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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Taxpayer Appreciation Day

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that April 15th of each year be designated Taxpayer Appreciation Day, a day when corporations receiving taxpayer subsidies, bailouts, and other forms of corporate welfare can express their thanks to the citizens who provide them.

Though it may not be evident, quite a few industries — and the profits they generate — can be traced back to taxpayer-financed programs whose fruits have been given away to (mostly) larger businesses.
Taxpayer dollars have often funded discoveries made by NASA, the Department of Defense, and the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies. In many instances the rights to those discoveries were later given away to companies that brag about them as though they were the fruits of their own investments. Taxpayer dollars have played a major role in the growth of the aviation and aerospace, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications industries — to name only a few.

Though corporate America insists it must file yearly income taxes just like everyone else, it is responsible for a sharply decreasing portion of federal tax dollars — despite record profits. Corporations have paid only between 7 to 10 cents of every federal tax dollar in recent years, because of the loopholes they driven into our tax laws. The average citizen pays more than four to five times that in federal income tax revenues (with the single exception of payroll taxes).

Clearly corporations that believe they are self-reliant are often, in fact, dependent on taxpayer funds to maintain their financial viability. The least they could do is thanks us. Which is why we need something like Taxpayer Appreciation Day. Consider the following:

1. General Electric bought RCA (which owned NBC) in the mid-Õ80s with funds it was able to save by using an outrageous tax loophole passed by Congress in 1981. That loophole allowed GE to pay no federal taxes on three years of profits, totaling more than $6 billion dollars. It also gave them a $125 million refund! That gave GE the money to buy RCA. GE should arrange a media extravaganzas on NBC to say “Thank you, taxpayers.”

2. Pharmaceutical companies constantly ballyhoo their discoveries in advertisements. What they don’t tell us is that many of the important nonredundant therapeutic drugs — including most anticancer drugs — were developed, in whole or in part, with taxpayer money and then given to them by the NIH and the Defense Department.

Bristol-Meyers Squibb, for example, controls the rights to Taxol, an anticancer drug developed all the way through human clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health with $31 million of taxpayer moneys.

Pharmaceutical companies spend billions on advertisements each year. Perhaps they should consider a big “Thank You, Taxpayers” ad campaign every April 15, if only to remind them where their drug research and development subsidies come from.

3. Mining companies often receive vast sweetheart deals from taxpayers. Under the 1872 Mining Act hard rock mining companies are allowed to purchase mining rights to public land for only $5 an acre, no matter how valuable the minerals on (or in) that land might be.

A Canadian company recently mined $9 billion in gold on federal land in Nevada after using the Mining Act to purchase the mining rights to it for about $30,000. Mining companies owe the taxpayers their gratitude.

4. Television broadcasters were given free license to use public airwaves (worth around $70 billion) by a supine Congress in 1997. They too should thank us.

5. What about all those professional sports corporations that play and profit in taxpayer-funded stadiums and arenas? The owners and players should thank the fans/taxpayers who — in spite of their largess — still must pay through the nose for tickets.

6. For years McDonalds received taxpayer subsidies to promote its products overseas as part of a foreign market access program. Now McDonalds is a ubiquitous brand name worldwide, but has it ever thanked the taxpayers who underwrote its efforts?

7. Then there are the HMOs, hospitals, and defense contractors that have had their legal fees reimbursed by the taxpayers when our government prosecutes them for fraud or cost overruns. Those companies have great public relations firms that can help them show us their gratitude.

Corporate America has taken too much from us for too long. It’s time it shows us a little bit of appreciation.