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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Obama cements corrupt statist-corporatist status quo by transferring billions in taxpayer dollars to cronies under auspices of health care reform

Big Media, Banks, Oil, Unions on ObamaCare Dole

(The New American) -- by Alex Newman -- Government documents show that more than a few major media organizations including the Washington Post, NBC, Reuters, newspaper giant Gannett, and CBS are all raking in cash from a $5 billion slush fund set up under ObamaCare, causing outrage among critics and lawmakers who say the news providers should disclose the subsidies when reporting on health-care issues.

Big banks, war contractors, tobacco firms, foreign oil companies, and labor unions also received hundreds of millions of dollars from the program. Worse still, according to opponents of the scheme, is that political allies of President Obama appear to be among the largest beneficiaries.

The slush fund, dubbed the “Early Retiree Reinsurance Program,” allows the federal government to hand out taxpayer money to states, companies, and labor unions chosen by the Obama administration. And under the guise of ensuring that early retirees have health insurance before becoming eligible for Medicare, the scheme has already distributed billions, including some to companies owned by foreigners such as socialist Venezuelan “President” Hugo Chavez.

But the program, only recently discovered by critics among the thousands of pages that make up the health-care “reform” package, is now attracting scrutiny from congressional Republicans. At a hearing late last week in the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chairman Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and others demanded answers.

Among other questions, lawmakers wanted to know how the administration decides which companies and labor unions receive money. Deputy Administrator Steven Larsen of the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, which oversees the payments, said recipients needed to show that they had a current program for early retirees.

So far, according to a report released by the government, funds have been distributed to some of Obama’s staunchest political allies. The United Auto Workers labor union, for example, received more than $200 million under the program — one of the largest handouts. Millions more went to the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and other unions...

Meanwhile, big corporations profited too. AT&T, for instance, raked in close to $150 million. Verizon got almost $100 million. General Motors and IBM were awarded tens of millions in handouts as well. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and other big banks got millions more. And for war contractors including Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon: still more millions.

Foreign companies raked in fortunes as well — especially oil interests. BP got more than $5 million. CITGO, owned by the socialist Venezuelan regime, received over $1 million. And Shell Oil Company got almost $5 million. Alon USA, majority-owned by an Israeli oil company, also benefited. Some U.S.-based oil interests received money as well.

Other big foreign firms being subsidized under the plan include Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and London-based pharmaceutical behemoth AstraZeneca. Many other foreign companies were listed in the government report as beneficiaries too.

State and local governments and their employees were also among the biggest winners so far. The California Public Employees' Retirement System, for example, got almost $58 million. The Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio: more than $70 million. And the State of New York received $50 million. Texas and Georgia also did well.

Countless other state and local governments and agencies got millions, too. And even the World Bank got a piece of the pie — at least $1 million so far through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

But even more disturbing to critics of the program: Huge media companies are also on the dole. General Electric, which owns almost half of NBC Universal, received more than $36 million. And, as mentioned earlier, the Washington Post and CBS are also collecting subsidies under the scheme.

The New American also identified several other massive media firms benefiting from the program. Reuters, for example — one of the world’s biggest wire services — was one of the recipients. And so was Gannett, America’s largest U.S. newspaper publisher. It owns everything from USA Today, the nation’s largest paper, to more than a dozen of the country’s top 50 publications by circulation. It also owns dozens of televisions stations.

But the apparent conflict of interest has not escaped notice. The fact that a large swath of the American news media is now on the federal government’s dole has lawmakers and critics very concerned.

“How can the Washington Post and CBS be impartial on the issue of health care when they received funding under the health care law?” wondered Rep. Stearns in an e-mail to The Daily Caller, one of the first media outlets to expose the scandal...MORE...LINK

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