Corporate welfare

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Corporate welfare describes the billions (if not trillions) of dollars in grants, subsidies, padded contracts and other government assistance handed to corporations by the U.S. and other governments.

Corporate welfare in the United States likely started in earnest with the distribution to railroad companies of lands, often including those used by indigenous nations. Universities also were granted vast tracks of land, from which timber and other resources were sold below market price to the universities' industry friends. Mining companies in the United States are among the largest beneficiaries, granted the privilege of mining private and even public lands without paying so much as an excise tax in many states. The United States is among a very few nations where mineral resources can be privately held and where mineral development is not taxed.

While the United States complains loudly about "trade barriers" when other nations impose a tariff to protect agricultural interests, America's corporate leaders enjoy durable wealth from one of the largest corporate land-and-resource grabs in world history - the seizure of the American West. Some sites, like the Black Hills of North Dakota, are being contracted as corporate welfare handouts to mineral companies even before the native residents agree to an imposed settlement intended to quiet their complaints.

Using the Halliburton Company as a prime example of Corporate Welfare, the Center for Cooperative Research says "Manipulating U.S. foreign policy isn't the only strategy in Halliburton's repertoire of means to securing profits. Another method that has apparently proven extremely successful is doing business with the government and bidding on contracts financed by U.S. dominated bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. Although Dick Cheney had once lashed out at Joseph Lieberman saying that his success at Halliburton "had absolutely nothing to do with" the government, the real facts have shown otherwise.

Corporate welfare may not always involve direct transfers of cash to companies. It may take the form of laws that offer below-the-radar tax write-offs and corporate tax evasion schemes, as several articles here demonstrate.

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