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Private Sector Privileges Cost Regular Workers


Editor’s note: This is the third of five Teamster In Depth blog postings set to run every Tuesday leading up to the Nov. 4 election that will examine issues of importance not only to Teamsters, but all workers. It is because of these matters that it is imperative for hardworking Americans to educate themselves and vote for pro-worker candidates this fall. Click here to read previous election-related blogs.

The U.S. has a population of more than 317 million people. It has more than 146 million registered voters. But increasingly, elected officials seem to believe their only constituency is the Fortune 500.

Need proof? Long-term unemployment benefits were allowed to lapse late last year and were never renewed. While millions of families struggled without those checks, however, the House in July approved more than $287 billion in corporate tax breaks. Meanwhile, Washington state lawmakers approved $8.7 billion in tax incentives for Boeing nearly a year ago in an effort to keep jobs in the state, only for the company to turn around last week and announce it was moving thousands of jobs outside the Evergreen State.

Those two examples are just the tip of an iceberg that is literally sinking scores of families nationwide. Between big business outsourcing jobs overseas and the billions doled out by the federal government in tax breaks directly to corporations every year, you’ll excuse those who believe President Lincoln’s famous clarion call for American government has morphed into “Of, By, and For the Company.”

A study by the National Priorities Project released earlier this year shows the full scope of tax breaks on the U.S. economy. In 2013, for example, the cost of all tax breaks was equal to the nation’s entire discretionary budget! The result is that the U.S. lost $1.18 trillion in revenue, more than 1.6 times the budget deficit last year. And those tax breaks will continue in perpetuity unless lawmakers choose to modify them.

“Tax breaks deserve just as much oversight and public attention as the rest of the federal budget,” said Becky Sweger, the group’s director of data and technology. “Every dollar the government spends on a tax break is a dollar it can’t spend elsewhere – whether on early-childhood education, environmental protection or infrastructure improvements. Yet few Americans are aware of how much spending occurs through the tax code or who benefits.”

When it comes to corporate tax breaks, the same report found they totaled nearly $176 billion in fiscal 2013. That cost the average U.S. household $1,328! The largest benefits went to multinational corporations so they could defer paying taxes on offshore profits, which cost the government $65 billion alone last year.

Big business likes receiving such benefits. Who can blame them? Undoubtedly, they pay a price to receive those tax breaks through corporate donations made to lawmakers. But the public is left in the dark about those contributions. As it stands, publicly traded corporations are not required to disclose their use of corporate resources for political purposes to their shareholders.

These giveaways for the corporate class, however, are killing hardworking Americans. Good public policy is losing out to bad private sector interests. It makes no sense that the nation’s most profitable companies and their top executives are getting handouts paid for by people who are struggling to pay their bills.

It will continue, however, unless workers let it be known they won’t stand for it anymore. Voters need to voice their outrage Nov. 4 by telling elected officials they’ve had enough.