Thursday, November 09, 2006

Who sucks hardest on the federal teat? Rich people

Via Slate, I see, that, according to the AP, over the last 12 years the Republican congress not only shifted spending from Democratic congressional districts to Republican ones, but also, and more significantly, they shifted spending from low-income people to upper-income people:
...spending on child care food programs was slashed 80 percent; public and Indian housing grants were virtually eliminated; rental housing loans for rural areas and special benefits for disabled coal miners were cut by two-thirds; and the food stamp program was cut by a third [At the same time] Direct payments to farmers increased sevenfold during the six years of GOP rule; business and industrial loans quadrupled; home mortgage insurance went up 150 percent; and crop insurance assistance jumped by two-thirds.
As Slate concludes: In other words, while Democrats want to redistribute income downward, to the poor, Republicans want to redistribute it upward, to the rich. This impulse is particularly offensive when you consider that even before the Republicans recaptured the House in 1996, entitlement spending tended (improbable as it sounds) to favor the wealthy. Here is how Neil Howe and Phillip Longman put it in a 1992 article for the Atlantic Monthly (their source was the Congressional Budget Office):
[T]he most affluent Americans actually collect slightly more from the welfare state than do the poorest Americans. … [In 1991,] U.S. households with incomes over $100,000 received, on average, $5,690 worth of federal cash and in-kind benefits, while the corresponding figure for U.S. households with incomes under $10,000 was $5,560. Quite simply, if the federal government wanted to flatten the nation's income distribution, it would do better to mail all its checks to random addresses. The problem is not that poverty programs don't target the poor. More than 85 percent of the benefits from AFDC, SSI, and food stamps do indeed go to households with incomes under $20,000. But their impact is neutralized by all the other programs, which tilt the other way and are, of course, much greater in size.
If you add in tax benefits such as the mortgage interest deduction, the average federal subsidy for the under-$10,000 group stayed about the same while the average for the over-$100,000 group rose to $9,280. In terms of total fiscal cost, moreover, the aggregate amounts received by the non-needy in 1991 were staggering. One half (at least $400 billion) of all entitlements went to households with incomes over $30,000. One quarter (at least $200 billion) went to households with incomes over $50,000. These are the facts--regardless of what our political folktales might say.

Here's William Jennings Bryan in 1896: 'Who is it most needs a navy?' Is it the farmer who plods along behind the plow upon his farm, or is it the man whose property is situated in some great seaport where it could be reached by an enemy's guns?'" In other words, the wealthiest one percent are the ones who benefit most form government apperatus, entitlments and and subsidies. Therefore, they should be the ones to pay for it.

[Updated December 24, 2006]

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