Government Handouts, Tax Evasion and the Penalty for Higher Education

I’ve been thinking about this post for the past few days. I’ve been watching various news outlets and trying to decipher the truth through the crap. I have to say, it’s a pain in the ass trying to find legitimate news. Every site has a bias, and even the ones that lean towards my spectrum of politics are owned by folks who’s best interests are the opposite of my own. Regardless, I must make do with what I am given.

Everyone has a theory on what is wrong with the US. Aside from trying to litigate religious beliefs into law, our other favorite thing to do is blame the poor for the countries woes. Every day you are bombarded by comments from politicians about Welfare Queens, Makers vs Takers, etc. In all honesty, they are just talking points. There is no mother living in an inner city with 15 children, living off the government, driving a Lexus and using an iPhone. Every state has a cap on the amount someone can receive in welfare assistance, and it’s not as much as you think. These tactics are all a ruse to hide the truth behind a smoke screen. The real issue with government handouts is what corporations receive every year. Whether they are “Too Big To Fail” or responsible for a financial crisis, we will just throw money at them every year. Meanwhile, they outsource their labor and pay their CEO’s these outlandish salaries while they pay their employees a pittance that barely resembles a living wage. Let’s take a look at what the US Government pays out to Corporations vs Regular Welfare.

For the record, here is my source of info: 2013 Budget: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/budget.pdf

If we consider the tax breaks and loop holes to some very specific corporations along with the corporate welfare totals, it gets a little crazy. I feel like we should include these because it’s something that results in a difference of billions. I also feel it should be included, because the amount given isn’t really returned to the government in any sort of way. I feel like if it’s being given to assist a company in it’s success, it should be considered corporate welfare. In the 2013 budget, $59 Billion (or 3% of the total budget) went to regular welfare that your average citizen benefits from. Medicaide is also included in these figures. The amount of corporate subsidies, tax breaks and other assistance amounted to a whopping $92 Billion. That’s almost 50% more. These funds go to companies like Wal-Mart, which has largely destroyed your “main street” stores. Meanwhile, these companies are in the news because their employees aren’t paid enough to live without government assistance. In a way, the funds that go to these employees also go back to Wal-Mart as the majority of the employees will buy their groceries where they work to take advantage of an employee discount. When you look at it that way, Wal-Mart is double dipping their dirty fingers in the communal pot. Frustrated yet? If you aren’t, you will be after you realize that Wal-Mart is far from the only company that does this. The oil industry is also guilty of these situations.

priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2012/05/FIN.USCapitolSubsidyGraphicFlyer.pdf

The Federal Government gives between $14 and $52 billion annually to oil, gas and coal companies. Meanwhile, these same companies declare record breaking quarterly profits. Any attempt to reduce or limit these subsidies are defeated in Congress. This is because of the massive lobbying that goes on in Washington that goes against our better interests as citizens. While we have people barely scraping by, these corporations pay their executives salaries that would make your head spin, all while holding out their hands to the government.

The tax evasion portion of this little burst of belligerence comes to us via the GOP. The wealthiest Americans have been paying less and less in taxes in a broken homage to Reganomics and his “trickle down” theory. Taxes are necessary. I begrudgingly pay mine because those funds go towards the social programs in place to catch me if I were to fall, and they also use those funds to keep our infrastructure strong. Since the 1950s, the taxes on the wealthiest Americans has been on a steady decline. With the ability to hold funds in off shore accounts, the relabeling of the estate tax as a “Death Tax”, they have plenty of money to support lobbyists that want to cut their taxes further. Currently, in Maryland, there is no tax whatsoever assigned to inheritance. Previously, the Estate Tax would kick in if the estate was worth over 5 million. The very idea that the people who found success in this country, or rather, their descendants, would have to pay taxes on those funds seems to be absurd.

What I consider absurd is the fact that as these people continue to not pay a dime in taxes, our country is crumbling around us. Paul Ryan recently submitted a budget that lowered taxes (again) for the wealthiest Americans and included vicious budget cuts to the social programs in place to benefit those at the bottom of the Income Inequality Ladder. I feel like it truly has become an Us vs Them sort of situation. I’m sure everyone has read the reports about how the US closely resembles Europe during the 19th century where all the wealth was held by a select few, and the rest of the populace was middle class at best. It took two world wars to break up that disparity in Europe, and given that it’s unlikely we will have a situation like that, we either need to find a compromise or we will face economic collapse. The Fed has been a bit squirrelly in that they have been purposefully keeping interest rates low, and have been gradually devaluing the dollar over the course of seven years. When the house of cards collapse, the rich will be able to pick up the deck and shuffle the cards again and only be slightly to moderately affected. The average person, however, will find interest rates on mortgages and cars sky rocketing and the gap will widen further.

When the government can’t collect the funds they need in order to run the country, they have to get it somewhere. Anyone who got student loans after high school knows the painful cost of those loans. This is the penalty for higher education. Unless you come from a family of means who can somehow afford the sky rocketing price of higher ed, you have to take out a series of government and private loans that each come with a hefty interest rate. My mother is STILL paying off her college debt and she’s nearly sixty years old. People were told their whole lives that if you get a degree, there will be jobs waiting for you. Anyone who’s graduated in the last ten years can tell you how true that is, barring a highly specialized degree. Even then, the jobs may not be there. I think that we would benefit from having our populace as educated as possible. The fact that the government rakes in billions in interest from the backs of the students in this country is alarming. I feel like if the taxes were adjusted to a more realistic level and cuts were made where there is blatant room for adjustment, we could avert that burden and allow our young people to concentrate on getting as much education as possible.

Someone can only contribute to society if they have the chances to reach the levels of education needed to actively make a change. Right now, I fear for the average education level of our citizen base. We need to come together as a people and realize that we all need to contribute in order to make this country succeed. That means that the incredibly wealthy may have to go back to a tax burden they already carried in the past. Depending on where you are on the Economic Ladder will actively modify how important a certain sum of money is. For example, one hundred thousand dollars is a sum that would change someones life. From the poor, it could provide opportunities that they would never see in their lives. For the middle class, it can mean the difference between renting for the rest of their lives versus buying a home. For some, it’s what they make for doing eight hours of work. The fact that the reaction or meaning of such a sum is so broad is troublesome.

Now, many people will say, “They have the right to enjoy their money! They earned it!” That would indeed be a fair statement, if the majority of the wealthiest Americans hadn’t inherited that wealth. Those actual people didn’t work for the money they have, their parents or grandparents did. So when you compare these people to your average person working 40+ hours a week and barely scraping by, who is the maker and who is the taker?

I live in one of the best countries in the world. Our homeless live better than a lot of people in the middle east. This doesn’t mean we can’t improve it. That doesn’t mean we can’t improve our global image either. Your average human outside of the US describes us as being fat, lazy, over zealous in faith, stupid…..Our government is called tyrannical and imperialistic. It doesn’t have to be this way. We all need to come together and make sacrifices to improve our country. I feel like the wealthiest need to come forward and be willing to play ball. Honestly, they would benefit from having a strong middle class that can support all the companies and stores that they own. I really don’t want to see this country become Feudal England in which there are Lords and Peasants. It never ends well. History has show that, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The common saying is, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” I would like to add, “And those who can, are dragged kicking and screaming into repetition by their leaders.” I don’t have an answer to this problem, aside from what I’ve already listed. I do know that we need to make changes, though. I just hope our leaders see the same thing and stop breaking their own arms jerking themselves off.

 

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