The Corporations Make the Decisions, We Pay for Them

Volkswagen has admitted that it installed software that deliberately deceived emissions tests in 11 million diesel cars, allowing the vehicles to emit far more pollutants than regulations allow. The New York Times estimates that over 100 people have died as a result of Volkswagen’s actions.

That number may be low. A recent paper by Jos Lelieveld, at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, estimated that air pollution causes some three million premature deaths a year, and that the number of such deaths could more than double by 2050.

Is this not, by any reasonable definition, terrorism?

In Tennessee, where Volkswagen has a major factory in Chattanooga, VW received $577 million in 2008 from federal, state, and local governments. Last year VW received another $230 million and in 2015 Tennessee’s State Building Commission approved yet an additional $168 million to be given to Volkswagen. That’s a grand total of $975 million in corporate welfare. Let’s round it off to a cool billion.

The people of Tennessee have, in effect, paid for Volkswagen, which would not have operated in the U.S. without the massive giveaways of Tennessee taxpayers. It seems logical that ownership of VW’s U.S. operations should be transferred to the good people of Tennessee. They are entitled to it. They paid for it and they are far more likely to guarantee the security of VW’s workers and to make sure that auto production does not cause an epidemic of preventable deaths.

What about jobs? A recent study of the coal industry in Pennsylvania revealed that the impact on the state of the various subsidies given by the state caused a net annual loss to Pennsylvania of $164.9 million. In other words, if the coal industry was forced to pay its own way, an extra $164.9 million would be available for job creation.

The corporate model does not work.

Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger at: