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September 13, 2010 - Ray Hall (Archive)

When we talk about Welfare Queens we really ought to know what we’re talking about.

A few years ago Time magazine did a story that began as follows:

How would you like to pay only a quarter of the real estate taxes you owe on your home? And buy everything for the next 10 years without spending a single penny in sales tax? Keep a chunk of your paycheck free of income taxes? Have the city in which you live lend you money at rates cheaper than any bank charges? Then have the same city install free water and sewer lines to your house, offer you a perpetual discount on utility bills--and top it all off by landscaping your front yard at no charge?

Fat chance. You can't get any of that, of course. But if you live almost anywhere in America, all around you are taxpayers getting deals like this. These taxpayers are called corporations, and their deals are usually trumpeted as "economic development" or "public-private partnerships." But a better name is corporate welfare. It's a game in which governments large and small subsidize corporations large and small, usually at the expense of another state or town and almost always at the expense of individual and other corporate taxpayers.

Politicians like to spout off about some woman bilking the government out of a few dollars worth of food stamps. There is even a lot of hubbub locally whenever a person, usually a woman, is arrested for selling food stamps or for some other form of welfare fraud.

Ronald Reagan was notorious for telling the story of a woman, on welfare driving a Cadillac and collecting food stamps. When challenged by House Speaker Tip O’Neill to have the FBI investigate the case the President acknowledged the story was fiction. But it is a story that many Americans like to believe.

How many times has the story been told about a woman too lazy to work staying at home and having one child after another just to get more welfare money. I’m sorry but welfare does not work that way—not even in New York—prove me wrong if you can.

More money is spent by taxpayers on corporate welfare each year—many times more—than in all the social safety net programs. At the same time politicians like to crow about subsidizing a company to create jobs and promote research and development. That would be good if that were true—corporate welfare increases companies profits.

Studies show that 24 million jobs were created prior to 1975, however, in the 80’s when corporate welfare was soaring to dizzying heights only 18 million jobs were created and private investment showed a corresponding decrease. Actual wages have been on a steady decline ever since and wages for corporate officers has risen more than 400 times that of a typical worker.

Yet, it remains easier for us to focus our attention and our vitriol on the woman selling food stamps than it is to accuse the world’s largest and most successful corporations from taking billions in handouts from the taxpayers.


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