Welfare for the Rich and Corporations Costs a Lot
|January 14, 2014||Posted by Staff under Subsidies & Waste & Public Debt|
This 2014 excerpt of Common Dreams, Jan 13, is by Bill Quigley.
There are actually thousands of tax breaks and subsidies for the rich and corporations provided by federal, state and local governments but these ten will give a taste.
- One. State and Local Subsidies to Corporations.
- Two. Direct Federal Subsidies to Corporations.
- Three. Federal Income Tax Breaks for Corporations.
- Five. Subsidy to Fast Food Industry. They pay wages so low that taxpayers must put up $243 billion to pay for public benefits for their workers.
- Six. Mortgage Deduction benefits mostly homeowners with incomes over $100,000 per year.
- Seven. The government bailout of Wall Street cost $32 to $68 billion, not including the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which alone cost more than $180 billion. The Federal Reserve made at least $7.6 trillion [others say double] available to banks, financial firms, and investors.
- Eight. Each major piece of legislation; e.g., the emergency tax legislation passed by Congress in early 2013 contained 43 business and energy tax breaks worth $67 billion.
- Nine. Lax enforcement. E.g., JPMorgan Chase made a preliminary $13 billion mortgage settlement with the US government but is allowed to write off $4 billion. Corporations paying fines to the government protect their officers from being prosecuted (you and I would be prosecuted).
- Ten. Thousands of smaller special breaks. E.g: Fifty billionaires received farm subsidies in the past twenty years.
Special breaks in tax code is the reason there are thousands of lobbyists in the halls of Congress, hundreds of lobbyists around each state legislature and tens of thousands of tax lawyers all over the country.
Ed. Notes: Not just tax breaks but subsidies, too, and fat-cat contracts, are why there are lobbyists pulling down millions of bucks, getting passed into law welfare for the rich.
Back to the mortgage interest deduction. It does not save the homebuyer a penny because while the buyer’s tax burden might be less the purchased home’s price is higher. The deduction merely lets real estate, construction, and banking industries inflate land, buildings, and loans. Without the deduction, some wannabe buyers could not afford the house, so its price would have to come down. Canada does not allow interest deduction and it enjoys an even higher rate of home ownership than America.
Back to the Wall Street bailout. It also let them avoid mending their dishonest ways, gobble up smaller unlucky competitors, and created a false recovery (inflated asset values) that papered over the continuing recession for millions of Americans.
The author left out military contracts, perhaps the biggest part of corporate welfare, and the free funds to the oil industry, an industry which cheats on its royalty payments and never gets punished, for something as intangible as research, and the fact that corporations and multi-millionaires each year get refund checks back from the US Treasury in the hundreds of millions of dollars!
After all this, many people still don’t see anything wrong with subsidies, they just see something wrong with the payments going to the wrong people. And they don’t see anything wrong with vast fortunes, they just want to tax them, suggesting it does not matter how you accumulate your money as long as you give us a slice — not a pretty moral picture. And pragmatically, it’s hard to capture a slice downstream, after the tax target has already become rich and powerful, and much easier to capture the funds, the source of fortunes, upstream, while they’re still in flux.
Another part of the author’s analysis left out is that the recipients of state favors (of tax breaks and subsidies) are entities that have long been the recipients of natural “rents”, of the money that society spends for the nature it uses. With money comes power and those unearned rents have enabled the recipients to lobby and make campaign contributions for ever more favors. So to stop the abuse of pubic revenue we also have to turn off the primordial spigot — the titles, deeds, leases, and loans that channel our spending for land and resources into so few pockets.
To make a clean sweep of it, we should direct government to forget taxing and instead use fees, dues, leases, etc to redirect Earth’s worth into the public treasury, making this social surplus our common wealth, and to forget subsidizing and instead disburse the lion’s share of public revenue back to citizens as a monthly dividend. Since complexity is the enemy of equity, let’s follow the KISS principle. Life could be so much easier!