It is a primary item of faith among conservatives that the reason we must not have a social system that helps the poor is that poverty is caused by inner-city blacks who refuse to work, belong to gangs, sell and use drugs, are unwed mothers, and so on. All they want to do is live in luxury on the welfare checks we pay for. This is presumed to be because they are naturally inferior and lazy, an argument that is older than slavery. (Every single one of these beliefs is provably false, of course.)
One thing never seems to be discussed: The entire cost to support poor people comes to about $58 billion, most of which would go away if it were possible for the poor to earn a living wage.
This is what the twelve trillion
corporate welfare looks like:
It seems unreasonable that anyone should receive undeserved money from the government, and the righteous right has been ranting about it since the dawn of time. All this ranting, however, doesn’t prevent the red states from using more federal aid than they contribute, which sounds like undeserved welfare to me.
Plus, for unknown reasons, the right doesn’t rant about the $12 trillion in corporate welfare that the 100 wealthiest companies and their very wealthy officers have received recently. It was handed to rich corporations gratis over the past twelve years, a trillion a year. The $58 billion social welfare cost they object to is 0.06% of one year’s worth of corporate welfare. That’s six hundredths of one percent, an amount that’s less than a typical rounding error.
Billions of dollars are siphoned off by the oil industry every year, the purpose of which was to encourage the fledgling industry in the early 20th century, just as earlier industries were helped in the 19th century. The difference is that we never stopped giving Big Oil all this money. The oil industry has needed no such boosting for at least 85 years.
Welfare for the rich makes
the entire social welfare budget
of 0.o6% of corporate welfare
look like a rounding error.
Nicholas Kristof burns the welfare takers, informing us that there are government subsidies for private planes, yachts, hedge funds, and the biggest banks, as well as the takers I have mentioned. But not so much for poor people for life’s essentials.
Every year huge awards are made to the so-called defense industry, most of which goes for offense, and which has been infamous for overcharges and outright fraud during our entire history. Remember the $500 hammers, and $4,000 toilets? Ever hear of the Truman Committee, chaired by vice president Harry Truman, who ferreted out dozens of schemes to scam the government during WWII? Ever fly into an airport where there’s a military presence? There you will find a dozen or so of those enormous dark green transport planes, never used. That’s an unwanted gift from Congress, which decided the military should have hundreds of these planes, when the DoD itself only asked for a half dozen. Hmmm. Wonder how that happened.
Corporate welfare doesn’t even count
the trillions of bailout money.
Virtually all of our bigger corporations have received government gifts worth billions. GE, GM, and lots of other familiar names. Heavily touted by their own politicians exploiting backscratching arrangements with other politicians. The big banks also feed at the trough to the tune of billions.
And that doesn’t even count the trillions we gave them in bailout money.
The biggest of these giant corporations pay no taxes at all. The few that do pay at a very low rate. The same is true of the very wealthy, who have managed to wrangle the legal system via thousands of highly paid lobbyists to give them a regressive tax in which they don’t pay tax on their primary sources of income or their invested wealth, much of which they hide in offshore tax havens that know how to keep a secret.
Tax is taken mostly on earned income, which is the smallest part of the increase of wealth among the very rich. Further, there are thousands of ways the rich can avoid paying income taxes that are not available to most of us, in addition to secret offshore accounts. Gore Vidal once taught us about one of them: Buy a good piece of art for $100K every year and hang it at home. In ten years, value it at $1M and donate it to a museum. Take a $900K deduction on your taxes.
Where does this money come from, these enormous gifts to giant corporations? At base, it comes from us, disproportionately the poor and middle class.
What has become of our beloved democracy and the equality that we based it on?
[Note: It has come to my attention that the real figure may be $1.2-trillion. If so, just move the decimal point over one column to the left in the appropriate figures. Either way, a trillion dollars is an amount that is almost beyond comprehension. JP]
[Here’s an interesting way of thinking about it.]