Yves here. The COMPETES Act is a glaring example of why the US has become too corrupt and lazy to do proper industrial policy. Mind you, we do have industrial policy by default. You can see which sectors are favored by virtue of the combination of subsidies, including tax breaks, and sustained high growth with little moderation of profit levels: health care, higher education, banking and the money management industry, real estate, and arms merchants.
Sanders wanted any industrial-policy-themed handouts to include provisions that had some teeth, like prohibitions on stock buybacks.
Plus any bill with a cute name is almost assuredly putting lipstick on some very big pigs.
By Jessica Corbett. Originally published at Common Dreams
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders made clear Tuesday that he would not support the upper chamber’s unanimous approval of a global competition bill without changes to provisions he denounced as “corporate welfare.”
“At a time of massive and growing income and wealth inequality, the American people are outraged at the unprecedented level of corporate greed that is taking place all around them,” Sanders (I-Vt.) began a speech on the Senate floor.
Speaking for more than 20 minutes, the Senate Budget Committee chair laid out his opposition to the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Preeminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act.
“Today, while the working class of this country is struggling with higher gas prices, higher food prices, and higher housing prices, the billionaire class and large corporations are doing phenomenally well and, in fact, have never, ever had it so good,” Sanders said. “The American people want Congress to address corporate greed and make certain that the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes.”
“And yet, this week, right now, what are we debating here on the floor of the Senate? We are debating legislation to provide some $53 billion in corporate welfare with no strings attached to the highly profitable microchip industry,” he noted. “And yes, if you can believe it… this legislation also provides a $10 billion bailout to Jeff Bezos so that his company Blue Origin can launch a rocket ship to the moon.”
Bezos, who also founded Amazon, has seen his wealth soar during the ongoing pandemic, Sanders pointed out. As of press time, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranked Bezos as the world’s second-richest individual, worth $190 billion, behind SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk at $252 billion.
At a time of unprecedented greed, the Senate is right now debating giving $53 billion to the highly profitable micro-chip industry and a $10 billion bailout to Jeff Bezos so that he can launch a rocket ship to the moon. I'm LIVE on the floor to oppose it. https://t.co/Q1KriJd8gx
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 22, 2022
Sanders announced in his Senate speech that he will not back any unanimous consent request to speed up the passage of the America COMPETES Act—which the House approved in February—unless there is a roll call vote on two “extremely important” amendments he has introduced.
Taking aim at microchip firms, the senator said that “providing $53 billion in corporate welfare to an industry that has outsourced tens of thousands of jobs to low-wage countries and spent hundreds of billions on stock buybacks with no strings attached may make sense to some people, but it does not make sense to me, nor do I think it makes sense to the American people.”
Sanders’ first amendment “would prevent microchip companies from receiving taxpayer assistance unless they agree to issue warrants or equity stakes to the federal government,” he explained. “If private companies are going to benefit from over $53 billion in corporate welfare, the financial gains made by these companies must be shared with the American people, not just wealthy shareholders.”
“In other words, all this amendment says is that if these companies want taxpayer assistance, we are not going to socialize all of the risks and privatize all of the profits,” he added. “If these investments turn out to be profitable as a direct result of these federal grants, the taxpayers of this country have a right to get a return on that investment.”
The senator noted that his amendment directed at the microchip industry “would also require these highly profitable companies not to buy back their own stocks, not to outsource American jobs, not to repeal existing collective bargaining agreements, and to remain neutral in any union organizing effort.”
The second amendment “would simply eliminate the $10 billion bailout for Jeff Bezos to fly to the moon,” Sanders said, acknowledging the billionaire’s personal wealth. “If Mr. Bezos wants to go to the moon, let him use his own money, not the taxpayers’.”
While Sanders criticized those two particular elements of the America COMPETES Act, progressives and foreign policy experts have also raised other concerns. As Common Dreams reported last month, an analysis by Ashik Siddique of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies called the bill “part of a dangerous trend of feeding tensions between the U.S. and China.”
“The America COMPETES bill would authorize hundreds of billions of dollars in new federal spending on initiatives intended to boost the United States in its competition with the world’s other largest economy,” Siddique wrote, “even while other critical components of the U.S. economy are chronically underfunded.”