As comedian Jon Stewart correctly noted on The Daily Show last week, Fox News and its followers have gone mad over "entitlements," and how the country has become a "handout nation" full of despicable slackers chowing down on organic fish, lavishly eating steak, or, god forbid, even ingesting a tail of lobster. Welfare fraud and food stamp schemes, according to the drones, are among the most vehement wrongs occurring in America: the poor are oppressing the tax-man. Mr. Stewart further noted that the real the bastions of government handouts; the ultimate "I don't need it, but I will take it" scabs are none other than wealthy Americans (See: Willard Mitt Romney) and big corporations (See: big oil).
|Willard "Mittens" Romney, former Republican Presidential Candidate and Welfare Queen. Image - Public Domain.|
Some people must ponder this: "Wait a second! You're telling me that the rich are bilking the American tax-payer for a disproportionate amount than food-stamp-recipients?" At this point, they blink a few times, taking deep, deep breaths. The mind begins again: "That's nonsense: the rich just want to give us jobs with fair income and maximize profits so as to be able to improve the general condition of humankind. That's just, you know, basic capitalism."
Which may be granted, of course, unless one believes in those pesky little ideas known as facts.
See, up above, that whole thing about how capitalism is supposed to "give us jobs?" That's why so many politicians argue for giving tax breaks to job creators, you know, the rich folk and corporations. The Republican and many Democrats embrace the idea that money, still in the hands of the job creators, will trickle down to the poor folks, and everyone will be virulently prosperous. It's a nice little story that gets played out in economic theory.
Here's the idea: corporations, in order to be successful, will do what they can to make a profit. Then, they will reinvest a large portion of that profit into research, development, and expansion (that's where they get the title of job creators), and they will put the rest into dividends for their stockholders. This fantastic idea embraces the notion that benefiting the corporation goes to mutually benefit its employees, who then can afford to invest in the products of other corporations, thus spawning an influx of demand, creating jobs, and so on. If only it were so!
There have been instances of corporations working like this, and to some degree, many corporations do operate like this. However, as David Cay Johnston wrote in Al Jazeera America last week, "Companies are sitting on mountains of liquidity, thanks to government policies; the losers are the economy and all of us."
The job creators aren't creating jobs, even though many were bailed out by the federal government and even more benefit from lax tax policy, tax rebates and other government subsidies (or handouts). The top five oil and gas companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell—raked in $93 billion in profits for 2013, while also receiving at least $2.4 billion in special tax breaks per year from the federal government. On top of that, BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobile, Phillips 66 and Royal Dutch Shell (Shell Oil's multinational parent company) have received at least a combined $2.6 billion in subsidies from state and local governments since 1998.
It boils down to a question of morality: is it less acceptable for a government to provide its many less-fortunate individuals with a little help for necessary items than it is for a government to provide a few extremely wealthy corporations with unneeded subsidies? Is the profit margin for corporations (campaign donors) more important to the government than its own people? Should it be?
The United States government, its "republican form" is designed to be by, of, and for the people. Upon inception, the government did not even understand the idea of campaign fundraising, it did not understand the idea of a for-profit corporation. Why are we allowing the government to work at the behest of those who need not the help, when our veterans are sleeping under park benches?
Perhaps we need to find ourselves some welfare for our souls, to reinvigorate our sense of our belonging to the larger human family. Maybe then we can start to wash away the preposterous worldview of the wealthy: "What is mine is mine, as is what is yours."