This letter was sent to the Post-Crescent on October 14, 2007 (earning me my third Silver Pen Award in five months):
Talking about universal health care inevitably brings up the specters of “wealth redistribution” and “socialism”. We are reminded of the so-called untouchables of society (minorities and single mothers) who are said to leech off their hard-working neighbors. What is never said, however, is how much more those on the other end of the income spectrum are leeching.
The Boston Globe reports “an estimated $150 billion [annually] … is funneled to American companies.” These subsidies are more than the “annual budget deficit of $130 billion” and even “the $145 billion paid out annually for the core programs of the social welfare state”. We pay more to successful companies than for student aid, low-income housing assistance, food stamps and other poverty-relieving programs combined.
The Cato Institute calculated the subsidies (not including lucrative war-time contracts from the DOD) to be $92 billion in 2006, to such corporations as Boeing, Xerox, IBM, Motorola, Dow and General Electric. This handout “transcends any specific agency”, making reforming the system difficult without an independent commission to examine individual grants. We all know there’s excessive pork in politics — why not actually devise a committee to trim the fat?
Farm subsidies, something our heartland takes personally, seem like a good idea. But Cato reports that “federal crop subsidy programs continue to fund the wealthiest farmers” over family farms. Labor Secretary Robert Reich says “nixing” unfair farm subsidies to “big agribusinesses” and cutting tariffs would “reduce global poverty, decrease the number of workers crossing our borders illegally, save American taxpayers money, and cut your supermarket bill”. What started as good intentions (insuring Depression-era small farmers against losses) has become an embarrassment totaling $11 billion a year.
This is capitalism at its most corrupt: removing free market competition by artificially inflating the economic advances of the world’s leading corporations. Aid to those who are most in need (students and the working poor) is continually cut while those who need the least are wallowing in exorbitant levels of grants. In the words of Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris: Take the rich off welfare!