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Google Takes Cronyism To The Skies

If you want to see the federal government’s latest waste of your tax dollars, look up to the skies. You may see Google executives crisscrossing the country on corporate jets, powered by government-subsidized jet fuel intended for use by NASA and DoD aircraft–all while you’ve been paying $4.00 or more per gallon to fill your gas tank.

The news broke on the same day President Obama endorsed the Ryan-Murray budget proposal, which more than doubles airport security fees for air travelers, even though it doesn’t allocate any of that additional revenue to the TSA. Thus, the government will charge you more to sit in coach while giving billionaires discounts on Gulfsteam V fuel.

NASA’s annual audit report highlighted this egregious handout–which has been in place since 2007–earlier this week, and estimated that Google’s executives had received between $3.3 and $5.3 million in unwarranted jet fuel discounts from the federal government, all funded by taxpayers. Since the corporation that operates jets for Google bigwigs Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt signed its sweetheart deal with the government, the executives have flown their Boeing and Gulfstream jets over 700 times and burned 2.3 million gallons of fuel, all at the special NASA rate, which is about 25 percent lower than what airlines and civilians pay for jet fuel.

In fact, many of the trips were to luxurious vacation hotspots like Hawaii, Nantucket, and Tahiti.

The government has labeled Google’s gas grab as a “misunderstanding,” but it looks like an indefensible act of corporate cronyism. The federal government has long extended sweetheart contracts to corporations like Google in exchange for services, but in this case, no value was created for society, and Google’s billionaires–among the small minority of Americans who can actually afford to fuel Gulfstreams–got a discount that will be tacked on to our national credit card bill.

Google’s jet discount has spanned both the Bush and Obama administrations, but it’s no surprise to see Schmidt–who is perhaps President Obama’s single most loyal corporate ally–at the center of of a multimillion-dollar federal handout. Google is Obama’s Halliburton, and although the president promised that “the days of sweetheart deals are over,” he’s had Google’s back on everything from antitrust litigation to digital privacy laws to jet fuel.

Ironically, it was just two years ago that President Obama made a proposed “corporate jet tax” the centerpiece of his deficit reduction plan, claiming it would reduce the deficit by $3 billion. “It’s only fair to ask a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys,” Obama said. Google’s brass got a $5 million break–and now the rest of us want our money back.

 

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