The right-wing radicals on the Supreme Court demonstrated this definitional two-step beautifully at the end of the Court's last term. In a pair of decisions that received very little attention, they managed to allow pharmaceutical companies the rights of personhood without the responsibilities. In Sorrell vs. IMS Health, the Court ruled that states couldn't stop drug companies from collecting prescription patterns for individual physicians and then using that data to encourage them to use more expensive drugs. Corporations are people, after all, and that's infringing on their freedom of speech.
But in a second decision, Pliva v. Mensing, the Court ruled that manufacturers of generic drugs had no obligation to tell people about the adverse reactions otherpeople have had to the drug they're selling. If the brand-name manufacturers didn't tell people about those reactions, then the Court said the generic manufacturers don't have to either - even if they know those reactions could lead to death, or to terrible reactions like tardive kinesis.
Corporations are the kind of people who get to say whatever they want to whomever they want - unless they don't want to say anything. People like you and me might not be allowed to collect data on our neighbors and then use it to sell them stuff. And people like you and me would get our butts sued if we sold you something we knew could hurt or kill you. But apparently some people are more equal than others.
If corporations are people, they're very special people. They're people who, thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, have the unlimited ability to express their "free speech" with billions of dollars in campaign cash and lobbying loot. Pharmaceutical companies alone have spent more than $2 billion in lobbying since 1998, while insurance companies spent $1.5 billion. When it comes to free speech, these "people" are real chatterboxes.
When it comes to corporate rights, Citizens United is your Supreme Court. Those two pharmaceutical company rulings are your Supreme Court on drugs.
All this corporate cash is creating a wave of deregulation, tax cuts, and other laws that benefit the corporate "people" and are ruining life for the flesh-and-blood kind. They're hijacking democracy. As one of Sartre's characters said in No Exit, "Hell is other people."
They can't do it alone, of course. Our corporate personages need help. And they get it - from their servants in the Republican Party, and from the many Democrats who are also eager to pitch in. It's a good thing for the corporations that they have so many friends in Washington. In fact, it's just like that Barbra Streisand song, isn't it? People who need people really are the luckiest people in the world.