“I began my tenure as a mainstream Republican in the early days of the Reagan presidency. By the end of my career I considered myself a resolute nonpartisan, and increasingly viewed all political ideologies as mental and emotional crutches, or substitute religions: for leaders, a means of manipulating attitudes and behaviors; for the rank and files, a lazy surrogate for problem solving and a way of fulfilling the craving to belong to something bigger than oneself.”
This excerpt from the introduction of former Republican congressional staff member and national defense analyst Mike Lofgren’s new book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, describes my own political evolution and outlook. A perfect example of the mechanisms Lofgren discusses in his book — and the pathetic and misleading political theater and rhetoric surrounding it — is this month’s decision by General Electric to trade its suburban Fairfield headquarters for the downtown Boston waterfront.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, proclaimed in an op-ed, “The despairing lack of leadership in the Democratic-controlled Capitol, combined with the reckless, liberal distortion of reality, and the contempt for private sector business, are to blame for the loss of jobs in the state and the loss of the iconic corporate entity that is GE.”
On Wednesday, speaking to the Greenwich Retired Men’s Association, Klarides declared, “We might as well take signs and put them up at the New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island borders that say ‘Businesses Get Out,’ because those are the policies that we are making.”
Meanwhile, across town, Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, delivered a similar message to the Greenwich Rotary Club: “Connecticut legislators must find ways to get revenue besides borrowing — or raising taxes, because that can cause companies like General Electric, plus wealthy families and individuals, to move out of state.”
When it comes to using ideology as a mental or emotional crutch being used to manipulate the rank-and-file, it doesn’t get much more obvious than this.
Did Klarides and Frantz miss the news about GE’s long-term corporate restructuring, including the announcement last year that the conglomerate planned to shed its financing business, GE Capital?
“GE’s industrial businesses generate higher returns on capital,” GE said in a press release about the sale of GE Capital. GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt has said he wants to “profoundly change the company” and “lead the next generation of industrial progress.” The release goes on to say that “By 2018, GE’s industrial businesses will generate at least 90 percent of GE’s operating earnings.”
But what’s even more incredible about this political charade is that Klarides and Frantz have the barefaced chutzpah to stand there and claim this decision is due to Connecticut taxes when GE is one of the nation’s most notorious corporate tax avoiders — and what’s more, this is nothing new. Here’s a fun fact from the Citizen’s for Tax Justice 1986 report: 130 Reasons Why We Need Tax Reform: Between 1982 and 1985, GE made $10.881 billion, thanks to the largest military spending buildup ever in peacetime. On this profit largess from the taxpayer purse, they paid a whopping 2.4 percent in taxes. Such a cruel burden!
I, too, could create a lot of jobs if I were “mooching” off taxpayers for profit and paying virtually nothing back to the Treasury in return. Face it, it’s long past time for us to have a conversation about who the real “welfare queens” are in this country.
By the admission of Immelt: “There is no material financial impact to GE related to the cost of the move. Working with GE, Massachusetts and the City of Boston structured a package of incentives that provides benefits to the State and City, while also helping offset the costs of the relocation to GE. GE will sell its offices in Fairfield and at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City to further offset the cost of the move.”
No, there wouldn’t be a material financial impact to GE — not with subsidies worth $181,000 per job moved to the state being handed to the company by the taxpayers of Massachusetts — some of whom are still desperately fighting to get the company to clean up the toxic PCBs the company left along the Housatonic River from its manufacturing plant in Pittsfield.
Politicians pay lip service to small business owners and entrepreneurs. But mere lip service isn’t enough when such businesses employ 50 percent of all private sector workers. When it comes to handing out taxpayer-funded love, they get the cold shoulder.
In October 2015 GoodJobsFirst.org analyzed more than 4,200 economic development incentive awards in 14 states and produced a report titled Shortchanging Small Business: How Big Businesses Dominate State Economic Incentives. The organization found that “large companies received the dominant share, ranging between 80 and 96 percent of their dollar values. The deals, worth more than $3.2 billion, were granted in recent years by programs that, on their faces, are equally accessible to small and large companies. Yet big businesses overall were awarded 90 percent of the dollars from the programs analyzed, indicating a profound bias against small businesses.”
Republican rhetoric is big on maligning “takers” in reference to those who aren’t born with trust funds or who don’t have health insurance or who have lost their jobs or are suffering from a mental or physical health condition that doesn’t allow them to work. But it’s long past time we start to examine the real “takers.” What about the corporations who are getting massive subsidies at our expense and then avoiding state and federal taxes — and using their taxpayer-assisted profits to lobby Congress to make sure they can keep their comfortable mooching game going — at the expense of the small businesses, the middle class, and the poor?
Let’s be real folks. Politico lists GE as one of the top 12 spenders when it comes to lobbying Congress.
If we want to move our state forward, we need to have honest conversations based on reality and facts, not ideology. Sadly, that seems to be a something that’s in very short supply.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.