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Wall St. and Broad St. signs are seen by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building in the financial district of New York City, United States on August 16, 2021. (Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Only Real Socialism in the US Is Corporate Welfare

We do have socialism in this country—but it's not Democrats' policies. The real socialism is corporate welfare.

Robert Reich

 by RobertReich.org

You may have heard Republicans in Congress rail about how the Democrats' agenda is chock-full of scary "socialist" policies. 

We do have socialism in this country—but it's not Democrats' policies. The real socialism is corporate welfare. 

Big Tech, Big Oil, Big Pharma, defense contractors, and big banks are the biggest beneficiaries of corporate welfare.

Thousands of big American corporations rake in billions each year in government subsidies, bailouts, and tax loopholes—all funded on the taxpayer dime, and all contributing to higher stock prices for the richest 1 percent who own half of the stock market, as well as CEOs and other top executives who are paid largely in shares of stock. 

Big Tech, Big Oil, Big Pharma, defense contractors, and big banks are the biggest beneficiaries of corporate welfare.

How? Follow the money. These corporations and their trade groups spend hundreds of millions each year on lobbying and campaign contributions. Their influence-peddling pays off. The return on these political investments is huge. It's institutionalized bribery. 

An even more insidious example is corporations that don't pay their workers a living wage. As a result, their workers have to rely on programs like Medicaid, public housing, food stamps and other safety nets. Which means you and I and other taxpayers indirectly subsidize these corporations, allowing them to enjoy even higher profits and share prices for their wealthy investors and executives.

Not only does corporate welfare take money away from us as taxpayers. It also harms smaller businesses that have a harder time competing with big businesses that get these subsidies. Everyone loses except those at the top. 

It's more socialism for the rich, harsh capitalism for the rest. 

It should be ended.

I'm as sensitive as anyone to the sufferings of Afghans now, but I've had it with the sanctimony of journalists and pundits who haven't thought about Afghanistan for 20 years—many of whom urged we get out—but who are now filling the August news hole with overwrought stories about Biden's botched exit and Taliban atrocities. 

Yes, the exit could have been better planned and executed. Yes, it's all horribly sad. But can we get a grip? The sudden all-consuming focus on Afghanistan is distracting us from hugely important stuff that's coming to a head at home:

(1) Republican politicians and right-wing media worsening the surging Delta variant of COVID by fighting masks and vaccinations, as cities and school systems struggle to decide what to do;

(2) wildfires and floods consuming much of America, as House Democrats absurdly threaten to oppose Biden's $3.5 trillion budget blueprint containing important measures to slow climate change;

(3) Texas on the verge of passing the nation's most anti-democracy voting restrictions, adding to voter suppression measures in 24 other states, at the same time the "For the People Act" and the "John Lewis Voting Rights Act"—which would remedy these horrendous laws—languish in the Senate because Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema refuse to do anything about the filibuster. 

Enough sanctimony over Afghanistan. Enough about Biden's falling approval ratings. We've had enough wall-to-wall coverage of the Olympics and then Andrew Cuomo and now the airport in Kabul. Can we please focus on the biggest things that need and deserve our attention right now? The window of opportunity to do anything about them will close sooner than we expect. 

If we don't take action now on COVID and the critical importance of vaccinations and masks, on climate change and Biden's $3.5 trillion package, and on voter suppression and the necessity of the For the People and the John Lewis Voting Rights Acts, we may never. 


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include:  "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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