24 April 2016

The business of America is lobbying

Broken at the top is a recent Oxfam report which, amongst other findings, reports that:
  • From 2008-2014 the 50 largest US companies collectively received $27 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts for every $1 they paid in federal taxes.

  • From 2008-2014 these 50 companies spent approximately $2.6 billion on lobbying while receiving nearly $11.2 trillion in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.  

  • For every $1 spent on lobbying, these 50 companies collectively received $130 in tax breaks and more than $4,000 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts. Broken at the top, Oxfam, 14 April  
When I talk about Social Policy Bonds I usually emphasise their efficiency. But they have another great advantage: transparency. Expressing policy in terms of targeted outcomes does mean that ordinary people can follow what’s going on - in contrast to the current system. So if society as a whole wanted to subsidise the largest, wealthiest corporations in the land, then we could do so, and we’d be doing so with our eyes open. But if, as seems likely, people would rather see society's scarce resources channelled into helping the most disadvantaged amongst us, then we could issue Social Policy Bonds targeting for improvement broad indicators of our citizens' basic well-being. Health, for instance, or literacy and other basic educational goals.

These are outcomes that are meaningful to ordinary people. Which means we could all participate in the policymaking process. This would be a huge improvement over the current system, which is - deliberately or not - made so obscure that the only people who can follow it closely are those whose ultimate sources of funding are the already wealthy.

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