Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was holding forth at the Iowa State Fair today, and ran into some trouble with a rowdy crowd. Asked about the idea of raising corporate tax rates to cover entitlement spending, Romney replied, “Corporations are people, my friend.”
The hecklers didn’t like this, so Romney continued, “Of course they are! Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people!” When they laughed, he laughed right back at them, asking “Where do you think it goes?”
The instant reaction is that this was a terrible gaffe on Romney’s part, creating a ready-made campaign commercial for Democrats to run against him… even if he was “not technically wrong,” as Sophie Quinton of National Journal generously allows.
He’s not technically wrong — the legal doctrine of ‘corporate personhood’ grants businesses many of the same rights as people. Corporations are, after all, formed by individuals — a point Romney went on to make. The doctrine of corporate personhood had a major impact on the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision, which allowed political action committees to raise and spend unlimited funds providing they don’t coordinate with a candidate or a campaign.
Not only are corporations “formed” by individuals, they are staffed and managed by them. Individuals are the stockholders, too… and not just whiskered Monopoly guys in top hats. Investment funds and retirement plans make countless middle-class Americans into investors.
I would have made a further point in Romney’s place: corporations do not pay taxes. They pass those taxes along to consumers. That would include the childish buffoons laughing at Mitt Romney. No tax is more insidiously hidden from the people who ultimately pay it than taxes levied against corporations. Using companies as revenue targets helps to keep the masses sedated, and indulges the delusion that they can have plump, juicy government benefits without anyone really having to “pay” for them.
The United States already has brutally high corporate tax rates, and they’re one of the most regressive factors for economic and employment growth. Imagine the explosion of business expansion and hiring that would occur if they were eliminated! But we can’t have that, because companies are evil and must be made to suffer, when they’re not serving as piñatas stuffed with highly compensated jobs for deserving people. We want them to grow and expand their payrolls, but all proceeds from their growth should be handed over to the all-wise State for redistribution.
Corporations loom in socialist fantasy as faceless, inhuman entities that convert the labor of exploited workers into gold and jewels for the idle rich. It’s about time we ditched this infantile nonsense, because the people peddling it are greasing the slope for American decline.
Correction: I had incorrectly quoted Romney as saying “Corporations are people too, my friend,” and have corrected the quote.