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Corporate Media Likes Corporate Welfare but not
Handouts to the Poor

In Spinoff 1994, a publication by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Commercial Development and Technology Transfer Division, an exciting crossbreed between a helicopter and a plane, called the XV-15 tiltrotor research craft, is photographed stunningly in mid-flight. The tiltrotor is exhilarating because as a viable candidate for service as a shorthaul commuter transport, it could relieve air traffic congestion at major airports by operating from small, near-city 'vertiports'. This is good news for the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company. They anticipate having a $5-7 billion dollar annual market share in tiltrotors by 2010.

This is because NASA--which has already paid for the research and development on the tiltrotor and tested it---plans to give it to Boeing. This transfer between public and private industry is called Spinoff at NASA. According to Spinoff 1994, a glossy, 132 page yearbook-style advertisement for the process, "There have literally been tens of thousands of spinoffs. Collectively, they represent a substantial return on the nation's investment in aerospace research. Frequently they spark formation of new companies and thereby create new jobs; they generate lifestyle innovations and solutions to pressing public problems; and they have a stimulating influence on the national technological process, hence make [sic] a valuable contribution to the U.S. economy."

Spinoff is also a favorable term for what is actually corporate welfare. The corporations receiving them freely charge the public what they can for this high-tech technology. The taxpayers, by funding NASA's research and paying for technological advances (a.k.a. brain power) are taking all the risks. The largest profits go to the major shareholders and CEO's of the receiving organizations. The taxpayer, they say, also gains by seeing lower prices in the marketplace. However, those who make these arguments frequently ignore the long-term reality that large, well-connected corporations tend to receive government handouts more quickly than smarter and more deserving competitors who could better utilize the subsidy.

This partnership between the public and private industry--the very converse of 'free-markets'--is widespread in the U.S. The principal purpose of the Pentagon, "radical" (and frequently censored) critic Noam Chomsky maintains, is to provide high-tech subsidies to privileged corporations under the guise of protecting our national security. Yet, the mainstream media continues to criticize welfare as if it only meant payments to the poor.

For instance, in late January the Times-Mirror owned Baltimore Sun ran a series entitled "The Disabling of America" that focused on the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program of Social Security. The series implied: 1) that fraud permeates SSI, and 2), since fraud exists, this program should be dismantled under the new Congress. At no place in the articles (and don't wait for it to come in the new year) was any sense of realistic perspective attached. There was no mention that instances of outright fraud in the military is probably tens of thousands of times more prevalent and costly than what was uncovered about SSI. Also, if SSI has flaws it can be reformed. The chilling contention that it must be immediately liquidated ignores the enormous hardships this will cause the families with severely disabled children that SSI is primarily intended for.

In addition, when Labor Secretary Robert Reich spoke out against corporate welfare the Sun put it in quotes. They wrote: "[Reich] put congressional Republicans on notice today that the administration was ready to take on what he called 'corporate welfare', some $111 billion in tax breaks handed out to American companies (11/22/94)." From this, the Sun would have you believe that either corporate welfare doesn't really exist--or that Reich alone has coined the term. Neither is true. (This is a subtle and very unhealthy form of propaganda by the Sun. Noam Chomsky believes that the U.S. has more propaganda in its media than do even societies ruled by dictatorships!)

In summary, the increasingly centralized mainstream media is trying to minimize the importance that corporate welfare (seen from high tech subsidies and elsewhere) plays on creating our national deficit. The focus of the coming spending cuts is always on what government and private elites want to hear. It is on reforming welfare for the poor and disabled, dismantling the arts endowments, cutting foreign aid, eliminating national service, etc.--all worthy programs that every industrialized society maintains in one form or another.

Remember, as a dutiful target of the Sun's propaganda you are being encouraged not to write letters to their editors asking why this is so.

Scott Loughrey

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