Who is gouging you?

     I've been reading Patricia Palagi's poem, "Welfare Wolves" (March 1, 1997 issue) at poetry open mics -- usually to loud crowd reaction. It starts with a quote from The New Yorker (February 26, 1996) about Congress members who "referred to women who received welfare as 'wolves' and 'alligators'."
     Many politicians are fond of telling you that the reason you have to pay such high taxes is because of Welfare Moms living in $200,000 homes and driving Cadillacs, illegal immigrants getting free medical care, the children of affluent suburban families feeding on cheap school lunches, alcoholics just too fogged to work drawing social security benefits. Why, Federal welfare programs cost you $130 billion a year! (By the way, less than half of this covers actual services to people -- the rest is administrative cost.)
     Let's see -- military waste and fraud costs the American taxpayer $172 billion a year. Comedians and the Reader's Digest talk about it. Has either party based a major political campaign on it? Like the campaign to save you from the 42 billion dollars less than that being spent on welfare?
     No one pays Social Security taxes on any income over $62,700 a year. This exemption loses $53 billion from the Federal budget every year -- made up for by higher taxes on lower incomes. Probably yours. Do you make over $62,700 a year?
     Accelerated depreciation programs and capital gains breaks cost tax income of $74 billion a year. The S&L bailout will cost $32 billion a year until 2020.
     And your tax problems are caused by an out-of-work legal immigrant getting $71 a month in foodstamps?
     I have long noticed that evangelists and other reformers who set out to improve the world usually aim straight at the most helpless, harmless, EASIEST TARGETS around. Evangelists rave about pregnant teenagers. They don't get up and rave about middle-aged businessman who pay teenagers for sex. They yell at fog-bound youths about smoking pot. They seldom walk up and yell at crack dealers. They will preach moral reform to hungry men at a soup kitchen, seven nights a week. How often do they preach moral reform to the CEO of General Motors, who received $110,600,000 in Federal job program money in the same year that he laid off 104,000 workers?
     Of course there is one point in favor of Corporate Welfare programs over public welfare ones. They seem to take much less overhead. Almost all of the money involved goes directly to the beneficiaries. Millions of dollars in military contracts can be obtained with merely thousands of dollars of campaign contributions. A politician is a very good bargain.
     And almost no administrative personnel seem to be involved. If you were to announce giving a dinner in honor of social workers who distribute welfare monies to the poor, you could probably get several hundred honorees to show up, in Seattle alone. But if you were to announce a dinner in honor of people who cut checks to Corporate Welfare recipients, how many folks would come forward to be recognized? Isn't it marvelous how so much can be done with so little?
     If you would like your tax gripes to have a bigger effect on your budget, how about picking bigger targets?

Homeless Columns ed. by Anitra L. Freeman