[This piece was published on the original Home Yesterday in March, 2015.]
The most productive country in the world ought to have a lot of money. It may not seem like it to most people, but the United States is the best-paid country in the world, based on what we produce. But that’s just an average — it doesn’t mean we’re all getting a decent share of that money. Since so many of us don’t feel well off, we can’t help but thinking that some of our money is missing — that it is being unjustly taken from us.
Driving on I-77 the other day, I saw three different vehicles with bumper stickers that said: “whatever is given to someone who doesn’t work for it, is taken from someone who did” or other phrasing to that effect. It appears in a bunch of internet memes too. It’s a popular thought and it springs from that feeling: working people are not getting their share of the money this country makes because it gets taken away and given to others.
Some people probably think this sticker is about welfare for poor people — that poor people are the ones who have something given to them “without working” and working Americans resent it. When they resent it enough, they buy the sticker and put it on the car or truck and let the rest of us know. The quote is attributed to Thomas Jefferson.
To other people, myself included, the idea that poor people on welfare have our missing money doesn’t figure. In fact, I am positive that poor people don’t have our missing money. There’s a lot of money missing and if they had it, they wouldn’t be poor. I agree though, that someone is getting away with America’s money. To find it, I follow the theory of another famous American, Willie Sutton, the bank robber. Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, and he famously said “because that’s where the money is.” (Sutton later denied saying that, but the man robbed banks so you can’t exactly trust him).
If you think someone’s got your money, think like Sutton. Ask “where the money is.” It’s not all that hard to find. The country’s biggest “welfare queens” are wealthy corporations and banks. Energy companies you’ve never heard of like Summit Power and famous ones like General Electric receive billions of your dollars every year. Companies like Citigroup, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and others have received actual trillions of dollars in loan guarantees. Don’t get me started on Raytheon and Halliburton, companies whose entire existence is founded on US government corporate welfare.
Think I’m making this up because I’m a Democrat? Take it from the “beard-having, cheese-eating, Volvo-driving” communist hippies over at National Review.
The kind of money handed out to these corporate titans dwarfs welfare spending for poor people. And we should all be very clear: no one “works” for this corporate welfare, unless you count the lobbying, election contributions, and schmoozing over scotch as “work.” We are caught in a vicious cycle, where the money we are handing out to these companies for doing nothing — worse than nothing in many cases — is now used to purchase the politicians who will increase the handouts.
It has gotten so bad that the largest banks will tell you their business simply requires these handouts. Bankers can’t survive in the wild, you see, because too many well-meaning working families gave them money for nothing. They just don’t remember how to hunt for money on their own anymore. Nothing is as sad as the sight of a financial titan starving for want of a government program.
I think I misjudged the folks using this quote. They are right. There are people in this country who are receiving what they “have not worked for.” Jefferson, a founder of the Democratic party, knew exactly what he was talking about. Of course, living more than 150 years before the war on poverty, he couldn’t possibly have been talking about welfare for poor people.
The people who get money they haven’t worked for in this country spend their time in private jets, that others not only pilot, and staff, and repair, but actually pay for with misdirected tax money. They loiter in mansions, and on golf courses, spending the money others have worked to earn. Then they go on television and claim to have “created jobs” by generously agreeing to accept the money others paid in taxes to fund their lifestyles.
Gary Southern, Don Blankenship, Charles and David Koch, Jamie Dimon, Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney — these are the children of our misguided welfare policies, taking what they have not worked for and making the rest of us pay for it. The time has come in America to “end welfare as we know it” — stop handing out our tax money to these moochers.