Dissatisfaction in the area with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues as the income-tax deadline approaches.
That’s when we should expect the Tax Foundation’s annual misleading and ultimately meaningless exercise, “Tax Freedom Day”. It’s a gimmick that many media mindlessly report, dutifully repeating the assertion that Americans must work until such-and-such a day to make enough money to pay their share of the nation’s tax burden.
A more useful point of view might be to look at how taxes are spent. Many of the usual complaints are how much of our tax dollars go to “freeloaders” who get food stamps or welfare, Medicare or jobless benefits, or – shudder! – pensions for military service or government employment.
Too few look at how much of our hard-earned income is used by the Pentagon.
And almost no one examines how much of the taxes we have to pay goes to corporations.
For the average U.S. taxpayer, that’s $6,000 a year, according to a new report from Paul Buchheit, author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities,” published on commondreams.org.
Buchheit writes, “That's over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. It's $6,000 that no family would have to pay if we truly lived in a competitive but well-regulated free-market economy.”
He adds, “American families are paying an annual $6,000 subsidy to corporations that have doubled their profits and cut their taxes in half in 10 years while cutting 2.9 million jobs in the U.S. and adding almost as many jobs overseas.”
So: Let’s look at some of those earlier categories – those line items – for comparison. Figured on the basis of a married couple with one child earning $50,000 a year, here’s what the federal government concedes that taxes fund in a year (and the monthly breakdown):
FEMA $8.12 a year (67 cents a month)
Welfare $11.52 ($1)
Unemployment insurance $18 ($1.50)
Education [K-12 & vocational] $32 ($2.75)
Food stamps $73 ($6)
Retirement/disability to military and civilian government workers $84 ($7)
Medicare [technically, a separate tax] $725 ($60)
Defense programs $465 ($38)
Corporate subsidies [again, the average] $6,000 ($500)
Other recipients of that family’s tax payment include Medicaid and children’s health care ($178/year), veterans ($85), environmental protection/natural resources ($15), assistance to developing nations/humanitarian aid ($15), agriculture ($12), and energy supply and conservation programs ($9).
And the Tax Foundation – or Tea Party or knee-jerk foes of sharing the costs of programs, services, infrastructure, etc. that benefit us all – target old people or jobless workers or retired soldiers?
One probable reason that there aren’t enough resources to help every place victimized by natural disasters is that FEMA gets so little money compared to the interests with a lot of power, lobbyists and cash to contribute to campaigns.
As Buchheit details, corporations get direct subsidies and grants, incentives at local and state levels, interest-rate benefits for banks (three-fourths of them to Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo), fees charged to retirement funds, corporate tax subsidies and offshore tax havens, and overpriced medicine.
Economist Dean Baker has written that "government-granted patent monopolies raise the price of prescription drugs by close to $270 billion a year compared to the free-market price."
The use of the taxes we pay is much more enraging than the amount we contribute. It’s infuriating and insulting.
Buchheit writes, “It's a devastating attack on the livelihoods of tens of millions of American families. And Congress just lets it happen.”
Indirectly, perhaps, so do we.
Contact Bill at Bill.Knight@hotmail.com; his twice-weekly newspaper columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.