By Aaron Rodwin Special to the chronicle
Both Democratic and Republican politicians have failed to take a stance on the real welfare dependency problem, corporate welfare. Judging by the rhetoric of the Republican Party, the public is supposed to believe that social welfare is promoting dependency, hurting the economy and causing a federal deficit crisis. Surprisingly, the so-called fiscal hawks (Governor Romney and Congressmen Ryan) have remained silent on this issue. Instead, they defend the elite at all costs while using “dependency” as a useful political strategy to attack social programs designed to benefit the poor, who tend to be minorities.
The real dependency problem points at corporations and special interest groups that have played an equal role in transforming our political system into a corrupt plutocracy. We spend $59 billion on social welfare programs, and over $92 billion on corporate welfare. I’ll let you do the math. Wall Street firms and corporations spend millions of dollars lobbying the government to promote their own massive tax breaks, welfare and desirable public policy. When they engage in risky behaviors—putting their companies and the economy on the brink of collapse—they turn to the government depend on taxpayer bailouts, then revert back to denouncing big government.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has shed light to the crazy notion that its wrong for billion dollar corporations to receive massive taxpayer subsides, tax breaks and bailouts, while millions of innocent Americans who suffered the consequences of Wall Street’s gimmicks have not been bailed out. Abraham Lincoln wrote of a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall never perish from the earth.” If we continue the “defend corporate money over the people” mentality, our government will quickly become an entity that our nation’s founders never envisioned.
The reality is that the majority of welfare recipients who aren’t millionaires and corporations working the system are hard-working Americans. Many of them work multiple low-paying jobs and worthy of being treated with dignity and respect, not disdain. Dr. Martin Luther King phrased it perfectly, “Whenever the government provides opportunities and privileges for white people and rich people they call it ‘subsidies.’ When they do it for Negro and poor people they call it ‘welfare.’” Everyone benefits from welfare, both the rich and poor. The difference is the poor are demonized as lazy government-dependent victims. When in reality the rich benefit just as much, if not more.
Our political system is facing a structural dilemma driven by the influence of money that is drowning out the people’s voice. It has become politically acceptable for mega corporations and Wall Street firms to depend on government and steal unwarranted taxpayer subsides, but if a politician dares to stand up for lower class people struggling to afford health care and food, they are accused as being radical socialists stealing from successful job creators. We have reached the point where money talks and controls government. If we listen to allegedly serious political pundits who have a talent for smiling into the camera and using emotionally evocative words, it’s easy to have hope for a bright future. But in reality, until Democrats or Republicans stand up for the people and fight corporate influence on government, our democracy will become more and more like a “corporatetocracy.”