Let’s talk about dealmaking, crony capitalism style. The Atlantic reports
Between 2007 and 2012, GE secured more than $16 billion worth of federal contracts, which might have something to do with the fact that it spent $150 million on lobbying during that period.
According to the article, the Sunlight Foundation recently examined the activities of 200 politically active for-profit corporations between the years 2007 and 2012. Between lobbying and campaign contributions, those 200 companies spent $5.8 billion to influence government. In return, they got more than $4.4 trillion in federal business and support. (It may have been more; according the the Foundation, federal record-keeping isn’t as precise as we might wish.)
For comparison’s sake, $4.4 trillion is more than the amount that Social Security paid out to roughly 50 million beneficiaries over the same six-year period.
It’s interesting. So-called “deficit hawks” like Paul Ryan are constantly looking for ways to cut “entitlements”– social programs that benefit large numbers of American citizens. There is a lot of discussion of the costs of those programs. There is far less discussion about the amount of taxes that most Americans have paid toward those costs, about whether ordinary Americans should be able to expect a reasonable return on that tax “investment,” and what such a “reasonable return” might look like.
There is even less discussion of the appropriate “return on investment” for monies spent on campaign contributions and lobbying, or about the possibility that the tax dollars paid under the government contracts secured by campaign contributors exceed the value of the services being rendered.
When Social Security was established, it was sold as insurance. That “deal” was simple: Workers would pay taxes on their earnings, those taxes would be invested and kept safe, and government would pay them a monthly income in their old age. We can argue about the sufficiency of that income, the fairness of the tax, the mandatory nature of the program, whether social security is really an insurance program or welfare…all sorts of things. But lawmakers chosen by We the People bickered and argued and ultimately voted to make that deal.
I don’t remember a similar vote on the appropriate level of “quid pro quo” payable for campaign contributions….