It's no secret that progressives tend to hate big business and libertarians tend to hate big government. But even progressives and libertarians can agree that the only thing worse than those two separate elements is when big business and big government come together.
"Fascism should rightly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power," according to Benito Mussolini. And that guy was a fascist!
But what the good people of the United States may not know is how far this collusion goes: Corporations with billions of dollars obviously lobby governments — both state and federal — for favors regarding laws, regulations and kickbacks. A popular form of these favors are subsidies, which are essentially government-sanctioned monetary grants given to a person, business or group "in support of an enterprise regarded as being in the public interest." But the main thing to know about subsidies is that they are our tax dollars.
This means that at best, the government is trying to help invigorate the economy by injecting capital into businesses and causes it deems worthy. At worst, this means government is picking winners and losers without adequate input from the public, and often government makes the wrong choices — especially when the "winners" are corporations with plenty of money to lobby the government for said subsidies. This is what many folks refer to as "corporate welfare," "crony capitalism" or just "crapitalism."
The surprising thing is how many multi-billion dollar companies are out there that receive your tax dollars in subsidies every year, in addition to their own profits. Here are some highlights of just a few companies that are very high on the list, along with the amounts of their subsidies in recent years, courtesy of Subsidy Tracker:
1. Boeing: $13,174,075,797
Obama with W. James McNerney Jr., CEO of Boeing, right before speaking to members of the Business Roundtable, a trade group representing America's big business.
Yes, believe it or not, at the very top of the subsidy list is the company that makes the majority of our nation's air force equipment, but this amount doesn’t even include all the major contracts Boeing receives directly from the Department of Defense’s public (or covert) budgets.
Nonetheless, with 137 different subsidies spanning from 1997 to the present, Boeing is crushing the competition across the country from Washington, D.C. to Washington state, with some subsidies just referred to as "MEGADEALS."
2. General Motors: $3,494,237,703
Obama speaking at a General Motors assembly plan in Michigan.
It should probably be no surprise that the American car company that got a very special bailout deal during the recession of 2008-09 also manages to get nice subsidies from multiple state governments, especially within its home state of Michigan. From 1985 through the present, General Motors has managed to receive more than $3 billion via 307 different subsidies, and it's very likely the American auto giant won't be "turning around" from this kind of activity anytime soon.
3. Royal Dutch Shell: $2,038,202,298
Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Vaser rings the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange.
It's always nice to see a corporation with a clearly non-American name on the list of the top companies that receive subsidies from American taxpayers, and Royal Dutch Shell certainly fits that bill. Through 66 different subsidies from over five different states — with most of that help coming from Pennsylvania — Royal Dutch Shell has managed to nab over $2 billion in subsidies since just 2003 alone. And you thought the government was finally investing in alternative energy sources? Better think again.
4. Dow Chemical: $1,408,228,374
Obama shakes hands with Andrew Liveris, President, Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Company.
While Dow Chemical doesn't top the list in the amount of subsidy dollars received, it does top the list in the number of subsidies received from various state governments. Dow has received a total of 416 different subsidies from several states since the 1990s, with many of those amounts still essentially unknown. While Michigan and Tennessee have dolled out the most dollars to keep Dow happy, the subsidies range to other states all over the country, including subsidies for "training reimbursements" in Delaware.
5. Goldman Sachs: $661,979,222
Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, arrives at the White House for a meeting with Obama on the debt ceiling and economy.
Hey, remember that company that essentially caused the whole recession a few years ago and then managed to get billions in bailout money from the federal government because the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve were both stacked with the company's former CEOs and high-level employees? Well, just so you know, they also do pretty well in the subsidies department. Goldman Sachs has raked in over $660 million, mostly from their home state of New York, but with some help from New Jersey, Utah and Michigan as well. Hooray!
6. Google: $632,044,922
An Illinois representative shows off his new Google Glass to colleagues.
Besides Intel, Google is the top tech company that receives government subsidies, picking up more than $630 million from states like Oregon, North Carolina and a few others. What does a multi-billion dollar company that controls the majority of the world’s Internet need with more than $630 million in government subsidies, you ask? Well, you know, for things like property taxes and training reimbursements. What, do you all think that money just grows on trees?! Also, don’t even think about googling "Google government subsidies" because THEY WILL KNOW ABOUT IT.
7. Walt Disney: $381,525,727
Then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is escorted on stage by Mickey Mouse to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disney Land.
In case anyone was wondering which media conglomerate receives the most government subsidies, look no further than the Magic Kingdom and Space Mountain. The Walt Disney Company is doing pretty well for itself, garnering more than $380 million in government subsidies since 1991 from states all across the country — from Disney Land in California to Disney World in Florida. Perhaps Mickey Mouse just makes one adorable lobbyist.
8. Wal-Mart Stores: $149,942,595
Wal-Mart employee Richard Wilson. Wilson makes $9.25 an hour and lives with his extended family on the edge of the city.
A lot of people were always rather suspicious during the Clinton years when the Arkansas-based Wal-Mart became so successful so fast, especially considering how much it benefited from all that cheap, bustling trade with China. But it may be surprising to find out that the retail giant also benefits greatly from more than 260 different grants from multiple states totaling nearly $150 million. With that kind of money, it's no wonder they can manage to sell anything and everything in their stores.
9. Abercrombie and Fitch: $23,070,479
Abercrombie and Fitch's use of half-clothed models and sales clerks has garnered a lot of negative attention.
And you thought the clothing business wasn't lucrative? From 1999 through 2013, Abercrombie and its associated brands collected more than $23 million in subsidies, most notably from the state of Ohio, where its corporate headquarters is located. It also received small grants and abatements from Maine and New York. Luckily, they can't apply for subsidies to buy clothes for all the hot models standing outside of their stores.
10. Bed Bath & Beyond: $10,385,041
Will Ferrell's character in Old School likes himself some Bed Bath & Beyond.
The government subsidies going to this popular retailer likely fit into the "Beyond" category. Strangely enough, almost all of Bed Bath & Beyond’s subsidies come to them from the great state of New Jersey as low-cost loans and property tax abatements.
So that's just a sampling of some of the multi-billion dollar companies that are siphoning away your tax dollars for their own needs. Everyone should certainly feel free to check out Subsidy Tracker for any other companies or groups you’d like to check in on. But be warned, the results will make you mad.