“Corporate welfare refers to subsidies and regulatory protections that lawmakers confer on certain businesses and industries. When considering budget issues, federal policymakers are supposed to have the broad public interest in mind. Unfortunately, that is not how the federal budget process usually works in practice. Many federal programs are sustained by special-interest groups working with policymakers seeking narrow benefits at the expense of taxpayers and the general public.” – CATO Institute
We are repeatedly told by the masters of the global economy that, in order to recover from economic devastation (often caused by the masters themselves), we must make sacrifices.
We must go through the pains of budget cuts and tax hikes.
We must experience unemployment, hunger, and destitute poverty. We must tighten our belts and focus on the greater good, rather than on our own selfish desires.
Rarely acknowledged is the fact that even the IMF – no radical leftist outlet, mind you – has acknowledged that the austerity policies currently being imposed upon Greece and elsewhere simply don’t work.
It’s interesting that the corporate media often laments that we, as Americans, are going to have to change some of our ways if we are to escape economic catastrophe. Again, tighten those belts; stop the excessive spending, governments, even if it is on education and healthcare.
The use of we, of course, doesn’t mean that everyone will share the burden equally. It means: Sure, we, the corporate CEOs and the greedy bankers, caused many of the economic problems facing the world today, but you, the people who had virtually nothing to do with the crises, are going to pick up the bill; you are going to tighten your belts.
We, the fat-cats, the self-proclaimed “job creators” (who often curiously act as job destroyers; funny how that works) are going to live as we always have. We are going to continue to rake in billions in taxpayer grants adding to our already lucrative bottom line, while you struggle to put food on the table.
It’s crude, but perfectly predictable.
Those who run the economy must ensure that they reap the benefits of their victories, and that everyone else (we, the majority of the population) pays the price for their losses.
This is what Ralph Nader was talking about when he quipped:
Risky speculation, predatory lending, and outright fraud, among other factors, culminated in the 2008 financial crisis, which sent shockwaves across the globe, causing even further mass suffering for the poorest among us.
But the rich were just fine; in fact, many of them got even richer, using the government bailouts they so successfully attained to pay themselves lucrative bonuses and incredible compensation packages.
In the UK, to use a particularly striking example, the “super-rich” have doubled their wealth since the 2008 crisis.
The gap between CEO pay and average worker pay is larger than it has ever been, and the effects are well understood, both by economists and our politicians, who continue to support policies which serve to further enlarge this gap.
All of this should come as no surprise.
Over the past several decades, the wealthiest in this country have seen the rise of a system that increasingly works for their benefit while simultaneously driving the middle class and the poor into the ground.
The decline of labor unions, stagnating wages, and the shipment of jobs overseas has devastated working class Americans, while those who own the largest piece of the pie have seen the majority of the overall economic growth over the past several decades.
Workers in the United States are trapped in a race to the bottom, forced to compete with workers overseas earning pennies under slavish conditions, and, as such, they are working longer hours than the workers of any other advanced nation, with fewer benefits.
Yet, political elites (Jeb, I’m looking at you) continue to insist that workers must work harder and longer. Paul Krugman suggests that this is because many of our politicians are still entrenched in what he calls the “laziness dogma”:
“[T]he insistence that a large number of Americans, white as well as black, are choosing not to work, because they can live lives of leisure thanks to government programs…
It all adds up to a vision of the world in which the biggest problem facing America is that we’re too nice to fellow citizens facing hardship. And the appeal of this vision to conservatives is obvious: it gives them another reason to do what they want to do anyway, namely slash aid to the less fortunate while cutting taxes on the rich.”
Too many people are living off the “Nanny State” in the eyes of many right-wing politicians, even though, as Krugman proceeds to remind us,
“Federal spending on ‘income security’ — food stamps, unemployment benefits, and pretty much everything else you might call ‘welfare’ except Medicaid — has shown no upward trend as a share of G.D.P.”
The message the corporations want to send is not, “Yes, work harder and longer hours so that we can reap the gains of increased production while barely paying you a living wage.” The message must be, “You have opportunities, you just refuse to take them. That’s why you’re poor. You’re lazy. If you want better pay, work more.” The former is the truth, the latter is the smokescreen.
Obviously, the problem is not laziness. The problem is a system which is designed to exploit workers, while simultaneously propelling corporate executives into wealth beyond their wildest dreams.
Jeb Bush and his Republican friends love to complain about the “welfare state,” but they refuse to correctly identify one of the major recipients of welfare in this country: Massive, ultra-profitable corporations.
Tax cuts, taxpayer bailouts, huge subsidies; you name it, the wealthiest in this country get it. What happened to the “free market?” Oh, yeah, that’s just for you guys down at the bottom. We play by different rules up here.
Meanwhile, as companies that are in no need of assistance are receiving billions in grants and subsidies, states are slashing their education and health care budgets in an attempt to “curb government spending.”
As David Brunori asks in an article for Forbes: “Where is the Outrage?”
“The largest, wealthiest, most powerful organizations in the world are on the public dole.
Where is the outrage? Back when I was young, people went into a frenzy at the thought of some unemployed person using food stamps to buy liquor or cigarettes. Ronald Reagan famously campaigned against welfare queens. The right has always been obsessed with moochers. But Boeing receives $13 billion in government handouts and everyone yawns, when conservatives should be grabbing their pitchforks.” — David Brunori
Taxpayers subsidize some of the most successful industries in this country, huge corporations receive billions in taxpayer grants, and no one asks: Okay, where is our share of the profit?
Further, when these companies get into trouble, they are rescued by the same taxpayers who funded their operations. Where is the bailout for the collapsing middle class (which is collapsing, by the way, due to no failings of its own)?
The “bailout” for workers and the middle class in general is a kick in the pants, a lecture on the benefits of hard work and dedication, and the implementation of policies (along with the removal of policies) that ensure their failure.
In short, the economy doesn’t work for the middle class, or for the poor, as if anyone needed to be reminded.
Which is why Bernie Sanders’ message is resonating, even with some Republicans: Most recognize the clear-as-day fact that the United States behaves more like an oligarchy than a democracy, that the economy works for the few, not the many.
Trade deals, bailouts, subsidies for research and development, tax cuts, and CEO pay raises all contribute to the really existing, robust welfare system in this country: welfare for the rich.
Conservatives often scream about government dependence among the masses, but in reality, it is some of the richest among us who rely most upon the government to do their bidding, and all the while the system they helped create is wrenching away every last bit of protection for workers and their families, imprisoning the poor and minorities at astonishing rates, shipping jobs overseas, and paying workers wages that force them to endure lives of constant insecurity, leaving them unable to put their children through college, and, in some cases, unable to put sufficient food on the table.
Public pain, private gain is the new name of the game.