so many broken and broken-hearted people around me right now who just want to keep their families, homes and hearths together but have given up looking.
It's that simple and so should the answer be.
As such, we aren't in a position to move offshore, even if we wanted to and are community-based for the most part. We are the potential AMERICAN lubricants of the recovery which would spread globally if supported by those who could, but the power-drunk and blind can only see the top of the mountain, which is being limited by their beltway-only inward-vision.
Make the job-robbers pay and lend at sustainable interest rates and sustainable growth would surely result!
Support and enable Credit Unions and Local banks to support us.
And finally, get rid of the three, Bank-financed Credit Bureaus!
+38 # Vivelevin 2011-11-09 00:23
Can corporations get married? We know they are already in bed with each other, and the politicians.
+18 # Okieangels 2011-11-09 09:02
Promiscuity really doesn't count as "married."
+17 # BradFromSalem 2011-11-09 09:04
If they are people, then they can. But only to a corporation of the opposite sex. Actually thats a good idea. If corporations can get married then they could be arrested for rape every time they f--k a non consenting human.
+6 # AndreM5 2011-11-09 09:52
That's got nothing to do with marriage. It is slavery and abuse.
+15 # Barbara N Shabo RN 2011-11-09 00:46
Sign on to Dylan Ratigan's "take money" petition to outlaw politicians taking bribes from these corporations. (Not to mention Clarence Thomas and other conservatives being wined and dined by the Koch brothers).
+15 # Regina 2011-11-09 01:25
If there is a corporation that ingests (not merely "consumes") food when hungry, bleeds when stabbed, vomits on exposure to a nauseating substance, and soils its pants when delayed en route to a bathroom, that corporation may be considered eligible for Constitutional rights intended and enacted for people. It must also obey limits set for people, such as maximum contributions to election candidates.
+5 # BradFromSalem 2011-11-09 09:11

Not a good argument.

They consume our natural resources.
Bleed jobs when their profit line is cut.
Vomits poisons into our environment.
And repeatedly shits all over everyone.

They are not people for the simple reason that they are an artificial entity created by people. (For those that are religious, are we equal to God? God created us, and even though we are made in God's image, we are not equal or above God)
+16 # tvya 2011-11-09 01:40
Didn't that great Republican Abe Lincoln close the Gettysburg address with: that government of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation., or am I rewriting history as some republicans do?
-5 # BradFromSalem 2011-11-09 09:13

You got it wrong. Abe, like modern day Republicans, was way ahead of his time and had already decided that corporations are people.
+5 # jabo13 2011-11-10 05:48
Actually, LL, Lincoln is on record as fearing the takeover of our national life by the corporations and money interests.
+30 # Ralph Averill 2011-11-09 02:13
I agree with the sentiment and the lesson of the metaphor; corporations are not people. They are human inventions with no heart or soul of their own. The Supreme Court ruling endowing corporations with the same rights as human beings is as absurd as the Supreme Court ruling that money, another human invention, equals speech.
+2 # KittatinyHawk 2011-11-09 18:35
Believe in order to be on Supreme Court you cannot have heart or soul
+18 # Pangur Uaine 2011-11-09 05:21
Here's the real corporate pledge of allegiance:

+2 # tedrey 2011-11-09 05:36
I think you don't really ""disagree" with Reich, LL. Your approaches are not mutually exclusive. But his at least helps starkly show up the hypocrisy of the corporations, while suggesting "subjecting them to disclosure laws," or "changing the Constitution" is wasting time on things we know just are not going to happen within the present economic and political scheme of things.
+1 # BradFromSalem 2011-11-09 09:17

See my response to pbbrodie.

In short, implementing RR's idea would create an illusory cover story for corporations and further delay implementing real solutions.

I do hope the RR is using his pledge as a rhetorical device to demonstrate how false the corporate personhood theory is.
+4 # gentle 2011-11-09 06:40
I am in complete agreement with Robert's tact. Corporations should be subjected to grievous bodily harm due to impulsive and "less than lethal" police actions. It's the only fair and balanced thing to do. Let's stack the cards and pass tort reform measures, so when this happens to a corporation,the y still can live a full and productive life without becoming a burden to the state.
+6 # lin96 2011-11-09 06:46
Too bad it's taken this long for people to begin speaking up this way. I don't believe the people trust anyone in power. Congress has illustrated that they just plain don't care about the people who put them in there in the first place. They're arrogant and self-serving. Why else would Mitch McConnell say his only goal was to make sure President Obama didn't get re-elected when we have the worst ecomonic crisis in my lifetime? The Democrats do not stand behind the President and the silence of both parties is deafening while protests are going on all over the world. It only proves we need to clean house and put people in Congress who are FOR the country and the people.
+5 # Rita Walpole Ague 2011-11-09 06:50
Robert Reich,, what a good heart and great brain you have. I hate to be a 'meanie', but, in this case, I do believe we have to return to basic behaviour modification - praise and reward the good/givers, and punish and penalize the evil (greed and power addicted banks/corps./mi c and oilies).

I like your suggestion to the OWSers to push boycotting the above evil aforementioned - good way to recognize their evil ways and punish 'em. We the sheeple need to get out of consumption and spend m.o..

And, then, it's up to we, the 99%, to get 'pols. with balls' and good. caring souls elected (no Tea Partiers allowed), and kick out of office the Kochsuckers.
+13 # Marjory Munson 2011-11-09 07:10
We need to "unperson" corporations.
+22 # Barbara K 2011-11-09 07:26
Where's the birth certificates? As long as big corps don't have legal birth certificates, they are not a person. They are businesses run by persons, and that is all they are. They don't eat, drink, live, die and have funerals, have doctor bills or check-ups, nothing that persons go thru.
+14 # BradFromSalem 2011-11-09 09:19
+30 # Pufferly 2011-11-09 07:26
It was wrong in 1886 and it's wrong now: corporations are not people, and money is not speech, as every schoolchild knows (but not the 5 tools on the Supreme Court). If money is speech, billionaires are eloquent and persuasive and the rest of us are deaf mutes. We either reject Citizens United or we continue on the slippery road to a theofascist police state. We're already at the second toll booth.
+20 # 2011-11-09 07:58
Since corporations cannot vote they should play no role in elections and should not have any rights to contribute funds. For that matter, only a person entitled to vote for a candidate should have any right to donate funds, otherwise an outsider is interfering with the implicit contract for the elected official to represent his or her electorate.

Contributions should be limited to $50 per person, so as to make them too small to gain any personal hold over the candidate, should they be elected.
+7 # futhark 2011-11-09 08:27
The Pledge of Allegiance is an oath of fealty to a power at a higher level of a hierarchical scale. It is a betrayal of the American Revolution, which was fought to establish the sovereignty of the People. The Pledge of Allegiance inverts the principle of the sovereignty of the People over other social institutions that should be instruments for the advancement of the People's welfare. Government officials and corporations need to pledge allegiance to the People in order that the People should empower them to act and to certify that they will act responsibly on behalf of the People.
+9 # pernsey 2011-11-09 08:37
Honestly, I feel like lobbying, gifts, or any donations should not be allowed. I think there should be a fund with a certain amount of money in it for each major presidential candidate, and when its gone its gone. If they cant budget their own presidential election budget that would say way more about the candidate then any words they could say would.

I think our whole system needs to change before the corporation rule over our government will end. If you make new laws they will just find loop holes to get around them.

Its amazing to me, how many people are so misinformed. Yesterday I over heard someone say if we have flat taxes that would end corporate lobbying...I would like to know how that works?

Corporations need to get out of the peoples way in government.

+3 # fredboy 2011-11-09 09:11
Recently corporate types in Collier County, FL, where the lakes and beachfronts are ravaged by fertilizer-gene rated bacteria, told me they need more secrecy. More secrecy. Amazing.
+12 # Buddha 2011-11-09 09:58
I know it sounds goofy, but wouldn't it be great if we had a law where all our politicians, whenever they are making a speech or public comment, that they have to be wearing a suit with the Corporate Logos of their top 10 campaign donors stitched on it, like NASCAR drivers? Their top donor is on a baseball cap. When some politician is going on about how Global Warming is a myth, having decals of Exxon and BP on their suit would certainly make viewers take their statements with a grain of salt.
+12 # PatriotPaul 2011-11-09 10:36
Journalists simply must ask every presidential candidate their position on corporate personhood and the Supreme Court ruling. This should be a deal breaker for any voter.

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"
+7 # artful 2011-11-09 11:31
Since big banks seem to have joined the ranks of organized crime, I would love to see corporations tried for their crimes and then sentenced to prison--not sure how that would work, but I'm sure our corrupt Supreme Court could figure it out.
+3 # KittatinyHawk 2011-11-09 18:45
If we start making them take Pledges then we give them personhood. Better to fight on the level we have now.

Right now we musto continue on our course, boycott, take our money to better places, do not use credit cards. Little steps will show them we are moving onward.

Buy what you need, there will be other Holidays,Birthd ays. spend within our means. Remember who is poisoning people, who are hurting their people, put referendums on yur took small groups of people to make changes this election. For all your words here, use them to get Laws Changed. Stop bitchin and do something otherwise you are no different than those you criticize.
+6 # Martha Luehrmann 2011-11-09 22:40
Well done, Bob! And would you please check my memory? I thought there were limits on how much a PERSON could contribute to a campaign -- like about $1,000 -- if corporations are people, shouldn't they be subject to the same limitation?
+4 # publiusinnyc 2011-11-10 05:58
Professor Reich is correct that corporate political expenditures violate shareholders' First Amendment rights. There is a long line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions holding that Unions cannot spend dues money of members on politics without their consent. The same principle should apply to corporations to prohibit simialr expenditures. manner.
+2 # jabo13 2011-11-10 06:07
Corporations are required by law to put their shareholders interests first, above those of the community (including the world community). Having no corporeal substance, they aren't subject to "health" concerns or natural death. Focused on profit, they seek cost-reductions wherever they may be found (layoffs, environmental corner-cutting) . Given the above, and literally having no conscience, they cannot/do not stop themselves from doing harm. Only an insanely greedy culture could enable them with the rights of natural persons.
+1 # Frankie44 2011-11-11 13:18
Mr. Reich says that corporations are indirectly giving non-Americans a say in our elections. I don't see anything "indirect" about it. If a foreign interest, such as the Chinese Communist Party, wants to have a say in the 2012 presidential election, it can simply hire a campaign consultant and pay for ads to help its favorite candidate. There's nothing indirect about it.
0 # mainecitizen_too 2011-11-13 13:59
I think reciting the last line of the Declaration of Independence upon which the principles of the United States of America were written, and the reason why the United States fought to be separate, free, and independent of England or the British crown, should be sufficient.

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

But, apparently that is not enough.

Perhaps, I should add some definitions to the statement.

“For support,” or to keep from failing, “this Declaration, with firm reliance,” trust or confidence “on the protection of divine Providence,” loyalty, dependability, devotion, trustworthiness , and reliability to God and/or nature, “we mutually,” two or more for or toward the others, share, or have in common, “pledge,” or promise “to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor,” or loyalty, dependability, devotion, trustworthiness , and reliability to RESPECT, each other and each other's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thank you,
0 # mainecitizen_too 2011-11-13 13:59
P.S. I think anyone who throws that away could also be throwing away their citizenship.

P.P.S. We replaced the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution, but we did not throw out the Declaration of Independence and the paper on which it was written. It still sits as one of the Charters of Freedom in Washington, D.C..

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