Sunday, October 7, 2007

Corporate Welfare Moochers Leeching Off Texans Again

"No one can do what Countrywide can." Unfortunately, several other companies can, including Vought Aircraft Industries, Texas Instruments, Washington Mutual, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

What these six companies can do, have done or are doing, is lay off workers after taking money from a Texas taxpayer-financed job-creation fund.

The public trough that these corporate hogs have slopped at is officially named the Texas Enterprise Fund, administered by the secretary of state for none other than "Governor Goodhair" himself, Rick Perry.

In 2004, Countrywide Financial Corp. said it was bringing 7,500 jobs to Texas in exchange for $20 million -- in "incentives" -- from the $295 million fund created by the Legislature during its 2003 session. At the time Perry reportedly called the deal "a crowning jewel."

At $20 million in taxpayer money, that was like the company mooched roughly a dollar off every Texan.

And, they didn't even give me the line about running out of gas or needing bus fare to get to the shelter.
Since then, the mortgage crisis has ravaged Countrywide and similar companies. Countrywide has announced plans to lay off up to 12,000 workers -- yes, "countrywide." They won't even tell us yokels in Texas how many they're going to lay off here. They did say that their office in Midland (Bush's "hometown"), employing 100, will be shuttered.

The Associated Press reported that none of the aforementioned companies:

"... has been required to pay money back to the state. Most companies have a multi-year deal allowing them to add jobs gradually as they aim for a target number of jobs by a specified date, regardless of whether they lay off employees along the way."

Advocates of the fund say that the target numbers in the deals keep the companies from gaming the system. AP reports that critics say:

"... that it tends to help big companies that would have come to Texas anyway and that the money serves as a bonus rather than an incentive. They point out that money is paid up front, rather than after jobs are created."

It can be argued that when Countrywide came to Texas three years ago to expand, the corporate officers had no clue about what would happen to the mortgage industry. It can also be argued that in today's economic climate, state and local governments simply have to grease palms this way to bring new jobs and growth to their regions and communities. If they don't, others will.

Although this argument is certainly pragmatic, it also sounds more than a bit like acquiescence to blackmail.

But, after that -- don't turn around and call SCHIP "middle-class welfare" as one Republican lawmaker did (Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana). Don't cry into your single-malt Scotch about about the evils of income redistribution.

When it's done at county and municipal levels, it's usually called "property tax abatement" or a "public-private partnership." I call it a bullshit double standard. You can't have it both ways with some who see this -- calling the less fortunate loafers and spongers, and then lining up with the rest of the corporate oinkers at the public trough.

In 1996, the Republican 104th Congress passed a "welfare reform" measure in which Aid to Families With Dependent Children became an entitlement no longer.

When will our "representatives" do the same with the subsidies that pay for downtown condos and gated communities?

One can only hope that, when it comes to this contemptible double standard, they should enjoy -- it may be much later than they think.

Crossposted at Manifesto Joe.