Source: Local Futures
Subsidies – government expenditures of public money in support of particular industries or businesses – play a major role in shaping our world, economically, politically and environmentally. Unfortunately, the vast majority of subsidies today serve to augment corporate power while undermining local economies, homogenizing cultures, and degrading the environment. Shifting the current subsidy regime – giving support to the small and local instead of the large and global – would go a long way towards solving our multiple crises.
Contact your political representatives, write opinion pieces and letters-to-the-editor, spread the word on social media, and talk to your friends and neighbors about the need to shift the subsidies that now support global corporations, so that they instead support place-based businesses, family farmers, and local communities.
Here are some examples of subsidies that need to be shifted:
- In the US and Europe especially, agricultural subsidies go to the largest farms growing crops for export, while small producers growing for local markets get little or nothing. According to a report by the Food and Land Use Coalition, subsidies amounting to $1 million per minute globally support agribusiness practices that are destructive of the climate, wildlife and the environment. A UN report concludes that 90% of global farm subsidies damage people and planet.
- In most countries, energy and technology are subsidized, while human labor is heavily taxed. The result is that robots and high technology are destroying jobs, and we use ever more energy and emit ever more greenhouse gases.
- Even with the climate emergency worsening, fossil fuel companies are still being subsidized at the rate of $5 trillion per year, 6.5% of global GDP. Learn more and get involved in stopping fossil fuel subsidies with the campaign series Stop Funding Fossils by Oil Change International.
- To see how the US government subsidizes fossil fuels, download this factsheet from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). And sign Friends of the Earth’s petition Stop Bailing Out Big Oil to put a end to those US fossil fuel subsidies.
- Most infrastructure funding represents a hidden subsidy to large export-oriented businesses, which require globe-spanning transportation and communications infrastructure. Ports and shipping terminals, airports, rail yards and multi-lane highways all provide huge benefits to global corporations, but are of much less use to local producers and marketers.
- Publicly-funded research and development programs also selectively benefit huge corporations. For example, taxpayer money funded much of the research into biotechnology, which has resulted in billions of dollars in profits for pharmaceutical companies and GMO seed corporations. Shifting that funding to the needs of community-based health centers and small farmers would be hugely beneficial.
- City and regional governments also heavily subsidize corporations, tilting the playing field against smaller, more place-based businesses. To see how much Wal-Mart has received from state and local governments in the US, check out the interactive map produced by Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch. Or join the effort of Good Jobs First to oppose further subsidies for Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world.
- US citizens may be surprised (and disappointed) when they discover where their tax dollars are going. Read the article Biggest corporate subsidies of the last 20 years to see how much was given to the fossil fuel, automotive and biotech industries, and to corporations like Tesla, Amazon, Intel, IBM, and billionaire real estate developers.
- Learn more about how government tax incentives are being used across the US to subsidize the biggest corporations, and policy efforts to end that practice with this resource – ‘Banning Public Subsidies for Big Retailers’ – from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
- For local elected officials, learn how to redirect public subsidies away from big corporations and towards small, local businesses in this guide from the Institute for Local Self Reliance (scroll down to “How States and Cities Can Fight Back”).
- When internet behemoth Amazon announced that it would be looking for sites for its second US headquarters, cities and states around the country tried to outdo one another in offering the biggest tax breaks and fattest subsidies. The company eventually settled on two sites, including one in Queens, New York. But outraged Queens residents and even some political leaders protested against the proposed $3 billion handout to Amazon, as well as the impact on housing in the densely populated area. Eventually, Amazon withdrew its offer – a major victory for city residents and taxpayers. Read more about this successful struggle in this article in The Atlantic magazine.