Welfare is for poor people down on their luck or health or both, a declaration by society that we do not throw our most helpless citizens away like so much inconvenient trash. In America, we value the individual and champion human rights. To do less than to subsidize the powerless would violate these principles laid forth by our Founding Fathers. It would also make the rest of us lesser human beings, those who stepped over the broken bodies of our brothers and sisters as we reached for the brass ring of the American Dream. If it takes a bit of socialism to be who we claim to be, so be it. The two most successful and efficient American government programs ever formulated are social programs that ensure that the individual is well cared for.
One is Social Security, started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make sure that our elderly are not impoverished by loss of income after a lifetime of work. The other is Medicare, put into place by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and one also ensuring that our senior citizens are not bankrupted by the health care they require. Johnson also created welfare payments to the poor and the food stamp program that eliminated hunger in America. Today the phrase “hunger in America” sounds like a joke, but it wasn’t so funny to starving Americans before Mr. Johnson got busy on their behalf. He acted on the unfinished business of providing a solution to “a third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished” that so shocked FDR.
This was America he was talking about, the wealthiest nation in the history of nations and one of the most bountiful places on earth. Yet somehow it was also a place where people were hungry and disenfranchised until a leader did something about it, Roosevelt with The New Deal and Johnson with The Great Society. Millions of American lives were transformed for the better. For these “socialist” accomplishments we should all be proud, and never begrudge the help given to those in need. There but for the grace of God, and all that. Many of the recipients of government social programs have become our finest citizens.
Our current President, the son of a poor single mother, comes to mind, rising from poverty to Colombia, Harvard, the Senate and the Presidency. How many of our current Senators and Congressmen had fathers who worked in FDR’s CCC camps or on New Deal building projects or who went to school on the G.I. Bill? How many of today’s college graduates have government sponsored loans to thank for their educations? And how much better off is America as a nation for including every citizen in our opportunity sweepstakes? Today America, for all our recent problems, stands alone as the lone superpower on earth and the most prosperous nation in history.
America is a generous nation, but sometimes too generous. The social programs described above are but the smallest part of Federally subsidized taxpayer handouts. The lion’s share goes not to individuals, but to corporations, those publicly subsidized businesses that are supposed to operate in a free-market system. Well, guess what? Many of them don’t and this does not refer to the industry-saving bailouts given by Presidents Bush The Younger and Obama to the banks and financial service industries or to the recent automobile company bailouts. A great deal of that money has already been repaid and all of it will be eventually returned at a profit to Uncle Sam, just like the tidy profit they earned when they bailed out New York City in the 1970s.
The Corporate Welfare System involves private companies who have become accustomed to being subsidized by the federal government even though they do not need the help. They are not evil for accepting this help, and as corporations with but one mandate, to make a profit, would be foolish not to grab the free cash, either in the form of direct subsidies, tax breaks, reduced insurance rates, outright grants or government guarantees of their products. It is the government that is wrong to allow this to be possible. These are not new or marginal companies in need of assistance. Many are Fortune 500 companies and famous blue chip entities, household names synonymous with capitalist success. Why is America subsidizing these financial powerhouses?
The whole idea of capitalism is the sink-or-swim forces of the free market, sort of an industrial Darwinism that has made The United States, and Westernized capitalist nations in general, fabulously wealthy. While cutthroat competition is the norm in free market capitalism, sponging off the government is not. Aside from the fact that is is wrong, it gives the corporations that are skilled in siphoning off tax dollars an unfair business advantage over their competitors. It takes away their incentive to produce the best possible product and provides them market leverage they did not earn. Many corporations run extensive lobbying organizations to maintain this steady flow of free supplemental income.
These highly professional Washington insiders make their efforts well worth the while of the corporations, buying key politicians with gifts, bribes, trips, campaign donations, women, men or blackmail, whatever it takes. These lobbyists have even been known to write legislation or portions of laws that are directly beneficial to their corporations and sponsored by a Senator or Congressman, then signed into law by a president. That’s about as big a perversion of the American government as can be imagined. One result of this unlawful and immoral partnership is that corporate taxes now contribute only around 10% of annual government revenues, down from the approximate 33% total in the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression.
Since that time American corporations have become far more numerous and prosperous. When you are writing your own tax laws, is it any wonder? They have also removed a great deal of their production from American soil, turning their backs on the workers who made them wealthy and declaring themselves “multinationals,” loyal and beholden to no nation. So brazen have these corporate princes become that in the early 2000’s they engineered the largest peacetime transfer of wealth from the working classes to the super wealthy in history. It happened in America and was called a tax break and sold as the idea of President Bush The Younger, a man who could not walk and chew gum at the same time, never mind mastermind a heist of that magnitude.
So it’s time to cut the corporations loose. Chop their umbilical cords and let them sink or swim in the marketplace to which they pay such grand lip service whenever the government rattles their cages with proposed rules or regulations designed to stop them from polluting or stealing or cheating or anything else they don’t feel like stopping. Shut down the lobbies and shut down corporate welfare and let businesses be businesses and not dependents of the American taxpayer. If some of them fail, well, how will this be different from any other recession or business failure?
Other companies will spring up to take their place, and will operate under the new realities of having no governmental partner to save them from their own greed and incompetence. They will prosper like corporations in America have always prospered; by hard work, ingenuity and fair trading. They will obey existing regulations, pay the prevailing tax rates and turn out the best product they can. This is what has always happened and what continues to happen every day of every week with new companies starting up. Most new businesses fail before a year is out, as they always have, but many succeed, some of them phenomenally so. Employees are hired, products produced and money generated.
This is not a new concept nor is it rocket science. It is business and was never meant to be a partnership with our government, not unless they intend to share their profits with the Sugar Daddy nation that subsidizes them, and they never did. These corporations take our money because they can and for no other reason. It’s time to fix it so they cannot. Welfare is for the poor, the hurting and the dispossessed, not for wealthy corporations who would be wealthy with or without government handouts. It only makes whores out of our politicians and our businesses. It also takes money away from our government that could better be used to provide health care for our nation’s citizens.
That bit of politics would also benefit our corporations immensely in world marketplaces since medical insurance premiums for their workers would no longer have to be added to the price of their products. So there’s one socialist policy removed from the few and one given to the many for the benefit of all. With any luck at all, these bits of social tinkering will meet with half the success of the New Deal and The Great Society initiatives that have so improved life for the vast majority of Americans. Last anyone checked, the majority still rules. The majority just elected a president with social programs in mind, that election representing the only lobby regular American citizens need.