Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Congressional and Corporate Welfare

Fifteen members of Congress or their spouses received $237,921 in federal farm subsidy payments last year, according to a new analysis of Agriculture Department data by the Environmental Working Group. According to Arthur Delaney at the Huffington Post, the House and Senate farm bill will boosts subsidies for farmers to buy crop insurance policies that protect them against losses from weather or price changes.

Last night on MSNBC's The Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell in his "Rewrite" compared the new 5-year farm bill to Socialism; where taxpayers have to guarantee profits for large corporate farmers with crop insurance and farm subsidies (bad socialism), while at the same time, the Republicans and the Democrats also agreed cut food stamps (good socialism) for the poor.

The federal government spends about $5 billion a year on direct payments to farmers and $9 billion per year on crop insurance subsidies. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) and his wife, for example, received $70,574 in direct payments last year. Fincher's payments made headlines after he said during committee debate that lawmakers should cut food stamp spending because they shouldn't use "other people's money" to feed the hungry.

corporate welfare

Lawrence O’Donnell also pointed out that the taxpayers also foot the bill for sports stadiums, and that organizations like the NFL get tax exempt status—and that they should not be classified as a charity, but should also pay their share of taxes. He says that the team players might make a few million less, but that they'd still make millions, only those at the bottom might earn a little more.

But members of Congress (no matter who we vote for) never listen to us. We have be railing against corporate welfare for years, but yet, they continue to give always our hard-earned money to profitable enterprises (like big oil for example). And we know why Congress does this, but it doesn't seem Congress knows we know; or if they do, then they just don't give a damn what we think.

Corporate subsidy deals don't always deliver as promised. Every subsidy dollar has to be offset by some cut to another public priority or higher taxes. Subsidies are popular with politicians because they can help them get elected in two ways: by scoring points with companies that bankroll campaigns, and with voters for promises of more jobs.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, $12 billion a year in tax subsidies are awarded to businesses each year, but according to a new study, fewer than a quarter of all "incentive programs" disclose how many jobs were created, or how many workers were trained—and fewer than half of those disclosed the wages paid to workers.

Critics of tax breaks, low-interest loans, grants and other corporate subsidies say government officials should do more to prove the subsidies are needed—and also ensure that the promises about jobs and other taxpayer benefits are actually being delivered.

Taxpayers have the right to know exactly what they are getting in return for their economic development investments, because every subsidy dollar has to be offset by some cut to another public priority or higher taxes on everybody else.

Take Washington State as but one example, which successfully clinched a deal to have Boeing build its planned 777X airplanes in-state thanks in part to an $8.7 billion tax deal, which is by far the largest in U.S. history.

Boeing has contributed millions of dollars in campaign contributions the past few decades to state officials and candidates, and two of the top three state subsidies over time have gone to Boeing from Washington.

Phineas Baxandall, a senior tax and budget policy analyst for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, says, "There's just a lot of potential for these kinds of campaign contributions by contractors to be unduly influencing decisions." He said there should be restrictions on campaign contributions from contractors or companies receiving subsidies—and state disclosures about subsidies should include campaign finance data about groups winning deals.

On top of that, we have Obama and the multi-nationals pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other harmful trade deals—which will insulate them from laws in other countries. With TPP, corporations can sue America for labor laws that harm corporate profits. They could probably sue the US government for OSHA regulations that affect profits (U.S. corporations, like tobacco companies, are already suing other countries.) Members of Congress are more prone to support large corporations and corporate welfare rather than the individual and public welfare.

Take the Keystone pipeline: It will move oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast to be refined and then sold to China to profit the oil companies. What do average American citizens get in return for the risk to the environment when taxpayer dollars are needed to clean up the mess? Only a few thousand jobs are being offered. The pipeline won't decrease the U.S. dependence of foreign oil, nor will it lower the cost of gasoline at the pump. MSNBC's Ed Schultz says the pipeline is better than transporting it on trains; but why transport it all all if the oil isn't going to be used here to reduce domestic energy costs?

Most politicians will do what they have always done: say and promise and do anything to get elected; and then, once they are in office (put their by the corporations and rich donors) and surrounded by the trappings of power, they will do anything to stay in power—no matter how much it harms everyone else. Money in politics corrodes and corrupts democracy. America is all the proof we need.

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