Corporate Welfare Reform FWD

Tom Boland (
Fri, 19 Feb 1999 16:25:08 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  The Onion 17 Feb 1999


      Today is a typical day for 51-year-old J. Gordon Grantham III, as he
drives his luxury-model Cadillac to a favorite restaurant to meet with
potential investors. Over a lunch of $45 porterhouse steaks, a deal is
brokered, and, using his company credit card, Grantham picks up the tab.

      At first glance, this scenario might not seem terribly unusual. But
J. Gordon Grantham III is one of the nation's approximately 2.6 million
recipients of corporate welfare.

      Grantham, CEO of Global Tetrahedron Consolidated, one of the world's
largest petrochemical-manufacturing concerns, receives more than $850
million a year from the federal government in the form of tax breaks,
incentives, grants and no-interest loans.

      Defenders of Grantham's welfare-queen lifestyle say people like him
wouldn't be able to survive without a lifeline of public aid. But many
Americans are growing tired of what they view as abuses of the system. To
them, Grantham and corporate-welfare recipients like him are living high on
the public dole, growing fat on the handouts of others.

      "I work for a living," said Reston, VA, delivery driver Ted Schacht,
41. "I'm a responsible, tax-paying citizen. I can barely afford the
insurance payments on my '91 Subaru. So why should my money pay for some
welfare recipient's imported Italian loafers?"

      "These parent companies can't afford to support the subsidiaries they
already have, but they go right on acquiring more of them anyway," said
Ellen Gertsen of Medford, OR. "And who winds up paying for them?
Hard-working taxpayers like me, that's who. It's a damn shame, is what it

      Defenders of the corporate-welfare system say such attitudes are
insensitive and cruel. "These are not just corporate-welfare recipients;
these are human beings, struggling to survive," said Sen. Don Nickles
(R-OK), one of Congress' most outspoken proponents of the current welfare
system and co-sponsor of the Aid To Companies With Dependent Subsidiaries
Act. "They have households full of domestic servants to support. Many of
them can't even provide decent housing for their polo ponies. Offering them
a helping hand is the only decent thing to do."

      Corporate welfare accounts for 95 percent of all government welfare
expenditures each year, a figure many find excessive. Yet, according to the
recipients themselves, it is not nearly enough.

      "Even after downsizing 75 percent of our domestic workforce and
relocating half of our manufacturing plants to Central America and the Far
East, third-quarter profit margins were still 15 percent off last year's
figures," says Charles Beeman, 47, associate vice-president of a
multinational textile conglomerate. "If I can't make ends meet by the end
of the fiscal year, I could lose my corner office."

      "Most of the recipients we work with only get a few hundred million
in tax breaks a year," says Elaine R. Jansen, executive director of the
Corporate Welfare Survival Task Force, a D.C.-based group that lobbies for
welfare recipients' rights. "Come April 15, some of these people will have
no place to go with their unreported earnings. The least we can do as
compassionate human beings is provide them with a safe, warm tax shelter."

      Still, anti-welfare sentiment is growing, with critics arguing that
the system just fosters the welfare lifestyle.

      "These people are exploiting the system to feed their destructive
habits," U.S. Rep. Douglas Verstadt (D-FL) said. "They say they need this
welfare money to survive. But how do we know they're not just using it to
buy drug companies?"

      Worse yet, critics say corporate welfare leads to gang violence. In
recent years, Wall Street has become overrun with so-called
multinationals--"merged" companies that team up to enforce strict control
of their market-share "turf," often through brutal, hostile takeovers of
the competition. The advertising world is already overrun with the gang
signs, or "corporate logos," of these vicious aggregations of power, which
blanket the nation's streets as they ruthlessly mark their territory.

      Such problems seem to be getting worse, prompting some
corporate-welfare opponents to take action. Last fall, the Wisconsin
Legislature passed CW-2, or "Corporate Workfare," an experimental program
many hope will become a model for corporate-welfare reform across the U.S.

      Under the provisions of CW-2, welfare-receiving CEOs are required to
attend job-training seminars and adult-education classes, and work at least
16 hours a week, to remain eligible for benefits. Though CW-2 has been
vociferously opposed by Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who blasted it as
"cruel and unfair to needy companies," the policy is winning wide support.

      "Before CW-2, Wisconsin's corporate-welfare benefits were so
generous, it turned us into a 'welfare magnet,' drawing lazy and indigent
corporations to our state from the poorest business environments of
Chicago," said Wisconsin Sen. Fred Risser, co-author of the CW-2
legislation. "But ever since CW-2 was implemented, the decent folks of this
state have been fighting back."

      James Haltigan, CEO of Wis-Tek Electronics, is one of many Wisconsin
corporate-welfare recipients affected by the new law. Before CW-2, on a
typical weekday afternoon, Haltigan usually found himself at his large oak
desk, barking orders at secretaries. Today, he is standing on the side of a
public highway in a blaze-orange reflective vest, picking up litter for the
Transportation Department as part of a special CW-2 work detail.

      "This is ridiculous," Haltigan said. "I had to cancel an important
conference in the Cayman Islands for this? My stockholders are depending on
me, and I can't adequately address their concerns if I'm stuck out here
collecting trash on I-90/94."

      It remains to be seen whether such attempts at corporate-welfare
reform will be successful in the long run. But one thing is certain: More
and more Americans are convinced that the system, one way or another, has
to change.

      As delivery driver Gus Drummond of Cincinnati put it: "Take, take,
take. It's time these freeloading welfare fat cats pulled their weight.
This is a global free-market capitalist economy we're living in, not some
charity ward."


[File under: Political Humor]

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