Monbiot: “the bailout is as American as apple pie and obesity”

On the US bailout, George Monbiot writes:

According to Senator Jim Bunning, the proposal to purchase $700bn of dodgy debt by the US government “is financial socialism, it is un-American”. The economics professor Nouriel Roubini calls George Bush, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke “a troika of Bolsheviks who turned the USA into the United Socialist State Republic of America”. Bill Perkins, the venture capitalist who took out an advertisement in the New York Times attacking the deal, calls it “trickle-down communism”.

They are wrong. The banking subsidies Congress rejected last night are as American as apple pie and obesity. The sums demanded by Bush and Paulson might be unprecedented, but there is nothing new about the principle: corporate welfare is a consistent feature of advanced capitalism. Only one thing has changed: Congress has been forced to confront its contradictions.

One of the best studies of corporate welfare in the United States is published by my old enemies at the Cato Institute. Its report, by Stephen Slivinski, estimates that in 2006 the federal government spent $92bn subsidising business. Much of it went to major corporations like Boeing, IBM and General Electric.

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