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Stop Corporate Welfare!

Ralph Nader

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Stop Corporate Welfare!

by Ralph Nader

The issue of concentration of power and the growing conflict between the civil society and the corporate society is not a conflict that you read about or see on television. So unfortunately, most of us grow up corporate; we don't grow up civic.

If I utter the following words, what images come to mind: crime, violence, welfare and addictors? What comes to mind is street crime; people lining up to get their welfare checks; violence in the streets; and drug dealers -- the addictors.

And yet, by any yardstick, there is far more crime, and far more violence, and far more welfare disbursement (and there are far more addictors) in the corporate world than in the impoverished street arena.

The federal government's corporate welfare programs number over 120. They are so varied and embedded that we actually grow up thinking that the government interferes with the free enterprise system, rather than subsidizing it.

It's hard to find a major industry today whose principal investments were not first made by the government -- in aerospace, telecommunications, biotechnology and agribusiness. Government research and development money funds the drug and pharmaceutical industry. Government research and development funds are given freely to corporations, but they don't announce it in ads the next day.

Corporate welfare has never been viewed as debilitating. Nobody talks about imposing worker requirements on corporate welfare recipients or putting them on a program of "two years and you're out." Nobody talks about aid to dependent corporations. It's all talked about in terms of "incentives."

At the local community level, in cities that can't even refurbish their crumbling schools -- where children are without enough desks or books -- local governments are anteing up three, four, five hundred million dollars to lure very profitable baseball, football and basketball sports moguls who don't want to share the profits. Corporate sports are being subsidized by cities.

Corporations have perfected socializing their losses while they capitalize on their profits. There was the savings-and-loan debacle -- and you'll be paying for that until the year 2020. In terms of principal and interest, it was a half-trillion-dollar bailout of 1,000 savings-and-loans banks. Their executives looted, speculated and defrauded people of their savings - and then turned to Washington for a bailout.

There's a new drug called Taxol to fight ovarian cancer. That drug was produced by a grant of $31 million of taxpayer money through the National Institutes of Health, right through the clinical testing process. The formula was then given away to the Bristol-Myers Squibb company. No royalties were paid to the taxpayer. There was no restraint on the price. Charges now run $10,000 to $15,000 per patient for a series of treatments. If the patients can't pay, they go on Medicaid, and the taxpayer pays at the other end of the cycle, too.

We have 179 law schools and probably only 15 of them offer a single course or seminar on corporate crime. You think that's an accident? Law school curricula are pretty much shaped by the job market, and if the job market has slots in commercial law, bankruptcy law, securities and exchange law, tax law or estate planning law, the law schools will oblige with courses and seminars.

One professor studying corporate crime believes that it costs the country $200 billion a year. And yet you don't see many congressional hearings on corporate crime. You see very few newspapers focusing on corporate crime.

Knowing What's Ours

We grow up never learning what we own together, as a commonwealth. If somebody asks you what you and your parents own, you'd say homes, cars and artifacts. Most of you would not say that you are owners of the one-third of America that is public land or that you are part-owners of the public airwaves.

When you ask students today who owns the public airwaves you get the same reply -- "the networks," or maybe "the government." We own the public airwaves and the Federal Communications Commission is our real estate agent. The radio and TV stations are the tenants who are given licenses to dominate their part of the spectrum 24 hours a day, and for four hours a day they decide who says what.

You pay more for your auto license than the biggest TV station pays for its broadcast license. But if you, the landlord, want in on its property, the radio and TV stations say, "Sorry, you're not going to come in."

You and your parents also may be part-owners of $4 trillion in pension funds invested in corporations. The reason this doesn't get much attention is that, although we own it, corporations control it. Corporations, banks and insurance companies invest our pension money. Workers have no voting mechanism regarding this money.

Not controlling what we own should be a public issue, because if we begin to develop control of what we own, we will marshal vast existing assets that are legally ours for the betterment of our society. That will not happen unless we talk about why people don't control what they own.

The Power of Civic Action

As in the Middle Ages, 1% of the richest people in this country own 90% of the wealth. The unemployment rate doesn't take into account the people who looked for a job for six months and gave up, and it doesn't take into account the underemployed who work 20 hours a week. Part of growing up corporate is that we let corporations develop the yardsticks by which we measure the economy's progress.

Democracy is the best mechanism ever devised to solve problems. That means the more we refine it -- the more people practice it, the more people use its tools -- the more likely it is we will not only solve our problems or at least diminish them, we also will foresee and forestall risk levels. When you see corporations dismantling democracy, you have to take it very seriously and turn it into a public political issue.

We're supposed to have a government of, by and for the people. Instead we have a government of the Exxons, by the General Motors and for the DuPonts. We have a government that recognizes the rights and liabilities and privileges of corporations, which are artificial entities created by state charters, against the rights and privileges of ordinary people.

Jefferson warned us that the purpose of representative government is to counteract "the excesses of the monied interests" -- then the merchant class; now the corporations. Beware of the government that doesn't do that.

[From: Third World Network Features through PeaceNet]

Executive Orders

Executive Order No. 11051 Details responsibility of the Office of Emergency Planning and gives authorization to put all Executive Orders into effect in times of increased international tensions and economic or financial crisis.

Executive Order No. 10995 Provides for the takeover of communication media.

Executive Order No. 10997 Provides for the takeover of all electrical power, gas, petroleum, fuels, and minerals.

Executive Order No. 10998 Provides for the takeover of food resources and farms.

Executive Order No. 10990 Provides for the takeover of all modes of transportation and control of highways, seaports, etc.

Executive Order No. 11000 Provides for mobilization of civilians into work brigades under government supervision.

Executive Order No. 11001 Provides for government takeover of health, education, and welfare functions.

Executive Order No. 11002 Designates the Postmaster General to operate a national registration of all persons.

Executive Order No. 11003 Provides for the government takeover of airports and aircraft.

Executive Order No. 11004 Provides for the Housing and Finance Authority to relocate communities, build new housing with public funds, designate areas to be abandoned, and established new locations for populations.

Executive Order No. 11005 Provides for the government to take over railroads, inland waterways, public storage facilities.

Executive Order No. 11310 Published in the FEDERAL REGISTER, 11 October, 1966, grants authority to the Department of Justice to enforce the plans set out in Executive Orders, to institute industry support, to establish judicial and legislative liaison, to control all aliens, to operate penal and correctional institutions, and to advise and assist the President.


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