Welfare is an interesting word. Like so many other politically-charged terms, it means rather different things to the different people who use it.
To the self-defined “makers,” welfare is a “handout”–government takes tax dollars that have been paid by responsible, productive folks and gives them to needy people who may be unfortunate but are probably just lazy or unmotivated. These handouts breed dependency, and they’re morally suspect.
Of course, as many observers of government largesse have documented, when you look at the numbers, most of the “takers”–i.e., the recipients of most of the dollars redistributed by government– are corporations. Big ones, that pay their CEOs, other executives and shareholders extremely well.
The “handout” definition
..is what we’ve been trained to believe, largely by politicians who smirk patronizingly at poverty but pay billions of your dollars to corporations…
Welfare is a many-headed dragon, but you won’t comprehend how big corporate welfare is unless you mine the data.
The independent, nonpartisan watchdogs at www.goodjobsfirst.org compiled the data. Those facts detail 453,000 business subsidies handed out by 289,000 state and local governments, and 164,000 freebies from the federal government.
It’s a $70 billion a year pipeline of public money.
The Chicago Tribune has explained corporate welfare better than I ever could:
Illinois has given away $4 billion over the last few decades with little proof the investments actually produced more jobs, more independence in the hands of working people or even benefit to the state at large. That narrative plays well in Indiana, because the Illinois reputation as a wasteful, even corrupt, welfare black hole is enhanced.
Luckily, Indiana isn’t like that.
In fact, Indiana is far worse.
While Illinois was handing over $4.8 billion, Indiana was sweetening the pot with $7.2 billion. Only six states — including giant economic forces New York and Michigan — have spent more local money this way.
Indiana governments are frugal with you, but less so with big-bucks corporations. The state gives away this money as direct cash, indirect subsidies, publicly financed bonds at low or no cost and tax abatements on the theory that average Hoosiers benefit from priming the economic pump.
Here’s how hard you’ve been pumping.
Indiana has dispensed 7,758 of these welfare goodies since 1986, the vast majority since 2009. (Emphasis added)
So who are Indiana’s “takers”?
You have given $703 million to General Motors. Community Health Systems of Tennessee, which owns Porter Regional Hospital and eight other hospitals in Indiana, has gotten $403 million.
Michelin has 308 million of your dollars. Eli Lilly hauled off $200 million. Indianapolis even gave real estate giant Simon Properties $180 million to build a downtown shopping center. Duke Energy took $204 million. Nestle and its Edy’s Ice Cream operation took $199 million in property tax deferments. Honda got $166 million.
These welfare checks are necessary, as the theory supposes, because they guarantee jobs that otherwise would not exist, although no one much tracks the jobs or the provable tax benefit….
Sometimes the sweet deal does not even pretend to produce jobs.
I guess welfare dollars are only morally suspect and socially addictive when poor people use them to feed their children.