Finally, Mitt Romney admitted publicly what too many Republican politicians — and plenty of Democrats, too — really think about we, the people. "Corporations are people," the former Massachusetts governor pronounced.
And there you have it: Our inalienable rights, as Americans, or more broadly as humans, turn out to be neither special nor exclusive. The unavoidable implication of Mr. Romney's statement is that corporations should have the same rights as citizens.
Corporations and people are similar in some ways, of course. People make babies to have other people; corporations spin off subsidiaries to create little corporations. There are differences, too: Through payroll and income taxes, people account for about 80 percent of federal revenues, whereas corporations contribute about 10 percent. (Surprised by that ratio? The corporations aren't.)
Given the increasing corporate control over our governments, universities, mass media and cultural institutions, it is therefore time to craft a Constitution befitting the age of corporate personhood. Substituting language here and there from that silly, antiquated people's Constitution, I offer this first draft:
"We the Executives of the United Corporations, in Order to form a more perfect Balance Sheet, establish consumer dependence, insure domestic Servility, promote the general stock share, and secure the Blessings of an unregulated labor market for our shareholders and our Profits, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United Corporations of America.
The House of Stakeholders shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the several Corporations. No Person shall be a Stakeholder who has not served as Chief Executive Officer or Board Chairman of a Corporation on which he — and since the vast majority of CEOs and board chairmen are men, we do mean "he" — served. The Number of Stakeholders for each Corporation shall be apportioned based on each Corporation's market capitalization, but each Corporation shall have at Least one Stakeholder.
"The Senate of the United Corporations shall be composed of two Senators from each Corporation, chosen by the Executive Boards thereof. Each Senator shall serve for six Years, and have one Vote.
"Congress shall have the power to tax only labor, but never wealth in the form of corporate profits, stock dividends, executive compensation or benefits, or other capital gains.
"Article II. The executive Power shall be vested in a Chairman of the United Corporations of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and be elected, as follows: Each Corporation shall appoint a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Stakeholders to which the Corporation may be entitled in the Congress.
"Through non-market subsidies, favorable regulations, negotiated free trade agreements or, when more profitable, protectionist tariffs, the Chairman shall promote and preserve the Profits of the United Corporations. He shall faithfully execute the provisions of all articles of incorporation, and have the power to Pardon any executive convicted of corporate fraud.
"Article III. All disputes brought by consumers or workers against the United Corporations shall be resolved by Binding Mandatory Arbitration. Arbitrators shall be selected by each Corporation from its Corporate Counsel, and all rulings shall be final and not subject to appeal.
"Article IV. The United Corporations shall guarantee to every Corporation a Republican Form of Government — but rule by corporate Democrats shall also be permitted whenever two-thirds of Senators and Stakeholders consent.
"Amendment 1. The sole right of Corporations to own Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights, and to extract Profit from such ownership, or to incorporate offshore for the purposes of tax avoidance, shall not be infringed.
"Amendment 2. A well-regulated surveillance system being necessary to the operation of a profitable Corporation, the right of Corporations to bear, sell, or release personal, medical, credit or financial information about consumers or workers, shall not be infringed.
"Amendment 3. The right of Corporations to be secure in their balance sheets, contracts, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.
"Amendment 4. The right of Corporations to donate unlimited sums from Corporate coffers to influence elections shall not be abridged.
"Amendment 5. The powers not delegated to the United Corporations by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the Corporations, are reserved to the Corporations respectively, or to their shareholders."
Might Mitt Romney be willing to abandon his campaign to help get this thing ratified? Constitution Day — Sept. 17 — is just around the corner.
Thomas F. Schaller teaches political science at UMBC. His column appears every other Wednesday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.