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Little chance of corporate reform

Posted: March 20, 2014 9:18 a.m.
Updated: March 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Conservatives are mightily concerned -- rightly so -- about runaway entitlement spending in this country. Various social programs enacted since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society began in the mid-1960s are at a boiling point.

And it’s a fact -- Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues in Washington would never tell you this -- that nearly half of all Americans pay no income taxes at all. Doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that the other half pays both shares.

But some notable Republicans are finally waking up and tooting the horn not only for welfare reform but for corporate welfare reform -- an end to the billions of dollars doled out to Fortune 100 companies, those American financial behemoths who lick their chops every year at the government trough.

Investors Business Daily -- hardly an icon of left-wing economic theory -- recently ran a front-page story by Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation.  Yes, that’s the right-wing think tank now headed by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

Moore says it’s impossible to even measure the mountain of cash that Uncle Sam doles out to multi-national companies because it’s so well hidden from public view.

But Open The Books, an organization devoted to transparency in government, will soon release a report that from 2000 to 2012, the 100 largest companies in the U.S. received $1.2 trillion -- yes, that’s  trillion in payments from the federal government.

That doesn’t even include hundreds of billions in economic bailouts to housing, banking and auto companies during the economic meltdown in 2008 and 2009.

Most of it came in the form of contracts between government agencies and private firms. The government did, of course, receive services for that trillion-plus, though Moore points out that the recipient companies have become skilled lobbyists for ever-higher appropriations.

But $21.3 billion came in the form of outright corporate welfare subsidies. On average, Moore points out, each Fortune 100 company took about $200 million in taxpayer handouts.

The biggest recipient was General Electric, one of the worst-run megacompanies in corporate history (its stock trades for half what it did a dozen years ago), with $380 million in sweetheart gifts.

Many companies received grants for President Obama’s “green technologies,” many of them completely impractical, and about $8.5 billion came in the form of taxpayer-subsidized loans to such giants as ExxonMobil, Ford and Chevron.

The list goes on, with 99 out of the Fortune 100 companies lining up, as Moore says, in the federal soup line.

The problem is that those on the far left don’t want to do anything to slow down entitlements, and those on the far right refuse to acknowledge Uncle Sam’s gifts to big business.

Moore points out that two Republicans -- Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- are willing to take on the corporate bigwigs who continue to rake in federal welfare.

Most of their other colleagues, their campaign chests fattened with corporate donations, simply look the other way.

And on the other side of the aisle, there aren’t any Democrats who are willing to step up and complain about some of the wasteful entitlement programs that leave the country mired in debt.

And those in the middle? There are few of them in Washington today.

Until more lawmakers step up, we’ll have little chance of welfare reform -- or of corporate welfare reform.

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