Congress, the Constitution and the Polluter Bill of Rights

House Republicans plan to kick off the 112th Congress with a demonstration of their fealty to the rule of law by reciting the U.S. Constitution on the chamber floor.  As the lawmakers read the Bill of Rights and the rest of the Constitution tomorrow, it is important to remember the inherent rights of all Americans to breathe clean air, to drink clean water and to enjoy protected areas of the country set aside for future generations. 

After all, a key phrase in the preamble of the Constitution is "to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity“.  Posterity, of course, means future generations of Americans.  It would be a tragedy for Americans to be forced to live with dirty air, polluted water and a dearth of natural resources we all enjoy today. 

Unfortunately, it seems that among the new crop of Congressional representatives, some seem to feel we must choose between "posterity" and "prosperity" -- a false dichotomy to be sure.  Take the Tea Party crowd, which seems to equate any and all regulatory safeguards enacted to secure our posterity with burdensome rules unjustly hampering America's prosperity.  Their agenda suggests they really plan to govern via a Polluter Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights—the name of the first ten amendments to the Constitution—is a series of limitations on the power of the United States federal government, protecting the natural rights of liberty and property.  When Americans boast about our freedoms, they mean the fundamental principles of human liberty guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech, a free press, free assembly, and so on.    

Based on ample news coverage of various public comments, many of the newly elected legislators and leaders in Congress are openly hostile to federal regulations intended to protect the health and welfare of American citizens.  Imagine if you will what a Polluter Bill of Rights might look like:

First Amendment – Right to pollute

Congress shall make no law curtailing a corporation’s ability to pollute; no harm to people, wildlife or other natural resources shall trump the health of a company’s bottom-line or prohibit the free exercise of its business-as-usual practices; the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances is non-existent.

Second Amendment – Right to grin and bear it

A less regulated Company being necessary to the economic security of Shareholders, the people’s right-to-know shall be infringed.

Third Amendment – Protection from poor quarterly earnings

Any Company shall be permitted to impose the health risks of its pollution on any household, without the consent of the Owner, in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Fourth Amendment – Protection from restrictions on windfall profits

The right of Energy executives to be secure in their board rooms, offices, country clubs, and offshore properties, to impose unreasonable rate increases on their products and services to maximize profits at consumer expense, shall not be violated.

Fifth Amendment – Overdue process, double-dipping, self-enriching, eminent disdain

No Corporate executive shall be held to answer for any crime against Nature; nor shall any person be able to subject polluters to legal action for any offence that puts a Corporation in jeopardy of fiscal loss or liability; nor shall a Corporation be constrained from depriving citizens of life, liberty, or property.

Sixth Amendment – Trial by jury and rights of the excused; Contribution Clause, speedy denial, right to counsel

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public exoneration, by a partial jury of Corporate cronies wherein the political donation shall have been contributed, and shall have the Assistance of Congress for his defense.

Seventh Amendment – Civil trial

In suits at common law, the right of trial by jury shall be waived, and no court of the United States shall hold liable any Corporation that violates pollution standards.

Eight Amendment – Prohibition of excessive bribe and cruel and unusual payment

Excessive cash shall not be required, nor excessive fees imposed to curry political favor, nor cruel and unusual payment expected.

Ninth Amendment – Protection of polluter rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the Corporate sector.

Tenth Amendment – Powers of States and not people

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States exclusively, except when States regulate Corporations to protect public health and welfare.