In the War for America’s Wealth, the Oligarchs Are Winning

April 21st, 2022 - by Hon. Bernie Sanders / US Senate

No. Jeff Bezos cannot have a $10 billion
bailout from taxpayers for his space hobby

Hon. Bernie Sanders / US Senate

(April 20, 2022) — Today in America, the unfortunate reality is that the rich continue to get much richer while the working class is struggling to get by.

Oligarchy and massive income and wealth inequality are on the rise. The billionaire class has seen its wealth explode during the pandemic. Meanwhile, half of our people continue to live paycheck to paycheck and the high inflation rate is making life for the working class even more difficult.

Yet in the midst of all of the crises we currently face, Congress will likely be voting next week on a bill that provides tens of billions in corporate welfare to some of the most profitable corporations and wealthiest people on the planet. This bill provides $53 billion to the profitable microchip industry with no taxpayer protections and, if you can believe it, another $10 billion to Blue Origin, a space company owned by Jeff Bezos.

Amazon, which is owned by Bezos, is a company which, in a given year, pays nothing in federal income taxes after making billions in profits. And, by the way, in a given year Bezos has himself paid nothing in federal income taxes despite being worth nearly $200 billion.

Jeff Bezos has enough money to buy a $500 million yacht.

Jeff Bezos has enough money to buy a $23 million mansion with 25 bathrooms in Washington, D.C.

No. I do not think that the taxpayers of this country need to be providing a $10 billion bailout to Jeff Bezos to fuel his space hobby.

This upcoming legislation is related to an extremely important issue that is rarely discussed in the corporate media or on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and that is how we proceed with industrial policy in this country.

Now, let me be clear. I believe in industrial policy. And I believe that it makes sense, in certain circumstances, for the government and the private sector to work together to address a pressing need in America.

But industrial policy means cooperation between the government and the private sector. It does not mean the government providing massive amounts of corporate welfare to profitable corporations without getting anything in return.

In other words, will the United States government develop an industrial policy that benefits all of our society, or will we continue to have an industrial policy that benefits the wealthy and the powerful?

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The problem is that we all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free enterprise capitalism for the poor.” I am afraid what Dr. King said 54 years ago was accurate back then, and it is even more accurate today.

The ostensible purpose of this legislation is to increase microchip production in the United States. This is important for the economy and something I support. But we can do that without simply providing a blank check to the most profitable corporations in the country.

In terms of the microchip industry, the American people should know the truth.

We are talking about an industry that has shut down over 780 manufacturing plants in the United States and eliminated 150,000 American jobs over the last 20 years while moving most of its production overseas.

In other words, in order to make more profits, these companies shut down plants in America and hired cheap labor abroad. And now, believe it or not, these very same companies are in line to receive $53 billion in corporate welfare to undo the damage that they did.

I suspect five major semiconductor companies will likely receive the lion’s share of this taxpayer handout: Intel, Texas Instruments, Micron Technology, Global Foundries and Samsung.

These five companies made over $75 billion in profits last year.

The company that will likely benefit the most from this taxpayer assistance is Intel. I have nothing against Intel. I wish them well. But, let’s be clear. Intel is not a poor company. It is not going broke.

In 2021, Intel made nearly $20 billion in profits.

We’re talking about a company that had enough money to spend $14.2 billion during the pandemic, not on research and development, but on buying back its own stock to reward its executives and wealthy shareholders.

We’re talking about a company that could afford to give its CEO, Pat Gelsinger, a $116 million compensation package last year.

We’re talking about a company that could afford to spend over $100 million on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past 20 years.

Does it sound like this company, and the others, really need corporate welfare? I think not.

We hear a lot of talk in Washington, D.C., about the need to create public-private partnerships — and that all sounds very good. But when the government adopts an industrial policy that socializes all of the risk and privatizes all of the profits — whether it’s handing the microchip industry a $53 billion blank check or giving Jeff Bezos a $10 billion bailout to fly to the Moon — that’s not a partnership. That is corporate welfare. That is crony capitalism. And that must be opposed.

The American people are increasingly sick and tired of corporations making record-breaking profits, while they struggle to pay outrageously higher prices for gas, rent and food.

They are sick and tired of the high cost of prescription drugs, child care, housing and groceries.

They are sick and tired of CEOs making 350 times more than the average worker, while working families struggle.

They are sick and tired of the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations not paying their fair share of taxes.

They are sick and tired of a corrupt political system in which big money interests dominate not only the economic life of the country, but our political life as well.

I know it sounds like a radical idea but maybe, just maybe, our government should represent all of the people, and not just the well-connected few. Maybe we should pay attention to the needs of working families, and not just billionaires and large profitable corporations.

Let us go forward together. Let us continue to grow a movement based on solidarity and compassion, not on greed and divisiveness.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.