WHEN YOU GET CAUGHT BETWEEN GOD AND NEW YORK CITY - 5

The Reality of Welfare Subsidies

This will be the last in the “When You Get Caught” series except for a short follow-up about my choice of title. 



The following information comes from a Huffington Post blogger (Lester, by name) about  a month ago who in addition to providing the following information listed about a dozen legitimate sources with links.  What I particularly appreciated was the blogger’s right on target questions and his short, pithy answers in the form of data.  Here’s the deal: 

1.  Who Gets Food Stamps?  
           
           
Children:                  
45%
Disabled:                  
11%
Elderly:                      
 8%
Veterans:                     
2%
Adults w/ Children: 
20%


TOTAL
87%

           

2. Who Gets Food Stamps By Race?

           
White
36%
Black
22%
Hispanic
10%


           


3. Who Gets Entitlement Benefits?

Elderly
53%
Disabled
20%
Working Poor
18%






TOTAL
91%



4.   Who Gets Tax Expenditure Benefits?

Top 1%
23%
Top 20%
66%
Middle 60%
31%
Bottom 20%
02.8%









5. Annual Cost of Welfare

Cost
$282.9 Billion


Includes: TANF, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Public Housing, WIC, Head Start, Social Services Block Grants






6.  Annual Subsidies to Industries

Farm
$16 Billion
Airlines
$68 Billion
Oil
$35 Billion
Coal
$86 Billion
Natural Gas
$100 Billion
Ethanol
$173 Billion
Flood Insurance
$12 Billion


TOTAL
$490 Billion



7. Annual Indirect Oil/Gas Subsidies

Fed, State & Local Subsidies

(Tax Breaks, Depletion Allowance, Oil Pipelines, Monitoring, Remote Sensing/Mapping, etc. Less Environmental costs:  per gallon = $2.25



Gasoline Consumption = 138 billion gals/year



Total Cost of Oil Subsidies
$310 Billion





8. Total Annual Cost of Direct/Indirect Subsidies to Business

Total Cost of Direct/Indirect Subsidies to Business
$800 Billion


  

So in a few tables, this is where we are after thirty years of conservative economic policies.  While we are “OK” with subsidizing our Businesses and Industries to the tune of an annual cost of $800 Billion in taxpayer (you and me) subsidies, some folks go ballistic over our $283 Billion in taxpayer subsidies to people who are in need.  Of course the assumption is that our subsidies to Business and Industry go towards the creation of jobs, a not unimportant benefit to the nation as a whole.  But if you look at the data since the worldwide economic collapse of 2008, it’s incontrovertible that the gains in our economic recovery (slow as it might be) have benefitted the already wealthy much more than you and me and the poor have wound up in worse shape than prior to 2008.  Sure, I too benefit from low capital gains taxes.  I withdraw money each year from my brokerage account (I’m not old enough yet to draw from my 401(k) holdings), but I have to think of what cost is my low capital gains tax rate to the nation?  I’d be perfectly willing to pay more in capital gains taxes if it benefited more than just the already wealthy and our Wall Street geniuses who crashed the economy. 



On the other hand, one has to be just a tad mystified that under the thirty year Conservative Economic Experiment, these publicly funded subsidies are anathema in an ideological sense.  I.E., we and the government shouldn’t be subsidizing any economic venture and certainly shouldn’t be picking winners a losers in the Free Market economic sphere.   And yet, they continue with an apparently ironclad guarantee from Congress that they will remain in place regardless of the data that shows that the benefits are unbelievably skewed towards the already wealthy as opposed to us ordinary Americans. 

I’ve done “battle” over welfare data on countless online exchanges. The typical conservative response to my “It’s the Red States who benefit the most from our welfare policies) is inevitably met with what I’ll call the California citation.    California, with a population of 38 million (about 10% of the US population) and the fourth largest economy is the world, is cited by conservatives as receiving the largest state share of welfare money in the entire country.  Which is true.  On the other hand, CA is a net exporter of tax payments to the rest of the nation as are most of the Blue States.  The National Review has named CA the “welfare queen” of the United States.  But statistically, based on total population, California ranks near the bottom on a per capita basis for welfare payments to individuals (43rd among US states) even though CA’s welfare programs are much more generous than say West Virginia’s or Mississippi’s.   So, in fact, as a net producer of goods, services and jobs to the rest of the nation and the Red States and a welfare basket that is more generous than nearly every other state in the union, California could, in fact, be cited as one of the most efficient distributors of public welfare benefits in the country.  

But back to the thirty-plus conservative economic and social experiment.  Despite the right wing’s misuse of data (the CA example) I don’t think there can be any question that for most folks, the past thirty years have not treated us well.  Sure, during the 1990’s our credit indebtedness skyrocketed but then along came 2008 when all that credit wealth vanished overnight.  Frankly, I think it’s as much a question of fairness as anything else.  Is it fair that the wealthy and our Wall Street geniuses continue to obscenely benefit over America’s working and middle class folks as a result of our economic policies?  The larger question, what’s best for America’s economic future, is best answered by citing the nature of our economy.  We live in a consumer economy (Free Market, Keynesian, Libertarian or otherwise) and to me it’s axiomatic that the more people who have more money to spend, the better will our economy prosper.  The rich will not do this for us.  If you think this is counterintuitive see the following:

Nick Hanauer’s piece “The Pitchforks Are Coming….For Us Plutocrats” 

http://www.tavissmileyradio.com/nick-hanauer-the-pitchforks-are-coming-for-us-plutocrats/


or watch his  recent PBS interview, you will understand why.  And trust me, he knows what he's talking about.  I've been there.  

Once again, we have been duped by the ideological attraction of “Unfettered Free Market Economics” espoused on both sides of the Republican and Democratic divide as well as by our economic policy overseers such as Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan.  The data tells us a very different story.  It's all sort of like the "plethora of choices" we kept hearing about during the 80's and 90's.  Problem is when you have dozens of choices among equally bad options (health care, cell phone service, internet providers, cable companies, etc.) it's not really all that much of a great thing.  Same with Free Market Economics.  

The continuing decline in ordinary America’s share of the nation’s income and wealth – thirty years on by now – should be a wake-up call for all of us to decry this ideologically and propaganda driven pathway that is continuing to lead us down the glide way to permanent working and middle class poverty.  It's just not a good choice.  


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