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Est. April 5, 2002
October 29, 2015 - Issue 627

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Why Not Drug Test CEOs?

"When right-wing politicians are drooling to
drug test poor welfare recipients, they are
hoping you will never know, or will have
forgotten, that corporate welfare is being
handed out at the rate of  $1.50 for every
$1 that is provided for feeding and
housing the poor in the U.S."

It seems clear that the proposals springing up across the country to force food stamp and welfare recipients to undergo drug testing are a way for mean-spirited politicians and others to further punish the poor.

Forget the war on poverty.  That was from another time. Right now, there is a war on the poor that seemingly has no end. The easiest thing in the world for politicians to go after in saving money in the federal budget is to slash the range of social programs that provide sustenance for the poor, untold numbers of children, and to a great degree, the elderly and disabled.

Often, those members of society do not vote or cannot vote, so there is little danger of a response for the politicians who advocate cutting the programs for these folks.  Out of that has come a rash of proposals to require anyone who receives any kind of assistance, whether it is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, or other benefits, to submit to drug testing before they can receive any kind of assistance.

The variety of proposed programs is wide and the states have their own version, but the federal government, from which much of any assistance program funding comes, has a veto over some of the points.  Many members of congress are mean-spirited enough that punishing the poor and vulnerable seems to be a good idea, although their worst impulses are mitigated by others.  At least, so far, so the worst punishment has not happened.  They haven’t managed to cut or privatize all social-benefit programs.

By 2015, some 13 states have some form of drug screening before any public assistance can be given.  Other states are considering some form of drug screening as part of application for assistance.  In at least one state, a positive drug test makes the applicant ineligible for assistance for six months.  The question is whether the penalty is worth depriving family members of someone who has a drug problem.  For politicians who are perfect, this much is clear:  Of course, it is worth it.  The violator must be punished, regardless of the outcome, and they will tell you that feeding and housing children can be provided in another way.

All of this is by way of ensuring that no taxpayer money is given to individuals or families who might have a person who is using some of that largesse to buy illegal drugs.  They consider such a circumstance theft and fraud.  Since the programs established for the millions of average Americans who need treatment for drug use and abuse are not sufficient, it is certain that some of those who apply for public assistance will test positive for drug use.  It’s a toss-up whether the authors and sponsors of the drug-testing legislation for assistance applicants are trying to prevent taxpayers’ money being used to buy drugs (this follows attempts to ensure that they can’t buy cigarettes or alcohol).

Any reasonable assessment of the welfare programs shows that the vast majority of men and women who receive assistance are spending it on the necessities of life, and they are spending it where they live, supporting retail businesses and services throughout the community.  These are not people who are going to take their money and put it in a foreign banking system.  They spend it where they live, right away.

Somehow, though, the politicians who want to make sure that those on food stamps and other assistance are spending their money on food, housing, utilities, and other simple costs of living are not that concerned about the corporate welfare that is rampant.  In America, those who have the most get the most, and that’s what corporate welfare shows everyone.  It is not reported much in the press or the media and politicians are loathe to bring up such a distasteful subject, largely because they benefit from the bribes that are paid by corporations in the form of campaign donations.

By some accounts, corporate welfare spending is 50 percent higher than social program spending, but that usually does not make it to the evening news broadcasts. Just as the politicians avoid biting the hand that feeds them, the mass media is owned by some of the very gigantic corporations that keep politicians in business.   David Brunori, writing in Forbes magazine in 2014, asked the question about corporate welfare, “Where is the outrage?”    

He quoted another writer and researcher, who noted that “three-quarters of all state economic development subsidies went to just 965 corporations since the beginning of the study in 1976. The Fortune 500 corporations alone accounted for more than 16,000 subsidy awards, worth $63 billion – mostly in the form of tax breaks.”  And, he pointed out, “…the largest, wealthiest, most powerful organizations in the world are on the public dole.”

Where is the outrage? Back when I was young, people went into a frenzy at the thought of some unemployed person using food stamps to buy liquor or cigarettes…”  When Boeing got $13 billion in government handouts, “…everyone yawns, when conservatives should be grabbing their pitchforks.” 

We can safely say that “it ain’t gonna happen.”  The vast range of the political spectrum just sees corporate welfare as a given, just like polluted air and water.  The crimes committed by corporations are legion, and their government welfare programs just keep on plowing forward.  There are tax breaks, tax rebates, subsidies, direct grants and, even, subsidies for companies that take jobs from American workers, to countries where the wages are one-tenth of the standard in the U.S.  The difference between, say  $20 an hour in the U.S. and $2 an hour in Malaysia or Vietnam is one of the grandest examples of corporate welfare, because those companies often do not pay the proper taxes and the profits are sent to a country where there are no taxes and the banks do not disclose the existence or size of bank accounts.

On top of that, Corporate America years ago convinced the Congress to give them subsidies for taking their business elsewhere.  One of the biggest pieces of corporate welfare is the farm subsidy.  Do not for a minute think that those subsidies go to the mom-and-pop dairy farm.  Rather, they go to the biggest industrial operations, which deal in the millions of dollars and whose owners might never set foot on the earth under their enterprises.   A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put out a demographic map of the locations of farm subsidies across the country.  The subsidy areas were in red and you could see the usual places: Mid-west grain belt, hog-growing factories in the same region or North Carolina, and other regions.  One of the reddest places, however, was Manhattan.

You might question that, thinking that there cannot be too much farmland left in the city considered to be the financial capital of the world.  You would be right, but you also would be right if you thought the big money boys were heavily invested in agriculture, or food, in general, because everyone has to eat sometime.  It’s corporate welfare, just like the $1 billion that Berkshire Hathaway received in corporate welfare over a period of years.  Warren Buffett, who is personally worth an estimated $58 billion did not need the $1 billion in welfare, but it was offered and, as Brunori asked, who wouldn’t take it?  Buffett’s company has a reported $485 billion in assets and $20 billion in profits.

All of this is not to mention the welfare of war profiteers (remember the   $1.5 billion in cash that just disappeared in Iraq), and the shoddy work that mercenaries and contractors performed in war zones?  That kind of welfare has not stopped and, although the companies did provide some “services,” the excess charges, cost overruns, and untraceable funds are more examples of corporate welfare.

When right-wing politicians are drooling to drug test poor welfare recipients, they are hoping you will never know, or will have forgotten, that corporate welfare is being handed out at the rate of  $1.50 for every $1 that is provided for feeding and housing the poor in the U.S.  It’s a lop-sided, unjust budget number that needs to be corrected, starting with bringing to an end the war mongering of the nation’s officials at every level. 

Let one politician with a semblance of spine left call for drug testing corporate heads and their minions in top and middle management, just to see of any taxpayer money is being spent on drugs,  $300 lunches for two, and bonuses of  $2.5 million, on top of their $5 million “compensation package.”  That call for drug testing should be accompanies by introduction of legislation to accomplish it.  Only those politicians with a bit of courage will be listed as co-sponsors. 

Nothing makes it clearer, that most of the federal and most state budgets welfare programs benefits the richest and most powerful than the egregious nerve of politicians to drug test the poor and let the corporations off the hook in their theft of billions of dollars every year.  Indeed, where is the outrage? Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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