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The U.S. Oligarchs: When Will We Sanction Them?
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The U.S. Oligarchs: When Will We Sanction Them?

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In America, the infamous Robber Barons of the 19th century seem to have been resurrected. News that giant tech firms in the U.S. are to receive $9.3 billion in subsidies from state and local governments stinks of the titanic monopolists who once rigged markets and who cheated everyone to better themselves. To make matters worse, companies like Google and Amazon are robbing the coffers of some of America’s hardest hit states.

A report from watchdog group Good Jobs First not only points the finger at household names like Apple and Amazon but at companies like Foxconn that manufacture technology like the iPhone and the PlayStations our kids play on. One report on Foxconn getting $4.8 billion for a plant in Wisconsin tips the scale of questionable expenditures, but this report by Ese Olumhense of The Chicago Tribune reveals how Amazon used non-disclosure agreements to bind city governments to remain silent about billionaire Jeff Bezos’ new HQ location bidding process. 20 potential locations for the new headquarters were prevented from releasing information on the next steps in Amazon’s selection process, and for a good reason. If taxpayers in those locations new the local governments were throwing their property and local sales taxes at Amazon to lure Bezos’ company in, there would be hell to pay.

To add insult to injury, the fact that many city boards no held to NDAs refuse to reveal their first-round bid information to taxpayers just makes the messy corporate control of America that much nastier. This Good Jobs First report reveals the magnitude of a non-disclosed redirect of public funds diverted to new streets, sidewalks or sewer lines that only benefit companies like Amazon and Foxconn. And this is just the tip of an immense tax abatement iceberg. The longstanding policy of government’s propping up of the wealthy using ordinary people’s money reveals a devastating lost potential.

If we take as an example the real secret behind the success of companies like Wal-Mart, then the theft of America’s true legacy becomes more apparent. Consider this, that the extensive use of public money and tax breaks by the company Sam Walton built extends far past the more than $1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land, and infrastructure assistance the company receives. Ordinary citizens know little of the low-cost financing and outright grants from state and local governments, the indirect taxpayer support for the healthcare costs of Wal-Mart employees who don’t receive coverage on the job, and the multitude of ancillary benefits the company receives. Factor in the total annihilation of any possible Wal-Mart competition from Mom and Pop or even K-Mart type companies, and you have a virtual monopoly built with public funds. I am not even sure what Wal-Mart has managed to do is constitutionally legal. Please dig into the bibliography from Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch to get an idea of the skullduggery going on.

In conclusion, the worst outcomes of corporate malfeasance come about due to public ignorance and apathy. The real opportunity costs, the nullified future these new Robber Barons have caused, they will never be fully known. Hal Bridges, author of The Robber Baron Concept in American History,” frames today’s business magnates in his assessment of their 19th-century forebears:

“The business leaders in the United States from about 1865 to 1900 were, on the whole, a set of avaricious rascals who habitually cheated and robbed investors and consumers, corrupted government, fought ruthlessly among themselves, and in general carried on predatory activities comparable to those of the robber barons of medieval Europe.”

This Forbes article by Tim Worstall begs us to question whether or not Google, Apple, and others are not truly the new Robber Barons. Taking the low road on modern corporate skullduggery, Worstall argues that Steve Jobs was no Vanderbilt. But then, Worstall is a Senior Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, which is a British neo-liberal think tank bonded at the hip to the likes of Tony Blair, and funded by none other than George Soros – the ultimate Robber Baron.

Perhaps this last intelligence has cemented my point for the reader. If not, stay tuned for my next report.

Author: Phil Butler