Jul 25, 2022
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday again took aim at the CHIPS Act, proposed bipartisan legislation the Vermont independent noted contains tens of billions of dollars in "corporate welfare" for tech giants--taxpayer money he says would be better spent on programs of social uplift.
"The question we should be asking is this: Should American taxpayers provide the microchip industry with a blank check of over $76 billion?"
"What the CHIPS bill represents is the question of whether or not we will have priorities in this country that represent the needs of working families and the middle class, or whether this institution, the entire Congress, is totally beholden to wealthy and powerful corporate interests," Sanders said Monday during a Senate floor speech.
The Associated Pressreports the Senate was set to vote on advancing the bill on Monday. However, stormy East Coast weather disrupted several lawmakers' travel plans and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the vote will be held Tuesday morning. The House will take up the measure after the Senate votes.
"I do not argue with anyone who makes the point that there is a global shortage in microchips and semiconductors which, is making it harder for manufacturers to produce the cars, the cellphones, the household appliances, and the electronic equipment that we need," Sanders continued. "This shortage is, in fact, costing American workers good-paying jobs and raising prices for families. That is why I personally strongly support efforts to expand U.S. microchip production."
\u201cLIVE: Some of my colleagues in the Senate want to give in to the extortion of the microchip industry and hand them a $76 billion blank check. I say instead let\u2019s enact the agenda the American people want. https://t.co/7IZNibgb0p\u201d— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders) 1658781200
The senator continued:
The question we should be asking is this: Should American taxpayers provide the microchip industry with a blank check of over $76 billion at the same exact time when semiconductor companies are making tens of billions of dollars in profits and paying their CEOs exorbitant compensation packages?... I think the answer to that is a resounding no. This is an enormously profitable industry.
For $76 billion we could expand Medicare to provide senior citizens with the high-quality hearing aids and eyeglasses that they desperately need. And for a bit more we could provide dental care as well. For $76 billion we could eliminate homelessness in America and create good-paying jobs from Maine to California building hundreds of thousands of affordable rental units. For $76 billion we could make every community college in America tuition free for the next seven years. And on and on it goes.
Sanders' speech came days after the two-time democratic socialist presidential candidate introduced an amendment to the CHIPS Act that would impose restrictions on the billions of dollars in federal subsidies and tax credits Congress is set to give the already booming U.S. microchip industry.
Some critics have noted that lawmakers pushing for passage of the CHIPS Act have apparent pecuniary conflicts of interest. For example, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) husband purchased as much as $5 million worth of Silicon Valley software and chipmaker Nvidia's stock ahead of the expected CHIPS Act vote.
"When signed into law, the impacts of this bipartisan chips and innovation bill will last years if not decades," Schumer said Monday on the Senate floor. "It will mean an increase in American jobs, increased manufacturing here at home, relief for our supply chains, and lower costs for the American people."
However, Sanders contended that "at a time when the working families of this country are falling further and further behind while the very rich are getting much richer, let us get our priorities right."
"Not only would this bill be providing corporate welfare to profitable American corporations, but we would literally be handing over U.S. taxpayer dollars to corporations that are owned or controlled by other countries," he continued.
"If private companies are going to benefit from generous taxpayer subsidies, the financial gains made by these companies must be shared with the American people, not just wealthy shareholders," Sanders added. "In other words, if microchip companies make a profit as a direct result of these federal grants, the taxpayers of this country have a right to get a reasonable return on that investment."
"Bottom line: Let us rebuild the U.S. microchip industry," he argued, "but let's do it in a way that benefits all of our society, not just a handful of wealthy, profitable, and powerful corporations."
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