PREPARED REMARKS: Sanders Files Amendment on Microchip Legislation to Restrict Blank Check Corporate Welfare 

WASHINGTON, July 19 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Tuesday delivered remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate to object to the blank check in billions of taxpayer dollars currently slated for a handful of wealthy companies and file an amendment to impose conditions on these corporate giveaways.

Sanders’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below and can be watched here:

I object.

Senator Lee raises very serious issues about the deficit. I hope very much that he will be able to convince his Republican colleagues that, among many other reasons, they should vote against the corporate welfare bill for the micro-chip industry which will add at least $76 billion to the deficit.

In my view, it’s not good enough to tell us that you worry about the deficit when it comes to addressing the needs of working families or the elderly or the children or the sick and the poor.

You might want to worry about the deficit when you’re giving huge amounts of corporate welfare to very large and profitable corporations.

M. President: I want to say a few words about this so-called chips bill 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.

Last week, when I spoke about this issue I expressed outrage that Congress would give $52 billion to a handful of profitable corporations in the micro-chip industry. Well, I stand corrected. As a result of some new tax reduction language, the corporate welfare total for the industry is now at $76 billion and the corporate lobbyists working on this bill, like pigs at the trough, are not yet finished they want even more.

M. President, needless to say, I do not usually quote approvingly from the Wall Street Journal editorial page which it seems attacks me personally every week. But, as you know, a broken clock is right twice a day and even the Wall Street Journal got this one right. Among the many reasons they urge Congress to vote against this bill is one that I think is very relevant and let me quote:

“The chip bill isn’t needed to compete with China, and it will set a precedent that other industries will follow. Anybody who can throw up a China competition angle will ask for money. Why Republicans want to sign up for this is a mystery…”

M. President: I recently came across an extremely interesting interview that the CEO of Intel, Pat Gelsinger, did last Friday 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.”

In other words, M. President, the CEO of a major corporation which made nearly $20 billion in profits last year and who received a $179 million compensation package is saying to Congress that if you don’t give my industry $76 billion and my company some $20 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.

M. President: I’m not a lawyer, but that sure sounds like extortion to me. What Mr. Gelsinger is saying is that if you don’t give us a blank check, 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.

Mr. Gelsinger says we 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.

M. President, 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 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.

Let’s review some recent history. Over the last 20 years, the micro-chip industry has shut down over 780 manufacturing plants 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.

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 that bad behavior, these same companies are in line to receive a massive taxpayer handout to undo the damage that they did. That may make sense to someone. It does not make sense to me.

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. I have nothing against Intel. I wish them well. But, let’s be clear. Intel is not a poor company. It is not going broke.

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, but on buying back its own stock to reward its executives and wealthy shareholders.

Over the past 20 years, Intel spent over $100 million on lobbying and campaign contributions while shipping thousands of jobs to China and other low-income countries. Does it sound like this company really needs corporate welfare?

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.

M. President: 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.

M. President: 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.

M. President: 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?

M. President: 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.

Some of my colleagues make the point that the microchip industry is enormously important for our economy and that we must become less dependent on foreign nations for micro-chips. I agree. There is no argument about that. But we can and must accomplish that goal without simply throwing money at these companies while the taxpayer gets nothing in return.

In my view, we must prevent microchip companies from receiving taxpayer assistance unless they agree to issue warrants or equity stakes to the Federal Government.

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 will be filing an amendment to impose these conditions to this legislation.

Now, I understand, M. President, that some language has been inserted into this bill that would prohibit micro-chip companies from using these 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.