BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Recently I authored a piece on the fiscal impasse that showcased the deceit of the military/industrial complex and its partners in arms the cowardly and complicit in the Democratic and Republican parties, and the scapegoat social welfare programs on which they’re trying to pin the rap. Now I’d like to shed a little light on the second most rogue elephant in the rooms of capitol hill. It’s called “corporate” welfare. It’s the aptly named, equally insidious, other nasty little secret the One Percenters and their Washington minions are loathe to talk about lest they be publicly exposed for the lying, thieving, fear mongering hypocrites they really are. Just as the name implies, corporate wealthfare (let’s characterize it properly) is government largess for big (and oftentimes not-so-big) businesses, usually in the form of grants, no-interest loans, no-bid contracts, subsidies, tax forgiveness, breaks and/or loopholes. It’s doled out surreptitiously at all levels of governance including local, state and federal. Reliable estimates peg federal corporate wealthfare costs at around $100 billion a year (cities, counties and states fork over another $80 billion+ annually). In contrast, the actual or net cost (to the federal government) of the humane “social” welfare programs social security and medicare is currently negligible (at least on the “Dirksenian” scale) and will remain so for decades to come. In other words, the income to outgo ratio of these worthwhile programs is still pretty close to parity and as such they aren’t costing anywhere near as much as mendacious (I’m being polite) politicians would have you believe.
Sadly and shamefully the list of America’s biggest corporate wealthfare grifters — 30 of America’s largest and most profitable corporations paid no income tax between 2008 and 2010 — reads like a Who’s Who of American avarice: JP Morgan Chase, Archer Daniels Midland, Boeing, ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, General Electric, Halliburton, ad infinitum. Perhaps the most egregious of all the well-swept corporate wealthfare secrets the recipients and their complicit politicos would prefer remain beneath the rug is that of the great state tax rip-off. In 16 states of this wondrous “of, for and by the people?“ nation of ours it is legal for corporations to withhold state income tax from their employees’ paychecks and keep the money! That’s right, folks, if you happen to be working in one of the “sweet sixteen,” you’ve been led to believe that a portion of your hard-earned pay has been helping defray the cost of vital state services, when, in fact, it’s been going directly into the boss’s bank account. It’s the kind of skim even a 50’s Vegas casino operator would envy. Corrupted politicians enabling corporate tax evasion. American plutocracy just doesn’t get any better. In truth, it appears that our vaunted captains of business, industry and finance would have difficulty tying their own shoes without a whole lot of under-the-table help from the same tax-paying/working public they so cavalierly cast aside whenever their mismanagement and/or unbridled greed shines through.
The cost of corporate wealthfare to American citizens is impossible to accurately quantify. It isn’t just their tax money going into the coffers of hypocritical corporate extortionists, it’s also the fact that little or none of it ever “trickles down” into the less-than-livable wages they earn while working for many of them. And, too, there’s the untold billions of dollars they pay in increased prices for government-protected products such as corn and sugar and their derivatives, and thousands of other goods and services. Republicans claim that the budget/deficit mess is all about spending, not revenue. Well, they’re partially right. It is all about spending — the unconscionable spending on America’s military coupled with the corrupt enrichment of America’s corporations in furtherance of personal and political party interests and ambitions. The hypocrisy and deceit regarding budgetary options on the part of both major parties is beyond measure. Saying that we need to slash social welfare programs in order to balance our books is simply a despicable lie. What we really need to do is elect politicians who possess a smattering of honesty, integrity, and compassion. Upon leaving the U.S. presidency in the late 1800s, Rutherford B. Hayes penned the following in his diary: “The real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few. It is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.” R.I.P., Rutherford, it’s been all downhill ever since.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.