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Nebraska’s Experiment In Government, Of, For, And By The Rich Is A Miserable Failure

For decades, the GOP has been demonizing poor people who rely upon government safety net programs and have attempted to tie them to the Democratic Party. This is all part of the GOP’s fealty to Ayn Rand’s nihilistic philosophy of the makers v. the takers. This effort to demonize poor people reached its apogee when Ronald Reagan went after a fictitious welfare queen who allegedly had “eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards” and was collecting government benefits in excess of $150,000.00 per year.

Many voters would be surprised to find out that the government spends much more money on corporate welfare subsidies than on social welfare programs. According to a 2006 study by a progressive think tank, about $59 billion was spent on safety net programs for the poor while $92 billion was spent on corporate subsidies. In other words, the government was spending 50% more on corporate welfare than than it did on programs like food stamps.

Corporate welfare is generous at all levels of government. According to The Federalist — a conservative think tank — federal, state and local governments “force American families to give, on average, $2,436.00 on annual basis to companies that certainly don’t need the handouts (or shouldn’t be in business if they do).”

Here in Nebraska, the taxpayers have been providing lavish subsidies to corporations that don’t need the money for over thirty years. According to a 2017 Department of Revenue report: “Nebraska gave up $295 million in tax revenues last year in credits, refunds and tax withholding incentives.” The New York Times reported in 2012 that Nebraska is the third largest spender on corporate welfare in the U.S.

What’s even more disturbing is that there is no proof that these corporate subsidies have created any jobs. The Nebraska Department of Revenue reported in 2012 that the jobs that were supposedly created as a result of these tax breaks would have probably been created in the absence of these payments.

Even more outrageous is that some of the companies that have collected the taxpayer’s hard earned money have left the state. Conagra departed Omaha after collecting $160 billion in welfare payments. (It was Conagra’s threat to leave Omaha in 1987 that led to our lavish corporate welfare program in the first place.) Cabela’s merger with Bass Pro has devastated Sidney.

Conservatives like to rail against welfare and tell us there is no free lunch. But for some reason, they give welfare for the rich a free pass. (The proposition that rich people don’t have enough money is the central belief of modern conservatism in America.) All Nebraskans have paid a high price for this corporate welfare:

  • UNL’s tuition has gone up substantially while departments have been eliminated.
  • Nebraska’s prison system has suffered multiple deadly riots and excessive staff turnover due to chronic under funding.
  • Our understaffed child welfare program has caused death or serious injury to 22 children.
  • Budget cuts at the Beatrice State Developmental Center caused the deaths of 12 medically fragile residents during the Heineman Administration.
  • Property taxes continue to skyrocket out of control.

Our conservative friends always like to ask us how we will pay for priorities for working families like the Medicaid expansion and education. (Those questions are pretty laughable now in light of the deficit orgy in D.C. Somebody needs to ask them how they will fund deficit financed tax cuts for the top 1%.) The answer is pretty simple. We can tap into this lavish and ineffective corporate welfare program to fund programs to lift up the middle class and working families.

State Senator Kate Bolz is of the (justifiable) belief that we need to re-visit these business tax incentives. The Lincoln Senator said: “ The state needs to balance business tax incentives with other kinds of investment that can generate economic growth, such as support for education and research.”

Gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist agrees with Senator Bolz’s common sense approach. Krist has offered up a host of new revenue sources to fund property tax relief and other priorities. Krist has put “ineffective business tax incentives” on his laundry list of potential new sources of revenue.

We need to elect Bob Krist and more Democrats to the Unicameral to stop this raid on the treasury by Pete Ricketts and his rich friends. Nebraska’s experiment in government of, for and by the rich is a miserable failure. We need to get back to our nation’s founding principles. As Abraham Lincoln said in his immortal words at Gettysburg in 1863: “(T)hat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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