The GOP loves to call Bernie Sanders and other progressives “socialists” and uses the term socialist as a dirty word with negative connotations. However, there is another kind of socialism that already pervades our political and economic system that they won’t talk about: Corporate Socialism.
Corporate socialism can take the form of government subsidies to industry, such as Trump’s billions in farm subsidies to agribusiness, or government giving away valuable resources for free, such as land rights, mineral rights or oil and gas leases on public land. Offshore drilling is such an example; while it’s true that Exxon might pay the cost of the offshore platforms, did they pay the United States or individual states for use of its offshore area for profit?
Perhaps the largest hidden corporate socialism is the fact that industries produce products for profit, but pass on the environmental, medical and social costs to the taxpayers. Thus, industry is not paying its fair share of the environmental, medical and social costs of their operations. Instead, they ignore these costs and billions of dollars of expense are placed onto the taxpayers.
Now of course, free marketers and capitalists will brand such labeling as heresy, because the capitalist system considers only profit and companies rarely are forced to pay for the impact of their product on people or planet. For example, the tobacco industry’s products cause cancer and other disease. The billions in medical costs though are not paid by the tobacco conglomerate. These costs are paid by you and I through higher medical insurance premiums, disability, social security and other safety net programs for people who get sick and die. Only in recent years were the tobacco companies forced to pay a settlement.
What about coal, the President’s favorite energy source? Have the energy companies that mine, produce and burn coal ever been forced to pay for the consequences of their product? This would include sick and dying miners from black lung, asbestos related illness like mesothelioma. Who pays for acid rain? For polluted air which then leads to asthmatic children and other respiratory problems? Who pays for sea level rise, lost farm productivity, floods, wildfires and droughts? The energy companies don’t pay- the taxpayers do.
Companies that produce disposable items, and disposable packaging (mostly plastic) should be paying for recycling programs- they don’t. Instead, local communities like mine pay, and ultimately I do through my municipal taxes. Industries also receive corporate welfare related to their workers. Workers get repetitive motion injuries, such as carpal tunnel, back problems and other ailments due to inferior working conditions. When a plant closes, it affects entire towns and communities. The cities and states are forced to pay the costs of these plant closings.
We have seen the huge environmental costs from superfund sites, created by industry who made its waste the taxpayers problem. But the largest burden lies ahead- the staggering cost of climate change, which I believe we are only starting to realize. Entire industries like winter sports and skiing may cease to exist. It will certainly impact farming. Cities like NYC and Miami will spend billions to remediate rising sea levels. Millions of climate refugees will be displaced. Entire species will be lost. Bee populations may collapse, bats too. As as scientists predicted, human disease is on the rise, due to expanding ranges and numbers of ticks, mosquitos and other insect vectors that were once kept in check by cold winters. We don’t know the impact on fishing, forestry (I.e. lumber) and other industries. The energy companies that generated the oil, coal and gas- which was later burned should be responsible for these costs. But in the end, due to corporate socialism, the American taxpayer will bear the burden.