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Are corporations people too?




Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses a large audience during his time on the Des Moines Register's 'Soapbox' at the Iowa State Fair.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses a large audience during his time on the Des Moines Register's 'Soapbox' at the Iowa State Fair.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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Unscripted moments on the campaign trail provide richer fodder than the droning of most teleprompter speeches. Mitt Romney's exchange with an Iowa heckler last week stands out because it's already been turned into a cheeky T-shirt -- sales to fund the Democratic National Committee. Romney couldn't have foreseen that when he started what should have been a predictable stump speech at the Iowa State Fair. Contrary to traditional Midwest hospitality, he was interrupted by loud shouts about protecting social security and Medicare by taxing corporations. Romney's reply: "Corporations are people, my friend." Perhaps too concise an argument for Romney's so-called friend, the Republican candidate continued, "Of course, they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people." Critics seized on the comment as a gaffe. However, those in agreement with Romney termed it a “Washington gaffe:” defined as a politician inadvertently saying something they believe is true, but is politically inconvenient. So which is it? What point was Romney trying to make? Why was he greeted with mocking laughter? Are the organizations that are created by people, that employ people and that meet the needs and desires of people then, by extension, people? What is the perception of corporations and whose interests do they represent?

Guests:

Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; from 2009 to 2011, Bernstein was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team.

Steven Horwitz, Ph.D.; Charles A. Dana professor and chairman of the department of economics at St. Lawrence University in New York