On the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) had harsh words for fellow members of Congress who have been crafting a bill to give major microchip companies $52 billion in corporate welfare while ignoring pressing issues that are faced by the middle and lower classes in the U.S.
“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, the American people are sick and tired of the unprecedented level of corporate greed that we are seeing right now,” Sanders said. “In other words, we’re looking at two worlds. People on top never did better. The middle class continuing to decline, and the poor living in abysmal conditions.”
He pointed out that everyday Americans are facing soaring inflation and the worst income inequality in 100 years — while billionaires have gotten $2 trillion richer over the past years and are buying joyrides to space and $500 million yachts. Meanwhile, billionaires and corporations often pay zero dollars in federal taxes.
Instead of focusing on things like renewing the expanded child tax credit, passing Medicare for All, upping teacher pay, or making higher education affordable, the Senate is focused on corporate handouts, Sanders said.
“The last poll that I saw had the United States Congress with a 16 percent approval rating, 16 percent. To me, this was shocking — really, quite shocking — because I suspect that the 16 percent who believe that Congress was doing something meaningful really don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
“So what is Congress doing right now, at a time in which we face so many massive problems?” he continued. “The answer is that, for two months, a 107 member conference committee has been meeting behind closed doors to provide over $50 billion in corporate welfare, with no strings attached, to the highly profitable microchip industry.”
Sanders pointed out that the bill also includes a $10 billion “bailout” for Jeff Bezos’s space flight company. The Vermont senator has been decrying this funding for months, saying that Bezos is one of the last people who needs an infusion of cash from taxpayers.
Sanders went on to condemn the glaring hypocrisy of conservatives like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who cry endlessly about the deficit when it comes to helping the American public, but pass massive spending bills for corporations with no questions asked.
“For all of my colleagues who tell us how deeply, deeply concerned they are about the deficit… ‘Bernie, we don’t have the money to do that! We’ve got a big deficit!’ Well, what about the deficit when it comes to giving $52 billion in corporate welfare to some of the most profitable corporations in America?” he said. “I guess when you’re giving corporate welfare to big and powerful interests, the deficit no longer matters.”
While Sanders acknowledged that the microchip shortage — which is raising prices and costing workers their jobs, he said — does pose problems for regular Americans, he maintained that handing corporations money with no strings attached isn’t the way to solve it.
Semiconductor companies have made huge profits over the pandemic and are turning around to pay their executives massive compensation packages and spend tens of billions on stock buybacks — all while shipping manufacturing jobs abroad to exploit workers in poor countries. Instead of focusing on upping production and preserving jobs, the semiconductor industry is shutting down over 780 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and eliminating 150,000 jobs, Sanders said.
For instance, Intel, one of the companies set to benefit from the bill, made nearly $20 billion in profits last year while giving its CEO Pat Gelsinger nearly $180 million. In the meantime, microchip companies have spent $100 million over the past decade in lobbying and campaign contributions — an investment that has evidently paid back in spades.
Sanders suggested that Congress should work with microchip companies to address workers’ and taxpayers’ concerns, instead of giving companies handouts. He also said companies should agree not to outsource jobs, union bust, or do stock buybacks.
As it stands now, with no-strings-attached handouts to corporations, the government is willingly perpetuating “crony capitalism,” he said.