Newspaper logo  
 
 
Print view: The Book That Uncovered 'Wealthfare'
GOVERNMENT MATTERS:

The Book That Uncovered ‘Wealthfare’

by Gerald E. Scorse

Total tax expenditures (a.k.a. tax breaks) in fiscal 2018 are expected to cost the federal government more than $1.5 trillion; most Americans will get at least a dollop, but the lion’s share by far will line the pockets of people whose pockets are already bulging.

Over 20 years ago, long before the experts caught on, the writers Mark Zepezauer and Arthur Naiman zeroed in on the upward redistribution of income in the United States. They called it “wealthfare,” and used the term to open their 1996 book Take the Rich Off Welfare. Here’s the first sentence: “Wealthfare—the money we hand out to corporations and wealthy individuals—costs us at least $448 billion a year.”

It’s no exaggeration to say that the book predicted America’s fortune (or, more accurately, misfortune). Government actions to make the rich richer have become standard fare. There’s more allegiance to corporate profits than there is to the common good. “Wealthfare” is the ruling national ethos—economically, politically, even in the courts; at bottom, Citizens United is a Supreme surrender to the supremacy of people with money.

That $1.5 trillion easily tops what the country spends for any other single purpose. In fiscal 2015, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, tax breaks on the federal income tax alone “cost more than Social Security, or the combined cost of Medicare and Medicaid, or defense or non-defense discretionary spending.”

Defense spending itself might not sound like “wealthfare,” but Zepezauer and Naiman believed it described almost two-thirds of the military’s 1996 budget of $265 billion. They took on defense outlays in the book’s opening chapter, “MILITARY WASTE AND FRAUD ($172 billion a year).” The route to all those billions? “Take one bloated budget. Add the most incompetent bureaucrats on earth. Only two more ingredients are needed: greed and guile.” Needless to say, they found plenty of both.

Their assault on military spending also included this quote from President Dwight Eisenhower: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” (In contrast, President Trump wants a new defense budget of $603 billion. That’s a year-over-year $54 billion increase, to be paid for by $54 billion in non-defense cuts.)

In 23 scathing chapters, Zepezauer and Naiman listed and estimated the costs of everything they considered “wealthfare”—from preferential taxes on capital gains to agribusiness subsidies, from the 30-year savings-and-loan bailout to the Social Security tax break for high incomes. For good measure, they topped it off with a chapter titled “WHAT WE’VE LEFT OUT (untold billions every year).”

Specifics aside, the book’s real finding was the upward flow of income. After decades of shared prosperity in America, the sharing had ended and the prosperity was moving solely toward the already prosperous. “Wealthfare” presciently saw the rich getting richer, the middle class getting more middling, and income inequality rising to record highs.

These simple facts weren’t fully embraced until the 2014 arrival of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty First Century; for Zepezauer and Naiman, the trend was plain to see well back in the twentieth. They traced the outgrowth to “a series of tax ‘reforms’ that began in 1977 [and] cut the rate paid by the richest Americans nearly in half...” This was their biting view of 1996 America: “[S]tealing from the poor—actually, from anybody who isn’t rich—has become standard operating procedure in this country. In fact, the US government today functions mostly as a huge Robin-Hood-in-reverse.”

The “wealthfare” tide has mostly risen since then. The George W. Bush tax cuts went overwhelmingly in the rich-get-richer direction. President Obama did pull back modestly on the gains, but the plans advanced by Trump and the GOP will likely erase those moves and then some. The odds strongly favor another tax cut tilted heavily upward.

“Wealthfare”: Zepezauer and Naiman were right on the money, long before anybody else.


Copyright 2017 Gerald E. Scorse. Gerald E. Scorse helped pass the bill requiring basis reporting for capital gains. He writes on taxes.



Copyright © 2017 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.

This story was published on May 18, 2017.

 
Local Gov’t Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

05.22 The entire health care industry is panicking that Trump is about to blow up Obamacare

05.22 Air pollution linked to poor sleep, study finds

05.22 Trump's Fox News deputy national security advisor fooled him with climate fake news

05.21 Canada eases steps to open supervised drug injection sites amid opioid crisis

05.21 Canada First Nations reserve bars outsiders amid opioid crisis

05.20 Global Study Shows Americans Dying from Preventable Causes at Shocking Rates [“What a country!” —Yakov Smirnoff]

05.20 China claims breakthrough in mining 'flammable ice' [might greater release of methane to our atmosphere become a larger problem?]

05.20 ETP Spills Two Million Gallons of Drilling Material in Ohio

05.20 Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts

05.19 How Australia can use hydrogen to export its solar power around the world

05.19 Dirty diesel: why ships are the worst offenders

05.18 A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.

05.18 Trump Wants to Cut Energy Dept's Renewables Budget. Big Time. [“Stupid is as stupid does.” – Forrest Gump.]

05.18 The older the doctor, the higher the patient mortality rate, study finds

05.18 Pesticide that Trump's EPA refused to ban blamed for sickening farm workers [fact-free 'emotional' government can have very high costs. this is a warning to change conduct before its too late.]

05.18 'The pill mill of America': where drugs mean there are no good choices, only less awful ones [governments must unleash research hospitals and pharmeceutical companies to design and manufacture safer and non-addictive recreational drugs to stop illegal drug trade's crime's social, health and prison costs]

05.18 Product designers 'must reduce Pringles factor' to boost recycling

News Media Matters

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

05.21 Nurses heckle Democratic leader, threaten legislators over health care [videos]

05.21 The small Texas city fighting to remain a ‘safe haven’ for immigrants [morally right & courageous]

05.20 Don’t Fear President Pence, Liberals. Welcome Him.

05.20 The degree of self-sabotage in the Trump White House is staggering

05.20 Billionaire Betsy DeVos wants to scrap student debt forgiveness. Surprised?

05.20 Comey to testify as more revelations pile pressure on Donald Trump

Justice Matters

05.20 WILL ROBERT MUELLER EXPLORE TRUMP’S RUSSIAN BUSINESS TIES?

05.19 The Feds Had Been Moving Away From Mass Incarceration For Years. Then Jeff Sessions Came Along. [stay tuned]

High Crimes?
Economics, Crony Capitalism

05.20 Americans Are Paying $38 to Collect $1 of Student Debt

05.20 The Malta Files: How the smallest EU country became a haven for global tax avoidance [why can't we play nice together?]

05.19 America's geography of wealth: the shrinking urban middle class visualised [animated bar chart] [tens of millions of families are living in increasing financial stress–Hillary ignored it and Trump made alt-promises (a.k.a.: lies)]

05.19 'Orwellian' and 'Bizarre': Warren Skewers Mnuchin for Doublespeak on Breaking Up Banks [4:45 video]

International

05.22 Revealed: Facebook's internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence

05.22 Big game hunter is crushed to death when an elephant he was hunting in Zimbabwe is shot and falls on top of him [a fitting death to an elephant killer]

05.22 Tensions rise as Uganda refugee policy is pushed to breaking point

05.22 Outnumbering refugees two to one: how the world ignores war's greatest scandal

05.22 Kashmir conflict shifts with top militant vowing fight is for an Islamic state

05.21 UK needs more immigrants to 'avoid Brexit catastrophe' [who benefits from bad "conservative" policy?]

05.21 THE LIGHTS ARE GOING OUT IN THE MIDDLE EAST [we suggest enticing a solar panel and battery manufacturers to locate in your countries to diversify economies and create jobs. use solar to empower yourselves...]

05.21 Rouhani’s victory is good news for Iran, but bad news for Trump and his Sunni allies

05.21 Budget analysis shows some Australian women hit with effective marginal tax rates of 100% ["conservatives" are cruel to the poor and desperate everywhere, to protect themselves from higher taxes]

05.21 Venezuela: 50th day of protests brings central Caracas to a standstill [who does interventions for countries? could the UN help more?]

05.21 Brexit and the coming food crisis: ‘If you can’t feed a country, you haven’t got a country’ [fear-based nationalism will become a costly problem]

05.21 Massimo Bottura and his global movement to feed the hungry

05.20 Let’s Skip the War Part—and Go Right to Reparations [powerful writing!]

05.20 Iran: Hassan Rouhani wins landslide in huge victory for reformists

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
 

Public Service Ads: