Coronavirus And The Height Of Corporate Welfare

With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the global economy, here’s how massive corporations are shafting the rest of us in order to secure billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded bailouts.

The airline industry demanded a massive bailout of nearly $60 billion in taxpayer dollars, and ended up securing $50 billion – half in loans, half in direct grants that don’t need to be paid back. 

Airlines don’t deserve a cent. The five biggest U.S. airlines spent 96 percent of their free cash flow over the last decade buying back shares of their own stock to boost executive bonuses and please wealthy investors.

United was so determined to get its windfall of taxpayer money that it threatened to fire workers if it didn’t get its way. Before the Senate bill passed, CEO Oscar Munoz wrote that “if Congress doesn’t act on sufficient government support by the end of March, our company will begin to…reduce our payroll….”

Airlines could have renegotiated their debts with their lenders outside court, or file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. They’ve reorganized under bankruptcy many times before. Either way, they’d keep flying.

The hotel industry says it needs $150 billion. The industry says as many as 4 million workers could lose their jobs in the coming weeks if they don’t receive a bailout. Everyone from general managers to housekeepers will be affected. But don’t worry – the layoffs won’t reach the corporate level.

Hotel chains don’t need a bailout. For years, they’ve been making record profits while underpaying their workers. Marriott, the largest hotel chain in the world, repurchased $2.3 billion of its own stock last year, while raking in nearly $4 billion in profits. 


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Thankfully, Trump’s hotels and businesses, as well as any of his family members’ businesses, are barred from receiving anything from the $500 billion corporate bailout money. But the bill is full of loopholes that Trump can exploit to benefit himself and his hotels.Cruise ships also want to be bailed out, and Trump called them a “prime candidate” to receive a government handout. But they don’t deserve it either. The three cruise ship corporations controlling 75 percent of the entire global market are incorporated outside of the United States to avoid paying taxes.

They’re floating tax shelters, paying an average U.S. tax rate of just 0.8 percent. Democrats secured key provisions stipulating that companies are only eligible for bailout money if they are incorporated in the United States and have a majority of U.S. employees, so the cruise ship industry likely won’t see a dime of relief funding. However, Trump has made it clear he still wants to help them.

The justification I’ve heard about why all these corporations need to be bailed out is they’ll keep workers on their payrolls. But why should we believe big corporations will protect their workers right now? 

The $500 billion slush fund included in the Senate’s emergency relief package doesn’t require corporations to keep paying their workers and has dismally weak restrictions on stock buybacks and executive pay. 

Even if the bill did provide worker protections, what’s going to happen to these corporations’ subcontractors and gig workers? What about worker benefits, pensions and health care? How much of this bailout is going to end up in the pockets of executives and big investors?The record of Big Business isn’t comforting. Amazon, one of the richest corporations in the world, which paid almost no taxes last year, is only offering unpaid time off for workers who are sick and just two weeks paid leave for workers who test positive for the virus. Meanwhile, it demands its employees put in mandatory overtime.Oh, and these corporations made sure they and other companies with more than 500 employees were exempt from the requirement in the first House coronavirus bill that employers provide paid sick leave.And now, less than a month into statewide shelter-in-place orders and social distancing restrictions, Wall Streeters and corporate America’s chief executives are calling for supposedly “low-risk” groups to be sent back to work to restart the economy. 

They’re so concerned about protecting their bottom line that they’re willing to let people die to preserve their stock portfolios, all while they continue working from the safety and security of their own homes. It’s the most repugnant class warfare you can imagine.Here’s the bottom line: no mega-corporation deserves a cent of bailout money. For decades these companies and their billionaire executives have been dodging taxes, getting tax cuts, shafting workers, and bending the rules to enrich themselves. There’s no reason to trust them to do the right thing with billions of dollars in taxpayer money. 

Every penny we have needs to go to average Americans who desperately need income support and health care, and to hospitals that need life-saving equipment. It’s outrageous that the Senate bill gave corporations nearly four times as much money as hospitals on the front lines. 

Corporate welfare is bad enough in normal times. Now, in a national emergency, it’s morally repugnant. We must stop bailing out corporations. It’s time we bail out people.

About the Author

Robert ReichROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock" and “The Work of Nations." His latest, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Books by Robert Reich

Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few -- by Robert B. Reich

0345806220America was once celebrated for and defined by its large and prosperous middle class. Now, this middle class is shrinking, a new oligarchy is rising, and the country faces its greatest wealth disparity in eighty years. Why is the economic system that made America strong suddenly failing us, and how can it be fixed?

Click here for more info or to order this book on Amazon.

 

Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it -- by Robert B. Reich

Beyond OutrageIn this timely book, Robert B. Reich argues that nothing good happens in Washington unless citizens are energized and organized to make sure Washington acts in the public good. The first step is to see the big picture. Beyond Outrage connects the dots, showing why the increasing share of income and wealth going to the top has hobbled jobs and growth for everyone else, undermining our democracy; caused Americans to become increasingly cynical about public life; and turned many Americans against one another. He also explains why the proposals of the “regressive right” are dead wrong and provides a clear roadmap of what must be done instead. Here’s a plan for action for everyone who cares about the future of America.

Click here for more info or to order this book on Amazon.

Recommended books:

Capital in the Twenty-First Century
by Thomas Piketty. (Translated by Arthur Goldhammer)

Capital in the Twenty-First Century Hardcover by Thomas Piketty.In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, says Thomas Piketty, and may do so again. A work of extraordinary ambition, originality, and rigor, Capital in the Twenty-First Century reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature
by Mark R. Tercek and Jonathan S. Adams.

Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature by Mark R. Tercek and Jonathan S. Adams.What is nature worth? The answer to this question—which traditionally has been framed in environmental terms—is revolutionizing the way we do business. In Nature’s Fortune, Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy and former investment banker, and science writer Jonathan Adams argue that nature is not only the foundation of human well-being, but also the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make. The forests, floodplains, and oyster reefs often seen simply as raw materials or as obstacles to be cleared in the name of progress are, in fact as important to our future prosperity as technology or law or business innovation. Nature’s Fortune offers an essential guide to the world’s economic—and environmental—well-being.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it -- by Robert B. Reich

Beyond OutrageIn this timely book, Robert B. Reich argues that nothing good happens in Washington unless citizens are energized and organized to make sure Washington acts in the public good. The first step is to see the big picture. Beyond Outrage connects the dots, showing why the increasing share of income and wealth going to the top has hobbled jobs and growth for everyone else, undermining our democracy; caused Americans to become increasingly cynical about public life; and turned many Americans against one another. He also explains why the proposals of the “regressive right” are dead wrong and provides a clear roadmap of what must be done instead. Here’s a plan for action for everyone who cares about the future of America.

Click here for more info or to order this book on Amazon.


This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement
by Sarah van Gelder and staff of YES! Magazine.

This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement by Sarah van Gelder and staff of YES! Magazine.This Changes Everything shows how the Occupy movement is shifting the way people view themselves and the world, the kind of society they believe is possible, and their own involvement in creating a society that works for the 99% rather than just the 1%. Attempts to pigeonhole this decentralized, fast-evolving movement have led to confusion and misperception. In this volume, the editors of YES! Magazine bring together voices from inside and outside the protests to convey the issues, possibilities, and personalities associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. This book features contributions from Naomi Klein, David Korten, Rebecca Solnit, Ralph Nader, and others, as well as Occupy activists who were there from the beginning.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.



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