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by Robert B. Reich
This is nonsensical. BP isn't a criminal. Corporations aren't people. They can't know right from wrong. They're incapable of criminal intent. They have no brains. They're legal fictions -- pieces of paper filed away in a vault in some bank.
Mind you, I'm appalled by the carelessness and indifference of the BP executives responsible for the disaster. But holding corporations criminally liable reinforces the same fallacy that gave us Citizens United v.
We don't know exactly how much corporate money was spent on the last election, but it's a fair guess that were it not for Citizens United, the
The perfidious notion that corporations are people can lead to even more bizarre results. If corporations are people and they're headquartered in the United States, then presumably corporations are citizens. That means they have a right to vote as well.
I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.
Can we please get a grip? The only sentient beings in a corporation are the people who run them or work for them. When it comes to criminality, they're the ones who should be punished.
Punishing corporations as a whole often ends up harming innocent people -- especially employees who lose their jobs because the corporation has to trim costs, and retirees whose savings shrink because their shares in the corporation lose value.
Consider the accounting firm
The vast majority of its employees had nothing to do with
Likewise, the people responsible for the deaths and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico weren't BP's rank-and-file employees or its shareholders. They were the executives who turned a blind eye to safety while in pursuit of their own rising stock options, and who conspired with oil-services giant
They're the ones who should be punished. Failure to punish them simply invites more of the same kind of criminal negligence by executives more interested in lining their pockets than protecting their workers and the environment. (Just a day after the BP settlement was announced, an oil rig exploded off the Louisiana coast, leaving one worker dead, with one still missing and two others in critical condition.)
Instead of going after the real criminals, the
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