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Big Business Getting Something for Nothing

Article by David D’Amato.
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At the beginning of this month (June 1), as a prelude to an expansive study of the Fortune 500 due later this summer, Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) published an analysis of “the current corporate tax debate.” Anarchists oppose taxes on principle as an exalted form of theft, but the fact that the most profitable firms in the country aren’t paying up raises other important questions.

Arguing that the “tax code has … become overburdened with loopholes, shelters and special tax breaks,” CTJ’s study demonstrates that twelve of America’s largest companies currently pay, in effect, a tax rate of negative 1.5 percent. That means that some corporations — among them, Boeing — are in fact making money through the tax system as it is currently operating.

Even apart from its slight of hand regarding its tax bill, corporate America has, for decades on end, been the beneficiary of an outpouring of federal spending that amounts to a gratuitous handout. While none of us working folk pay negative tax rates, the state has been channeling our greenbacks to favored Big Business players.

It would be no exaggeration at all to single out corporate welfare as the defining feature of the American political system, to see the federal government itself as just a slimy culvert for giveaways to the rich. In the United States, though, champions of our system of “free enterprise” are conditioned to be perpetually up in arms only at illegals and the inner city poor “getting something for nothing.”

The American Right is quick to denounce cradle-to-grave welfare statism, carping that people on public assistance ought to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” But if we really, sincerely care about people living off of the hard work of others, then perhaps it is time we undertook an honest inquiry into who is benefitting most from the welfare state.

As observed by Stephen Slivinski, companies like “Boeing, Xerox, IBM, Motorola, Dow Chemical, General Electric, and others have received millions in taxpayer-funded benefits through programs like the Advanced Technology Program and the Export-Import Bank.”

Through policies ranging from, for example, direct subsidies and grants for research and development to the Foreign Military Financing Program, the federal government is a goose laying golden eggs for the rich. Although none of these policies are properly part of a free market, it is at least understandable why conscientious, left-leaning Americans would look on free markets as a field day for moneyed bigwigs.

Since all we ever hear from the corporate establishment are claims that we presently occupy a free market system, confusion is a matter of course. Contrary to the scores of corporate press releases that dominate the media, however, freedom and competition don’t translate to funneling billions of dollars from struggling taxpayers to suits at the largest companies in the world.

Whatever anyone thinks of the free market in theory, the statist “public/private partnerships” we have today just aren’t it. Market anarchists — who regard free markets as a means of liberating working people from corporate mastery — have no interest in identifying with today’s collusive economic framework. As philosopher Roderick Long explained, market anarchists regard the present economy as one in which “corporatism [is] systematic and all-pervasive” rather than “mere friction in an essentially free-market mechanism.”

The state is providing an exceedingly valuable service to the rich. Unlike ordinary working people, however, who have to pay for the “services” that the state ostensibly provides us, Big Business just has to kick back and guzzle down our dollars. Comparing public assistance for the poor with corporate welfare, do we really have to wonder who the state is intended to serve?

A market anarchist society, one free of the state’s upward redistribution, would break the elite’s coercive monopolization of societal wealth. Absent the state, there are plenty of seats as the table of economic plenitude. Today, on the other hand, all of those seats are stolen as footrests for the idle rich.

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