Monday, August 03, 2015

Corporate Welfare First

The 'free-marketeers' like to emit a lot of hot air about private enterprise and entrepreneurship, and there is no more hot air around than in a presidential campaign season. The fact is, according to Good Jobs First, there are 514 economic development programs in the country that have granted corporations more than 245,000 awards of public money or tax subsidies. These programs are corporate welfare. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has $458 billion in assets and $20 billion in profits, yet recieved over $1 billion in economic development money. The development going on is lining Buffett's pocketbook, who is worth $58 billion. Boeing, an integral part of the militiary-security-industrial complex, recieved $13 billion. The New York Times estimates that states and municipalities dole out $80 billion a year in so-called incentives to corporations and it is a welfare system infested by cronyism.

David Sirota writing at NationofChange tells us a prime example of the corporate gravy train is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, running for president on the right. He has tortured Wisconsin's public sector with his right-wing economic policies. Contrary to free-market dogma, he has made public subsidies of the private sector a central feature of his agenda. He created the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation in 2011 to give businesses loans and grants with taxpayer money. Auditors of the program note that money was handed out "in ways that did not consistently comply" with state laws. For example, receipients were not requried to submit information showing that required jobs were created or retained. Much of the money went to political allies according to the Walker's liberal critics. Sixty percent of the $1.14 billion went to firms contributin to Walker's political campaigns. What has the Wisconsin economy achieved as a result of these subsidies? Not much. Wisconsin is 33rd among states in economic improvement during Walker's first term says Bloomberg News, and half of the 250,000 jobs Walker promised have been created. At the same time he is handing out money to his business friends, he is proposing to slash $300 million from of higher education funding.

But what about sports, you ask. Don't worry fan boy and girl, Walker is giving the same amount of money to the NBA Milwaukee Bucks for a new arena. One of the Buck's investors is national finance co-chair of his presidential campaign! Economic studies have repeatedly concluded these hyper-subsidized monuments to Mammon have little to no tangible economic benefits. Liberals are just as guilty of feeding the corporations at the expense of citizens. It was Barrack Obama who told bankers huddled at the White House in the aftermath of the Great Panic of 2008, "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchfolks", and dlivered us into the political economy of TBTF*. Free-market, indeed--its more like free-for-all if you have the connections.

*see S. Johnson & J. Kwak, Epilogue, 13 Bankers (2011) for a description of how Dodd-Frank financial reform failed.