Corporate Welfare: A Media Issue At Last? [by Norman Solomon] FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 27 Nov 1998 13:52:54 -0400


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FWD  Fri, 27 Nov 1998
CC Replies To: Norman Solomon <mediabeat@igc.apc.org>


"CORPORATE WELFARE": A MEDIA ISSUE AT LAST?

By Norman Solomon  /  Creators Syndicate


     For many years, across the United States, huge quantities of
tax breaks and subsidies have been going to corporations.
Occasionally, the media spotlight falls on an example of how
government policies stand Robin Hood on his head -- shaking down
the poor and middle class while handing over the proceeds to
wealthy individuals and big businesses.

     Sometimes called "corporate welfare," this pattern of
legalized rip-offs has been widespread -- yet little of the story
seems to emerge in major news outlets. Overall, the coverage is
sporadic at best. In mass media, the broader picture has been
missing -- until the last few weeks.

     November brought a series of breakthroughs, thanks to two
gifted reporters and a news weekly that allowed them to engage in
rigorous journalism. All month, beginning with a cover story on
"What Corporate Welfare Costs You," Time magazine featured
extraordinary exposes by Donald Barlett and James Steele.

     Corporate welfare, they write, is "a game in which
governments large and small subsidize corporations large and
small, usually at the expense of another state or town and almost
always at the expense of individuals and other corporate
taxpayers."

     Barlett and Steele report that "the federal government alone
shells out $125 billion a year in corporate welfare." Meanwhile,
"a different kind of feeding frenzy is taking place" at the state
and local level -- where "politicians stumble over one another in
the rush to arrange special deals for select corporations."

     In theory, the giveaways create jobs. In practice, the
theory is hogwash: "Time's investigation has established that
almost without exception, local and state politicians have doled
out tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to businesses that are
in fact eliminating rather than creating jobs."

     Often, when localities roll out the gold carpet for firms,
government coffers shrink -- and services for the public
diminish. As Barlett and Steele document in excruciating detail,
one of the common results is health-threatening pollution that
goes unchallenged. The most vulnerable neighborhoods tend to be
where low-income people live.

     The big hogs at the tax-funded trough include popular brands
-- Intel and Dow, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz, Exxon and
Shell, UPS and Procter & Gamble, to name just a few. Some are the
parent companies of media empires, such as Walt Disney (ABC),
General Electric (NBC) and -- as the Time series acknowledges --
Time Warner.

     "The king of corporate welfare may be Archer Daniels
Midland," according to Time. "The global agricultural-commodities
dealer has artfully preserved one of the more blatant welfare
programs -- a subsidy for ethanol that has already cost taxpayers
more than $5 billion in the 1990s. Some $3 billion of that has
gone to ADM."

     Year after year, Archer Daniels Midland has poured several
million dollars into the nightly PBS "NewsHour" television show
hosted by Jim Lehrer. ADM is also an underwriter of National
Public Radio news. And the savvy firm buys a lot of image ads on
commercial TV network programs that discuss political issues. Not
surprisingly, ADM hasn't been subjected to much tough reporting
on the national airwaves.

     Corporate welfare is an important issue. But it can easily
be spun in dubious directions. For instance, in an article
addressed "To Our Readers," Time's editor-in-chief Norman
Pearlstine throws a wide curve that breaks sharply downward and
to the right.

     "Ending corporate welfare as we know it is essential,"
Pearlstine contends. But then comes the english: "Rather than
give corporations uneven and unfair exemptions, it may make more
sense to simply do away with both corporate welfare and corporate
taxation."

     Now there's an idea that Time Warner can get behind: Stop
taxing corporations!

     Another hazard is the temptation to put all forms of
government assistance in the same "welfare" category. It would be
a big mistake to equate government aid to dependent corporations
with safety-net subsidies for children, seniors and others
struggling at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

     Government should not be using tax dollars to help the rich
get richer. But government has no business refusing to help
Americans get the nutrition, health care, housing and other
basics that are everyone's human right.

     Welcome as it is, the occasional blockbuster expose of
corporate abuses -- even in a media outlet as influential as Time
magazine -- won't accomplish very much. Without an "echo effect,"
these issues are likely to remain muted.

     The need to speak up and take action is a burden that falls
on people in every community. Large corporations have been
ripping us off for decades. Our initial efforts to force
restitution will not be televised.

END FORWARD
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FWD  Fri, 27 Nov 1998 

CC Replies To: Norman Solomon <<mediabeat@igc.apc.org>



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>"CORPORATE WELFARE": A MEDIA ISSUE
AT LAST?

 

By Norman Solomon  /  Creators Syndicate

</paraindent> 

 

     For many years, across the United States, huge quantities of

tax breaks and subsidies have been going to corporations.

Occasionally, the media spotlight falls on an example of how

government policies stand Robin Hood on his head -- shaking down

the poor and middle class while handing over the proceeds to

wealthy individuals and big businesses.

 

     Sometimes called "corporate welfare," this pattern of

legalized rip-offs has been widespread -- yet little of the story

seems to emerge in major news outlets. Overall, the coverage is

sporadic at best. In mass media, the broader picture has been

missing -- until the last few weeks.

 

     November brought a series of breakthroughs, thanks to two

gifted reporters and a news weekly that allowed them to engage in

rigorous journalism. All month, beginning with a cover story on

"What Corporate Welfare Costs You," Time magazine featured

extraordinary exposes by Donald Barlett and James Steele.

 

     Corporate welfare, they write, is "a game in which

governments large and small subsidize corporations large and

small, usually at the expense of another state or town and almost

always at the expense of individuals and other corporate

taxpayers."

 

     Barlett and Steele report that "the federal government alone

shells out $125 billion a year in corporate welfare." Meanwhile,

"a different kind of feeding frenzy is taking place" at the state

and local level -- where "politicians stumble over one another in

the rush to arrange special deals for select corporations."

 

     In theory, the giveaways create jobs. In practice, the

theory is hogwash: "Time's investigation has established that

almost without exception, local and state politicians have doled

out tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to businesses that are

in fact eliminating rather than creating jobs."

 

     Often, when localities roll out the gold carpet for firms,

government coffers shrink -- and services for the public

diminish. As Barlett and Steele document in excruciating detail,

one of the common results is health-threatening pollution that

goes unchallenged. The most vulnerable neighborhoods tend to be

where low-income people live.

 

     The big hogs at the tax-funded trough include popular brands

-- Intel and Dow, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz, Exxon and

Shell, UPS and Procter & Gamble, to name just a few. Some are the

parent companies of media empires, such as Walt Disney (ABC),

General Electric (NBC) and -- as the Time series acknowledges --

Time Warner.

 

     "The king of corporate welfare may be Archer Daniels

Midland," according to Time. "The global agricultural-commodities

dealer has artfully preserved one of the more blatant welfare

programs -- a subsidy for ethanol that has already cost taxpayers

more than $5 billion in the 1990s. Some $3 billion of that has

gone to ADM."

 

     Year after year, Archer Daniels Midland has poured several

million dollars into the nightly PBS "NewsHour" television show

hosted by Jim Lehrer. ADM is also an underwriter of National

Public Radio news. And the savvy firm buys a lot of image ads on

commercial TV network programs that discuss political issues. Not

surprisingly, ADM hasn't been subjected to much tough reporting

on the national airwaves.

 

     Corporate welfare is an important issue. But it can easily

be spun in dubious directions. For instance, in an article

addressed "To Our Readers," Time's editor-in-chief Norman

Pearlstine throws a wide curve that breaks sharply downward and

to the right.

 

     "Ending corporate welfare as we know it is essential,"

Pearlstine contends. But then comes the english: "Rather than

give corporations uneven and unfair exemptions, it may make more

sense to simply do away with both corporate welfare and corporate

taxation."

 

     Now there's an idea that Time Warner can get behind: Stop

taxing corporations!

     

     Another hazard is the temptation to put all forms of

government assistance in the same "welfare" category. It would be

a big mistake to equate government aid to dependent corporations

with safety-net subsidies for children, seniors and others

struggling at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

 

     Government should not be using tax dollars to help the rich

get richer. But government has no business refusing to help

Americans get the nutrition, health care, housing and other

basics that are everyone's human right.

 

     Welcome as it is, the occasional blockbuster expose of

corporate abuses -- even in a media outlet as influential as Time

magazine -- won't accomplish very much. Without an "echo effect,"

these issues are likely to remain muted.

 

     The need to speak up and take action is a burden that falls

on people in every community. Large corporations have been

ripping us off for decades. Our initial efforts to force

restitution will not be televised.


END FORWARD

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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