When Corporations Run the US Government, by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

What happens when you allow corporations to run our government?

What you get is plunder. And I have to say this, the American people have to understand that there is a huge difference between free market capitalism, which is a good thing because it makes us more efficient, more prosperous, and more democratic, and the kind of corporate-crony capitalism which has been embraced by this (Bush) White House.

The reason they shouldn’t be running our government is because corporations don’t want the same thing for America as Americans want. Corporations do not want free markets and they do not want democracy. They want profits and the best way for them to get the profits too often is to use our campaign financing system which is just a system of legalized bribery, to get their hooks into a public official, they use that public official to dismantle the market place, to give them monopoly control, and then to privatize the commons, to turn over our Treasury, our air, our water, our public lands, our wildlife, our fishery, the shared resource of our society that give context to our community, that connects us to our past, that are the source of our values and our virtues and our character as a people, and we are turning that over, for profit, to these corporations.

We have to remember this, legally corporations cannot do good things. They cannot do true philanthropy, they can’t do things that are good for our country or for our community. When you see Wal-Mart bringing bottled water down to the Katrina victims, they’re not doing that to be good guys, they’re doing it because they think that over the long run the public view of them will be enhanced and that that will enhance their shareholder value and their dividend distribution. If they have another reason for doing it, any one of their shareholders can sue them and they will win that lawsuit. It is called wasting corporate assets. It is against the law in this country for a corporation to turn itself into a philanthropy. And if they’re caught doing it their board members will be punished and their shareholders can sue them.

We want corporations to be this way, to focus narrowly. We don’t want them to turn into philanthropies because nobody would invest in them. We want them to focus narrowly on shareholder value.
BUT, we would be nuts to let them anywhere near our government because we designed them to plunder and that’s what they’re going to do to us if we let them run our country. That’s what they’re doing now. That’s why from the beginning of our national history, our greatest political leaders, Republicans and Democrats, have been warning Americans against the domination of corporate power.

Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, said that America would never be destroyed by a foreign enemy, by an Osama bin Laden, but he warned that our Bill of Rights, our Constitution and our treasured democratic institutions would be subverted by malefactors of great wealth who would steal them from within.

Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, in his most famous speech ever warned Americans against a domination by the military industrial complex. Abraham Lincoln, the greatest Republican in history, said during the height of the Civil War in 1863, “I have the South in front of me and I have the bankers behind me and for my country I fear the bankers more.”

Franklin Roosevelt, during World War II, said that the domination of government by corporate power is “the essence of Fascism.” Benito Mussolini, who had an insider’s view of that process, said essentially the same thing. He complained that Fascism should not be called Fascism; it should be called Corporatism because it was the merger of state and corporate power.

What we have to understand in this country is that the domination of business by government is called Communism and the domination of government by business is called Fascism.

Our job is to walk that narrow trail between free market capitalism and democracy, holding big-government at bay with our right hand and big-business at bay with our left. And in order to do that we need an informed public that is able to recognize all the milestones of tyranny. To do that we need an aggressive and independent press that is willing to stand up and speak truth to power, and we no longer have that in the United States of America.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
New York City – May 2, 2004

Mr. Kennedy acts as Chief Prosecuting Attorney for Riverkeeper. He also serves as Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and as President of the Waterkeeper Alliance. At Pace University School of Law, he is a Clinical Professor and Supervising Attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic in White Plains, New York. Earlier in his career Mr. Kennedy served as Assistant District Attorney in New York City.