Corporate Welfare, RIP

No, that headline is not intended to indicate the demise of the federal programs that subsidize wealthy corporations. Those programs, with very few exceptions, are "resting in place," not in peace, just where they've always been. This despite the best efforts of budget hawks inside and outside of Congress to dislodge them.

For example: Big food businesses (yes, even McDonald's) will still get government aid to the tune of $347 billion over the next five years to promote their products abroad, thanks to the Agriculture Department's Market Access Program. And wood-products corporations may continue to benefit from publicly built logging roads (though the road building is likely to take a small budget trim).

The latter program is up for a vote this week. Sen. Richard Bryan (D) of Nevada has authored an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill that would end the $40 million yearly taxpayer subsidy for lumber roads in the national forests. Passage of the measure would be both fiscally sound and environmentally wise.

So far, none of the 12 programs targeted by the Stop Corporate Welfare Coalition (SCWC) - comprising advocacy groups of the left and right and such congressional luminaries as House Budget Committee chair John Kasich - has been axed. And coalition members have slim hopes this picture will change much before the year's spending legislation is complete.

The reason for this is no mystery. Every one of these programs has its defenders. Their arguments can be persuasive. One example: the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a federally chartered agency that provides risk insurance to US companies investing in emerging foreign markets. Shouldn't the companies bear their own risks? On the other hand, isn't there a legitimate national interest in encouraging economic development in places like Russia, as well as throughout the developing world?

The SCWC and its congressional allies should keep up the fight. They may never be able to check off every item on their target list (and probably shouldn't), but their persistent assault on skewed federal spending should eventually break down the defenses encircling corporate welfare.

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