Opinion: 'Corporate welfare' must go

Corporation are not people and do not need subsidies or tax breaks, writes Robert Reich. Powerful companies do not need 'corporate welfare' – rather, real individuals and families need more support from the government.

Gary Cameron/Reuters/File
Corporation are not people and do not need subsidies or tax breaks, writes Robert Reich. Tens of billions of dollars goes toward 'corporate welfare' while only 12 percent of federal spending goes to people on welfare.

Corporations aren’t people, despite what the Supreme Court says, and they don’t need or deserve handouts. 

When corporations get special handouts from the government – subsidies and tax breaks – it costs you. It means you have to pay more in taxes to make up for these hidden expenses. And government has less money for good schools and roads, Medicare and national defense, and everything else you need.

You might call these special corporate handouts “corporate welfare,” but at least welfare goes to real people in need. In the big picture, corporate handouts are costing tens of billions of dollars a year. Some estimates put it over $100 billion – which means it’s costing you money that would otherwise go to better schools or roads, or lower taxes.

Conservatives have made a game of obscuring where federal spending actually goes. In reality, only about 12 percent of federal spending goes to individuals and families, most in dire need. An increasing portion goes to corporate welfare.

Other examples: The oil, gas, and coal industries get billions in their own special tax breaks. Big Agribusiness gets farm subsides. Big Pharma gets their own subsidy in the form of a ban on government using its bargaining power under Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. And hedge-fund and private-equity managers get a special tax loophole that treats their income as capital gains, at a lower tax rate than ordinary income.

The real issue isn’t the government’s size. It’s whom government is for. Much of government is no longer working for the vast majority it’s intended to serve. If government were responding to the public’s interest instead of the moneyed interests, it would be providing more support for communities, families, and individuals who need it the most.

There’s no reason any corporations should be on the dole, or that your hard-earned dollars should be going to them for no reason but their political clout.

So we have to demand an end to corporate welfare. No more handouts to particular corporations and industries simply because they’re big enough and powerful enough to get them. No more specialized tax breaks. No more exemptions or special treatment. No more crony capitalism.

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