Monday, December 18, 2017
Perspective

Weingarten: A future take on company men

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2027 — In his inaugural address, President Kraft Foods promised Tuesday that America would continue fostering the business-friendly atmosphere begun under his predecessor, President Jiffy Lube. The incoming and outgoing Republican heads of state were accompanied, as always, by their chiefs of staff, corporate mascots "Cheesasaurus Rex" and "Lubie," the dancing drop of motor oil, respectively.

 

WASHINGTON

The recent Hobby Lobby ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court was controversial mostly because it seemed to assert that freedom of religion trumps the right to affordable health care. But there was a second, less reported effect: It solidified and extended the court's contention that corporations are people. Now, large businesses not only have the right of free speech, as defined by political donations, but also the right to practice their faith, as defined by the ability to deny employees birth control measures of which the company disapproves.

Why stop there? If a corporation is a person, why can't it run for president, so long as it meets the constitutional mandate of being at least 35 years old and having been born in the United States? (This would enable a President Bed Bath & Beyond but draw the line at President Five Guys, who is still a callow 28, and also at President Adidas, who was born in Germany.)

But there might be other problems for these newly human corporate entities. As a colleague of mine observed, if corporations are people, how can they be owned by people? That sort of thing has been illegal for a century and a half. I suppose you could still own some stocks — "You wan' a piece a me?" is a very human question — but surely not more than 50 percent, which would imply true ownership. Perhaps we need a lawsuit or two to force a lot of plutocrats to divest their portfolios.

Okay, just spitballing here, but let's say, in the future, two corporations want to combine their assets and liabilities and become a joint entity united in a common cause. As corporations, this is a "merger," but as people, it is "marriage," plain and simple, which raises the obvious question, which we ask now with all appropriate suspicion and conservatively narrowed eyes: Just what kind of a marriage is this? To know, you'd have to know the sex of the corporations, which perhaps the law will define as the majority gender on the board of directors.

I think we know where this is going: What if these merging corporations are from states that don't allow same-sex marriage? I'm guessing same-sex marriage might rather quickly become the law of the land.

This is a promising line of speculation!

Okay, now let's say that one corporate-human entity wants to merge with another, but the second one doesn't want that to happen, and resists. In the rough-and-tumble world of big-stakes high finance, this scenario occurs from time to time. It is a perfectly legitimate if singularly nasty tool of titans called the "hostile takeover." Hewlett-Packard famously did this to Compaq, and corporate raider Carl Icahn famously did this to TWA, and in each case they had their way with the weaker, unwilling partner, and no one went to jail.

But as a person, if a corporation forces another corporate-person to merge with them — well, that is a different matter altogether, a matter for the criminal courts, ideally involving long prison sentences.

So, for the record, Supreme Court, I'm conditionally in favor of this corporation-as-person paradigm, so long as you take it to its logical conclusion.

© 2014 Washington Post Writers Group

Comments

President Trump isnít watching too much TV; itís just the wrong kind.

By JAMES PONIEWOZIKBecause President Donald Trump has said he is a reader ó big-league reader, reads documents, the best documents ó I hope that he is reading this, and not, say, watching a Fox & Friends recording on the gigantic flat-screen TV that ...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17
PolitiFact: What you need to know about net neutrality

PolitiFact: What you need to know about net neutrality

The Federal Communications Commissionís vote to scrap Obama-era internet restrictions creates the potential for broadband providers like Frontier and Spectrum to divide their networks into fast lanes and slow lanes, throttle rivalsí video-streaming s...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17

Perspective: Sexual harassment training doesnít work, but some things do.

Many people are familiar with typical corporate training to prevent sexual harassment: clicking through a PowerPoint, checking a box that you read the employee handbook or attending a mandatory seminar at which someone lectures about harassment while...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17

12Thatís how many cans of Diet Coke President Donald Trump drinks each day, according to the New York Times.3 timesThatís how much likelier farmed salmon are to be partially deaf than their wild relatives. Scientists at the University of Melbourne de...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Perspective: The year Santa Claus didnít come

Perspective: The year Santa Claus didnít come

The doctor studied the glob of puss oozing from the patchwork of scabs along my one-year-old sonís left index finger."Itís definitely infected. And you have no idea when or how it happened?"He didnít say it, but hereís what I heard next in my head: "...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Perspective: An economist explains how to sort facts from fictions

Perspective: An economist explains how to sort facts from fictions

In public debates about economic policy, it can be hard to separate real insights from political posturing. But a few simple rules of thumb can help.Start with information you can count on. Crucial economic statistics ó like the unemployment rate, in...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/14/17
News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds

News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds

If all you knew about black families was what national news outlets reported, you are likely to think African Americans are overwhelmingly poor, reliant on welfare, absentee fathers and criminals, despite what government data show, according to the r...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Perspective: Is the GOP tax plan an unprecedented windfall for the wealthy? We look at 50 years of data to find out.

Perspective: Is the GOP tax plan an unprecedented windfall for the wealthy? We look at 50 years of data to find out.

The Democrats say President Donald Trumpís tax cuts are a massive giveaway to the rich, the most unequal overhaul of the U.S. tax system in modern history. Republicans argue they are a huge middle class tax cut ó "a great, big, beautiful Christmas pr...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Perspective: Guilt can be good for your kid

Guilt can be a complicated element in the parent-child equation; we feel guilty, they feel guilty, we may make them feel guilty and then feel guilty about that. But certain kinds of guilt are a healthy part of child development.Tina Malti, a professo...
Published: 12/04/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Perspective: Why trying new things is so hard to do

Perspective: Why trying new things is so hard to do

By SENDHIL MULLAINATHANI drink a lot of Diet Coke: 2 liters a day, almost six cansí worth. Iím not proud of the habit, but I really like the taste of Diet Coke.As a frugal economist, Iím well aware that switching to a generic brand would save me mone...
Published: 12/03/17
Updated: 12/07/17