Is it radical for government to organize our communal resources to effectively benefit the majority? Is it radical to use our resources to care for the sick, educate our children, protect our planet and support our seniors as they age?
Today Roxanne hands the baton to me….and to JR, a most unusual blogger I just discovered this week. Suffice to say, he lays out corporate welfare with unvarnished, historic observations wrapped in biting sarcasm. But you’ll need to stick with me for a bit before you get JR for dessert.
Today’s post asks: How is it that somehow Koch, Fox, Reagan, Nixon, and now Trump have made an argument that too many Americans embrace, an ideology that creates socialism for the rich and survival of the fittest for the rest of us?
The post also asks: If providing support to individuals who need a helping hand is so bad for them, why is corporate welfare so good for corporations who actually don’t need the help?
It is an interesting journey that JR punctuates with humor and an ironic grasp of history. Read on.
Tuesday Roxanne wrote about the use of language and the way the media and conservatives have transformed efforts to be fair, kind and caring into something “radical,” with radical being some kind of code for: naïve or simplistic, with a subtext of “radical” policies being a conspiracy to take from white America and give to lazy, scary brown people who may steal your job, marry your daughter, or move next door.
Make no mistake, this is precisely the subtext to Trump’s language, if not the text itself. But he didn’t invent it; he inherited it. Going back to Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan, the same subtext was present. If government offers any kind of social safety net, it will be to the advantage of brown people at the expense of white people.
Aside from racism, there is another false assumption that underlies the ideology of the right: aphorisms or, put another way, simplistic truths that often are antiquated sometimes simply are not true. Let me explain.
The other day, I got an email from a neighbor who is a Trump supporter. The quote above was at the bottom of the email. He is actually a very smart and very nice person. We are friends. But he is also very conservative and we frequently debate issues.
What is important though, is that so much of what underpins the right’s ideology is either aphorisms like the one above or stereotypes like the welfare mom. Add in faux social science, carefully crafted by the Koch brothers and their allied “think tanks” and then broadcast on Fox and social media and you have a toxic thought cocktail that deludes many into believing almost anything.
But let’s look at Franklin’s quote. First Franklin is a white male who while not born into wealth, was nonetheless privileged both by his maleness and his whiteness. The aphorism smacks of Calvinism, social Darwinism and the like. According to this theology, any offer to help another person undermines their character and only makes them more dependent and lazy.
Tuesday, Roxanne noted that so often these same Calvinist-style attitudes ignore the causes of poverty: slavery, racism, colonialism, redlining, etc. The quote above doesn’t actually call for impeding people trying to advance, but the racist policies and attitudes Roxanne identified certainly make it far more challenging for the rags to riches to be remotely achievable for most people of color. These policies do not breed character; they breed resentment, despair and disillusionment.
But the right media beats the drum and people who don’t delve deeply and explore real social science research accept the aphorisms and stereotypes. After all, they hear ‘evidence’ supporting the notion that helping people who are disadvantaged will just harm them whether new immigrants or poor people of color.
What I realized was that this whole effort was designed to make people feel good about entirely selfish, racist policies that don’t actually even help low-income and working class white America, but definitely enrich the 1%. The desire to simply earn a decent living is framed as radical. We are better off leaving people in their poverty so they can struggle while improving their character and while the one percent hoard their wealth.
But is there any truth to the notion that helping people really hurts them? By logical extension, perhaps after the next firestorm, hurricane or flood we should just systematically withhold relief taking advantage of this golden, God-sent (not climate change caused) opportunity to build stronger character. But we only ignore those devastated by catastrophe when that catastrophe destroys black and brown communities, e.g. Katrina, Puerto Rico. If there are white communities involved, help is coming fast.
But what about social policy designed to help lift families out of poverty? Does it make people lazy? Or does it provide a somewhat more level playing field from which people can strengthen themselves and their families and become more independent and, by the way, even stronger contributors to our communities?
I don’t want to ruin this post with a ton of citations about how social safety net programs work because most of you already understand that and I’d rather get you to JR. I’ll do a post on the effectiveness of social safety net posts another time. But in researching this piece, I found a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities piece that contains a long list of annotated links to one study after another showing that the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid, Social Security, Women, Infant and Children (WIC), Medicare, Social Security, Food Stamps, and literally dozens of social programs designed to lift families and children out of poverty ALL WORK. While the studies lack aphorisms and stereotypes, they are replete with facts, data and research. So if any of your conservative friends challenge your assertions that these programs work, this is a good resource. Click here to take a look.
Before I close, I have to set the table for JR.
Social and fiscal conservatives want to forever refrain from offering a helping hand no matter how much evidence there is that these programs work. It is much more comfortable to pay attention to stereotypes and aphorisms that disguise their greed and cruelty as wisdom. But when it comes to corporate welfare, there is no end to their largesse. From the CheatSheet:
“More recently, a subsidy tracking group Good Jobs First released a 2014 report detailing where exactly taxpayer dollars are being funneled, and which states are the most likely to divvy up handouts. There are some surprises in the report, but many details won’t come as much of a shock at all. New York and Washington were the top two states for handing out corporate subsidies, with New York alone topping more than $20 billion across nearly 69,000 individual handouts. The data also shows that roughly 75% of disclosed subsidy dollars have gone to 965 big companies. The total known value of subsidies across the country came out at an estimated $110 billion, although it’s likely more.“emphasis mine
And that was before Trump began handing out his goodies. The Cheatsheet report identified the top 8 corporations receiving federal subsidies and together they are a whos who of who hurts people or planet most: Shell, Ford, GM, Alcoa, Intel and Boeing to name a few. Not surprisingly there were no solar companies and organic farm co-ops in the list.
Boeing topped the list with over $13 billion in subsidies in one year. And what did Boeing do with that subsidy? Blackmail their host state Washington for huge additional state subsidies, threatening to leave Washington if the state didn’t succumb to their threats. And of course, it worked. They got their state subsidies and rewarded the world with negligence that caused two major air crashes and grounded a fleet of jets. I am sure there will be subsidies arriving soon to help them with that.
We can’t blame all of this on the GOP, recall in 2009, Obama could have bailed out foreclosed home owners, but chose to reward the banking industry that caused the economic meltdown costing millions of Americans their homes and their savings. And it was Clinton who crafted the plan to “reform” welfare, leaving communities of color devastated. Corporate socialism and individual survival of the fittest. The American Way.
I’ll close today, with an amazing quote from a most unusual website that warrants more review. As the name suggests, JR’s Free Thought Pages: No Gods, No Masters, No Bullshit is a somewhat unusual website obviously produced by someone with lots of time, lots of smarts, a sense of irony, and lack of patience with polish. But his observations are jolting, often spot on and always amusing. I recommend you take a tour. This is but a sample from a guest writer on the blog, taken from an excerpt from a post about the history of corporate welfare. It takes off where I left you in describing our corporate socialism. It is amazing.
“American business is defined by Socialized costs and privatized profits – more than ever today with trillions in handouts plus all sorts of other generous benefits:
— subsidies and other direct grants;
— tax breaks, reductions, deductions, exclusions, write-offs, exemptions, credits, loopholes, shelters, and rebates even for profitable companies; the bigger they are, the more they get;
— letting corporations be headquartered off-shore and pay no federal income taxes; allowed to repatriate foreign earnings on the same basis; export jobs and erode the nation’s industrial base; financialize the economy; make it a casino, and loot the Treasury to cover their bad bets;
— large government contracts of every imaginable kind; some on a cost-plus basis with every incentive to cheat and get more;
— discounted user fees or subsidized use of public resources;
— free government-funded R & D;
— various other government direct payments; every cabinet department as a conduit for government funding to private business; every program from the Department of Commerce, Agriculture and others underwrites it; the FDA for Big Pharma; the FCC for media and telecommunications firms; the FAA for the airlines, the Treasury and Fed for Wall Street, and so forth; the most active “peoples” agency is the IRS;
— other subsidies like accelerated depreciation; the cost of advertising; direct aid for companies that advertise abroad; and much more with Democrats as pro-business as Republicans while at the same time curtailing essential social benefits;
— individual tax breaks for the rich; winking and nodding about billions offshored to tax havens; letting corporate fraud and abuse become the national pastime;
— privatizing more of what government should do and/or does best – schools, highways, bridges, airports, prisons, public lands, utilities, the running of elections, foreign policy, parts of the military, war through the use of mercenaries, outer space, and thus far a failed attempt to take away the most important poverty reduction program for seniors and the disabled – Social Security;
— privatizing wealth and socializing debt;
— abolishing welfare and other social benefits; rendering organized labor impotent in a “Walmartized” society; ruling by the doctrine of rewarding the privileged at the expense of beneficial social change; the greater good; government for the people; human need; and the democratic ideal that government should serve all its people, not just its preferential few.
Beard’s “rugged individualism” is pure myth for them. But, rugged or otherwise, it’s the consigned fate for the rest of us – sink or swim at a time a lot of us are submerging.”
If you want to read the entire amusing, painful history of corporate welfare, click here. If you want to explore JR’s Free Thought website, the link to the home page is provided below. It is well worth your time. This is what is posted below the home page banner:
Only after the last tree has been cut
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten
~ Cree Indian Prophecy ~
After that you will find recommendations for movies, books, articles, favorite quotes, recent annoyances, and links to probably over 1000 personal blog posts whose titles beg you to read them. The image below is a screen shot of a very, very small sampling of what you will find. Click here for more from JR.
It is 6pm Wednesday. I am going to grab a glass of wine and read JR’s Groucho Marxism and then The Skeptics Manifesto.
In solidarity, Paul, Roxanne and JR