Here at The Ring of Fire, we frequently post stories about corporate welfare. Today, we’re going to talk about some of the biggest Corporate Welfare Queens, and share a few figures. But first – let’s take a look at current federal subsidies for Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that provides a wide range of health care services for women as well as men. Federal funding for fiscal 2014 was $528.4 million. To put this in perspective, the entire federal budget for fiscal year 2014 was $3.02 trillion. The amount spent on Planned Parenthood represents a mere .02% of that total.

Next, let us examine America’s quaint, for-profit health care “system” – specifically, the pharmaceutical industry. These blood-sucking corporate vampires charge Americans twice as much as they do patients in other parts of the world. This behavior is enabled by our own government, thanks largely to the George W. Bush Administration and that egregious corporate giveaway known as “Medicare Part D,” signed into law in 2003.

In signing off on that law, then-President Bush gave away the power of We, The People to negotiate drug prices. It was a gift to an industry that repeatedly demonstrates total disregard for human life, as long as they can maximize their profits – which, among the 11 largest pharmaceutical companies, came to $51.7 billion in 2003. By 2012, that figure had ballooned to nearly $83.9 billion.

Which drug companies are the “Big 11”? Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Eli-Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi-Aventis. Every one of these companies has been targeted in litigation over defective products at some point – and collectively, they made a whopping $711 billion in profits over the nine years following the enactment of Medicare Part D.

Of course, these drug companies and others like them justify their outrageous prices by claiming that that costs of research and development is high. That may be true – but guess where most of that research and development is taking place, publicly-funded universities. In short, we are picking up the check for research that benefits private corporations that are determined to bleed patients dry for the medications they need to stay alive. In addition, these companies use our publicly-funded court system in order to take sole control of patents and prevent any attempts to control their greed.

In June, 2012, an economist named Dean Baker published an article on, pointing out that government-funded, corporate welfare for Big Pharma was costing US taxpayers $270 billion a year. Divided by the estimated 240 million tax returns filed for that year, the figure comes to about $1,125 for every taxpayer.

That’s how much we each paid to support one of the most obscenely profitable industries on the planet – one that makes its fortune on the misery of others.

Now, let’s divide that same number of tax returns by the $528.4 million in federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives. It turns out that while every taxpayer is coughing up well $1,125 a year to support a hugely profitable, highly corrupt industry that is literally killing people, they’re paying a mere $2.20 a year to support an organization that provides health care services such as mammograms and cancer screening, pre-natal care, contraception, testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases and other health care services at low or no-cost to those who need them.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which one is the better deal.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.