Taxes and Priorities: Welfare Cheats and Corporate Subsidies

Whenever I talk about the reluctance to tax the wealthy we have in our country, people tend to pull out the following: But changing the taxes system could mean higher taxes on YOU.

It’s true that I would probably see higher taxes in a system that increased taxes on those in the top economic quintile. But, since I can afford those taxes, it wouldn’t mean the end of the world for me. I would, however, feel bad if reforms to the tax system meant that people making less than I do, say a quintile or two down, saw increases in their taxes.

Paying higher taxes

This is one of the reasons that so much of the discussion on changes to the tax system focuses on raising taxes on those who are considered wealthy, and trying to avoid too great an increase on the middle class, which is shrinking, and which is often considered the backbone of our economy.

I’d be okay with paying higher taxes to help advance my progressive priorities, including a truly reformed health care system, a better educational system, moving our energy development out of the 19th and 20th centuries and into the 21st, and focusing on building better infrastructure. There’s a lot we could be doing, and I don’t mind paying for it.

I’d Rather Risk “Welfare Cheats” than Pay Subsidies to Already-Profitable Companies

In my (unrealistic, idealistic) world, I’d also like to see a little more food security for children, job training for the unemployed and underemployed, and other safety net programs designed to help those who need it most. Many of our safety net programs benefit those who work hard, or who have worked hard, but are still unable to get ahead.

Indeed, a number of those who take advantage of these programs are the elderly, who often have worked hard; children; and veterans and their families — who have rendered great service to our country and should be taken care of.

I’d rather see more money going to these social safety net programs than to companies, some with record profits, that don’t need the subsidies. In fact, I’m willing to accept that there might be a few “welfare cheats” that benefit — especially since corporate welfare is something we can afford much less than welfare for individuals. Indeed, the government spends more on corporate welfare than it does on food stamps, and it’s been that way for quite some time.

Another thing to consider is that for all of the talk of the so-called “welfare queens” milking the system, welfare fraud isn’t as prevalent as many of the more strident conservatives would like you to believe — and be outraged about. On top of that, food stamp fraud and errors are very lowSo, yes, I know there is fraud. No matter where you are in the system, there are people who use it in a way that is could be considered fraudulent. For some reason, though, it’s “good business,” “smart planning,” and any number of positives when corporations and the wealthy engage in it; only the poor are “lazy” and “undeserving” when they exploit the system.

budget breakdown

Of course, the poor aren’t providing campaign contributions to politicians. Nor are they “job creators.” (Although with wages stagnating and the employment situation the way it is, there is increasing evidence that these aren’t actually “job creators.” But many are benefiting from  high profits, thanks to increased worker productivity and wages that haven’t kept up with inflation in decades.)

The idea of the lazy welfare queen, teaching generational poverty to her children, is attractive because it makes it easier for politicians to whip up rage against someone else, and it takes focus off the backroom deals and subsidies and tax cuts that already-profitable companies enjoy. Plus, if it’s just “welfare cheats” being deprived of Cadillacs and smartphones, everyone’s waaaaay more comfortable with the idea of their children going hungry.

But the fact remains that welfare fraud (especially for SNAP) really isn’t very prevalent. The chance that a few people are milking the system, especially since, by and large, many of the people receiving assistance do, in fact, deserve it, isn’t enough to make me think we should be cutting social safety nets. I’d rather see that money go to help families and communities than provide a little more profit for a corporation — and a CEO — that doesn’t actually need an extra bit just to eat.

public_benefits_chart1

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