I want to say a few words about the so-called “chips” bill that we will be voting on later today and what it says about our priorities, our tax policy and whether or not Congress is capable of representing the needs of the working families of our country or whether we are totally beholden to wealthy and powerful corporate interests.
There is no doubt that there is a global shortage in microchips and semiconductors which is making it harder for manufacturers to produce the cars, cell phones, household appliances and electronic equipment that we need. This shortage is costing American workers good jobs and raising prices for families. That is why I fully support efforts to expand U.S. microchip production.
But the question we should be asking is this: Should American taxpayers provide the micro-chip industry with a blank check of over $76 billion at a time when semiconductor companies are making tens of billions of dollars in profits and paying their executives exorbitant compensation packages? I think the answer to that question should be a resounding NO.
According to a recent Associated Press article, Senator Romney, reflecting the views I think of many “said that when other countries subsidize the manufacturing of high technology chips, the U.S. must join the club.”
‘If you don’t play like they play, then you are not going to be manufacturing high technology chips, and they are essential for our national defense as well as our economy,’ Romney said.”
As someone who has stood on this floor many times urging this country to look to other countries in terms of what they do with healthcare, prescription drugs, higher education and parental leave, I find Senator Romney’s statement very curious about needing to “join the club” with other foreign countries.
Every other major country on earth guarantees healthcare to all people as a human right. Why aren’t we joining that club?
Germany and other countries around the world make public colleges and universities in America tuition free.
Every other major country on earth guarantees paid family and medical leave to its workers. Every major country. How come we’re not joining the club of virtually the entire world?
So, apparently when corporate America needs a blank check of $76 billion we do what other countries are doing. When other countries protect the needs of their workers, their children, their elderly somehow that is not a club we join.
There is a lot of talk about the micro-chip crisis facing this country, but very little talk about how we got to where we are today.
So, let’s review some recent history. Over the last 20 years, the micro-chip industry has shut down over 780 manufacturing plants and other establishments in the United States and eliminated 150,000 American jobs while moving most of its production overseas after receiving over $9.5 billion in government subsidies and loans.
Let me give you just a few examples:
Between 2010 and 2014, Intel laid off approximately 1,400 workers from the Rio Rancho, New Mexico chip facility and offshored 1,000 jobs to Israel.
According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry, Intel laid off more than 1,000 workers in Oregon between 2015 and 2016. They specifically noted that the company was offshoring jobs to Israel and that workers were required to train their replacements in India and Costa Rica before being laid off when their jobs were shipped there.
Texas Instruments outsourced 400 jobs from their Houston, Texas manufacturing facility to the Philippines in 2013.
Micron Technology has repeatedly cut jobs in Boise, Idaho, including 1,100 in 2003, another 1,100 in 2007, and 1,500 in 2008. In 2009, the company stopped manufacturing some types of chips entirely and laid off 2,000 workers.)
In other words, in order to make more profits, these companies took government money and used it to ship good-paying jobs abroad. Now, as a reward for causing this crisis, these same companies are in line to receive a massive taxpayer handout to undo the damage that they did. That is simply unacceptable.
In total, it has been estimated that 5 major semi-conductor companies will receive the lion’s share of this taxpayer handout: Intel, Texas Instruments, Micron Technology, Global Foundries, and Samsung. These 5 companies made $70 billion in profits last year.
The company that will likely benefit the most from this taxpayer assistance is Intel.
In 2021, Intel made nearly $20 billion in profits. During the pandemic, Intel had enough money to spend $16.6 billion, not on research and development, not in building new plants in America, but on buying back its own stock to reward its executives and wealthy shareholders. So here is the absurd moment that we are at. It is estimated that Intel will receive between $20 and $30 billion in federal funding with no strings attached in order to build new plants. And yet, within the last several years, this same company spent over $16 billion on stock buybacks. And there is no guarantee in this bill that they will not continue to do stock buybacks.
Over the past 20 years, Intel spent over $100 million on lobbying and campaign contributions. That’s a heck of an investment. For $100 million in lobbying and campaign contributions you receive at least $20 billion in corporate welfare. Not a bad deal.
A little over a week ago, the CEO of Intel, Pat Gelsinger, did an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. And I think it tells us everything we want to know about oligarchy, arrogance and the state of American politics.
And this is what Mr. Gelsinger said:
“My message to congressional leaders is ‘Hey, if I’m not done with the job, I don’t get to go home. Neither should you. Do not go home for August recess until you have passed the chips act. Because I and others in the industry will make investment decisions. And do you want those investments in the US or are we simply not competitive enough to do them here and we need to go to Europe or Asia for those? Get the job done. Do not go home for August recess without getting these bills passed.”
Let’s be clear. The CEO of Intel received a $179 million compensation package last year. And now what he is saying is that if you don’t give my industry a $76 billion blank check and my company up to $30 billion, despite our profound love for our country and our love of American workers and the needs of the military we are prepared to go to Europe or Asia where we may be able to make even more money.
As I said last week, I am, thankfully, not a lawyer, but that sure sounds like extortion to me. But Mr. Gelsinger’s words sure sound like extortion to me. What he is saying is that if you don’t give his industry $76 billion in corporate welfare, despite the needs of the military for advanced microchips, despite the needs of the medical industry for advanced microchips, despite the needs of our entire economy for advanced microchips, he is threatening to abandon America and move abroad.
Well, I have a few questions for Mr. Gelsinger and the other micro-chip CEOs:
If Intel and the others receive a corporate welfare check from the taxpayers of America are they willing to commit today that their companies will not outsource American jobs overseas?
If this legislation passes, will Intel and the others commit today that they will not spend another penny on stock buybacks to enrich wealthy shareholders but will instead spend the lion’s share of their profits to create jobs in the United States of America?
If this legislation goes into effect, will Intel and the others commit today that they will stay neutral in any union organizing campaign like the one being waged at Intel’s micro-chip plant in Hillsboro, Oregon?
If this legislation goes into effect, will Intel and the others commit today that they are prepared to issue warrants to the federal government so that the taxpayers of America get a reasonable return on their investments?
If Intel and the others were prepared to say “yes” to any of these questions they would not be lobbying against my amendment to impose these conditions to the CHIPS Act. And that, to my mind, is absolutely unacceptable.
Further, I say to my colleagues who claim that this bill is supposed to make us “more competitive” with China, guess what?
Since 2008, Intel has invested at least $700 million in tech companies in China including two Chinese semi-conductor start-ups Pro-Plus and Spectrum Materials.
Now, Mr. Gelsinger says the Senate should stay in, if necessary, through August to get the job done. Well, I agree. We should make sure we get the job done.
But what I hear from people in Vermont and around the country is that the job they want done is not a massive handout to large, profitable corporations. The job they want done is to guarantee healthcare to all Americans as a human right and to significantly lower the cost of prescription drugs.
The job they want done is to end the absurdity of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave.
The job they want done is to have the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and for us to address the existential threat of climate change.
The job they want done is to raise the minimum wage to a living wage and to increase Social Security benefits for the elderly and disabled.
The job they want done is to protect a woman’s right to control her own body, pass meaningful gun safety legislation and protect the rights of the American people to vote.
That’s what I hear as to what the American people want, not more corporate welfare for profitable corporations with no strings attached.
And, by the way, let me give you another way we could expend $76 billion.
For $76 billion we could expand Medicare to provide senior citizens with the high-quality hearing aids and eyeglasses that they desperately need. And for a bit more we could provide dental care as well.
For $76 billion we could eliminate homelessness in America and create good-paying jobs from Maine to California building hundreds of thousands of affordable rental units.
For $76 billion we could make every community college in America tuition free for the next seven years.
And on and on it goes.
At a time when the working families of this country are falling further and further behind while the very rich are getting much richer, let us get our priorities right.
Let me be clear. Intel is not alone.
Another company that would receive taxpayer assistance under this legislation is Texas Instruments. Last year, Texas Instruments made $7.8 billion in profits. In 2020, this company spent $2.5 billion buying back its own stock while it has outsourced thousands of good-paying American jobs to low-wage countries.
Who else is in line to receive corporate welfare under this bill?
Well, how about the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)? It is in line to potentially receive billions of dollars in federal grants under this bill.
Guess who the largest shareholder of TSMC is? Well, if you guessed the Government of Taiwan you would be correct – which should come as no surprise to anybody who studies how other countries throughout the world conduct industrial policy.
So let’s be clear: When we provide TSMC money, we are giving that taxpayer money directly to the Government of Taiwan.
Samsung, another very large corporate entity from South Korea is also in line to receive federal funding under this bill.
In other words, not only would this bill be providing corporate welfare to profitable American corporations, but we would literally be handing over U.S. taxpayer dollars to corporations that are owned or controlled by other countries.
And on and on it goes.
Let me be clear. I believe in industrial policy. I believe that it makes sense, in certain occasions, for the government and the private sector to work together to address a pressing need in America.
Industrial policy to me means cooperation between the government and the private sector. Cooperation. It does not mean the government providing massive amounts of corporate welfare to profitable corporations without getting anything in return.
The question is will the United States government develop an industrial policy that benefits all of our society, or will we continue to have an industrial policy that benefits the wealthy and the powerful?
In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The problem is that we all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free enterprise capitalism for the poor.”
I am afraid what Dr. King said 54 years ago was accurate back then and it is even more accurate today.
We have heard a lot of talk in the halls of Congress about the need to create public-private partnerships – and that all sounds very good. But when the government adopts an industrial policy that socializes all of the risk and privatizes all of the profits that’s not a partnership. That is crony capitalism.
If private companies are going to benefit from generous taxpayer subsidies, the financial gains made by these companies must be shared with the American people, not just wealthy shareholders. In other words, if micro-chip companies make a profit as a direct result of these federal grants, the taxpayers of this country have a right to get a reasonable return on that investment.
Further, if micro-chip companies receive taxpayer assistance, they must agree that they will not buy back their own stock, outsource American jobs overseas, repeal existing collective bargaining agreements and must remain neutral in any union organizing effort.
This is not a radical idea. All of these conditions were imposed on companies that received taxpayer assistance during the pandemic and passed the Senate by a vote of 96-0.
That’s why I have filed an amendment with Senator Warren that would impose these conditions to this legislation.
Now, I understand that some of my colleagues have said: Don’t worry. We have imposed “strong guardrails” to this bill.
Well, let me respectfully disagree. These so-called guardrails would do nothing to prevent micro-chip companies from outsourcing a single job abroad. In fact, these so-called guard-rails would not even force Intel to divest all of the money they have put into semi-conductor companies in China.
These so-called guardrails would do nothing to protect taxpayers or to stop micro-chip companies from union busting.
Yes, I understand some language has been inserted into this bill that would prohibit micro-chip companies from using federal grants to buy back their own stock, but let’s be clear. This language is totally meaningless. Under this legislation, companies will still be able to use the enormous profits they are making on stock buybacks.
Bottom line: Let us rebuild the U.S. microchip industry, but let’s do it in a way that benefits all of our society, not just a handful of wealthy, profitable and powerful corporations.
This is adapted from Senator Sanders’ remarks on the floor of the senate.