Half a Million Deals, $250B in Taxpayer-Funded Subsidies
Subsidy Tracker Database Reaches Milestones Revealing Corporate Welfare
Washington, DC — Documenting that corporate welfare has become a commonplace and expensive practice, the first national database of taxpayer-funded subsidy awards to business today reached two significant milestones: The latest expansion of Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker brings the number of entries to 500,000 with a total value of more than $250 billion.
The awards come from more than 740 federal, state and local programs. The free search engine was launched in 2010 and has been continuously expanded and improved since by Good Jobs First, the non-profit watchdog group known for its investigative reports and tools.
“Our ability to grow Subsidy Tracker reflects the improvement in government transparency over the past decade,” said Philip Mattera, Research Director of Good Jobs First and chief architect of the database. “We and many other accountability groups have successfully urged governments to disclose company-specific economic development awards, including our own 50-state ‘report card’ studies starting in 2007.”
In addition to collecting raw data from hundreds of online and offline sources, Subsidy Tracker adds value by linking the entities named in the individual awards to their ultimate corporate parents, using a proprietary matching system. With this latest expansion, the database covers 2,606 parent companies—an increase of 570 since 2015 and nearly three times the number when the matching system was launched in 2014.
The 2,606 parents consist of the largest corporations doing business in the United States, publicly traded and privately held, domestic and foreign-based. Together, these companies and their entities account for $190 billion in cumulative subsidies, or three-quarters of the Subsidy Tracker total. The database generates downloadable search result pages for each of the parent companies, showing their subsidy totals plus links to all the individual entries contributing to those totals. Parent-subsidiary linkages in the system are based on current relationships and thus are updated to reflect mergers, acquisitions and other ownership changes.
Despite significant improvement in disclosure practices, some large subsidy deals, especially those granted by local governments, are still not reflected in the official agency data upon which Subsidy Tracker primarily depends. To fill this gap, Good Jobs First created a category called Megadeals for awards of $50 million or more. These entries are derived from a variety of information sources, and now total 363, including 18 Megadeals worth $1 billion or more.
Online surveys indicate that Subsidy Tracker has a diverse user base, including non-profits, journalists, government officials, advocacy groups, academics and businesspeople. “We even assume companies are checking the database to compare their subsidy awards to those of their competitors,” said Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy. “We also believe public officials are using the data to help rein in excessive subsidy demands.”
Good Jobs First is a non-profit, non-partisan resource center promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development. Founded in 1998, it is based in Washington, DC. Subsidy Tracker is available at goodjobsfirst.org/subsidy-tracker.