The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sided against 83% of the American public by heavily pushing to repeal the rules that ensured net neutrality. Likewise, polling on the Republican tax bill in the final days before passage showed it 22 points underwater with the public, meanwhile a Public Citizen report found that the Chamber had 100 lobbyists working in support of the bill.
The Trump Administration, however, overlooked the largest online protest in history and daily tax protester arrests and gave the Chamber both items on its wish list. The theory was that these massive handouts to big corporations would super-charge growth for the middle class. So let’s take a look at what’s happening with two likely Chamber members that benefited from both of these decisions.
In December, Comcast got big headlines for announcing a one-time bonus for its employees and over $50 billion in infrastructure investment over five years. All, however, was not as it appeared.
It turned out that Comcast, the most hated company in America, had secretly laid-off 500 employees days before Christmas. One former employee worker stated that they had to sign a “nondisclosure agreement as part of a severance package”, even though he only worked in sales. Just this week they notified state officials that planned to lay-off 405 more employees outside Atlanta. (They did find room in their budget to be the most active corporate lobbyist on taxes in 2017.)
As for the capital expenditures, an Ars Technica analysis found that unless Comcast goes well above the promised $50 billion, it would actually represent a smaller annual increase in Comcast’s infrastructure spending than in recent years.
AT&T is another presumed Chamber member that benefited from both actions and promised to greatly invest in its business. Like Comcast, it too made a splashy announcement about a Christmas bonus for its workers and tried to bury news that they were laying off workers (in AT&T’s case thousands of them.) The Communications Workers of America have filed a lawsuit over the layoffs.
Last spring, AT&T’s CEO was very clear what massive tax cuts for his corporation would mean: every billion dollars in savings would mean an additional 7,000 good paying jobs at AT&T. Yet, an August op-ed in the New York Times by the Institute for Policy Studies pointed out that “AT&T enjoyed an effective tax rate of just 8 perfect between 2008 and 2015, despite recording a profit” and during that time reduced its workforce by nearly 80,000 people. It did however find a spare $34 billion for stock buybacks during that time, which serve little purpose outside of increasing value to investors.
The Chamber would have us believe that if we just accommodate the every whim of big business, this time things will be different and the public will be the real winners. History tells a different story and we can see it playing out again right now with Comcast and AT&T’s workforce reductions.