Republicans love to talk about how Democrats take money from good, hardworking Americans and give it to lazy deadbeats. That story is the meme right-wingers use when they cut welfare, it’s how they frame their war against Obamacare and it’s how they justify doing awful heartless things like slashing funding for school lunch programs.
But it’s becoming increasingly clear that Republicans don’t actually believe their own talking points. And you don’t need to look any farther than the ongoing joke that is our corporate tax code to see why that’s true.
As Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders pointed out in a recent Senate hearing, many of the richest, most profitable corporations in the US don’t actually pay anything in taxes, and in some cases, actually get money back from the IRS.
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Pretty amazing, right? GE rakes in $34 billion every year, pays nothing in taxes and ends up getting a rebate from the government.
But GE is just one example of a much bigger problem. And that’s the shifting of the tax burden from rich corporations and billionaires who both consume government services like our courts and banking system, and can afford to pay for it, on to the backs of working Americans and those who can’t afford it.
Back in the 1950s, corporate tax revenues made up as much as one third of all federal tax revenues. But decades of loopholes and carve-outs have taken their toll, and now corporate tax revenues make up just 13.5 percent of total revenue.
This has a very real cost. The National Priorities Project estimates that thanks to corporate tax breaks, the government lost out on $176 billion – I repeat, $176 billion – in potential revenue in 2013.
So where is the government getting its money now that deadbeat corporations are shirking their fiscal duty?
Easy: it’s getting it from everyday working Americans. According to Paul Buchheit over at Common Dreams, corporate subsidies cost each US family around $6,000 every single year.
Tax revenues from individuals now make up almost half of all federal revenues, and since a big portion of individual taxes come in the form payroll taxes, this is a burden that falls disproportionately on the working class.
In other words, wealth isn’t trickling down, it’s trickling up.
That’s the big irony of Republican policymaking in our post-Reaganomics world. As much as conservatives say they’re against redistributing wealth, they do just that by opposing any and all attempts to close up corporate loopholes and reform the tax code.
You see, taxes aren’t just a way to raise revenue and incentivize certain types of behavior; they’re also a way to transfer wealth, and over the past few decades corporate and billionaire-owned politicians have used our tax code to effectively transfer wealth away from working people to their patron corporations and the rich.
This just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, especially if you don’t want deadbeats leeching off the government. Giant corporations like GE and Verizon don’t need government handouts to stay afloat, and the fact that they continue to take handouts just shows that they’re the biggest welfare recipients of all.
As part of his new budget, President Obama has proposed closing many of the worst corporate loopholes. If Republicans actually believe their own talking points about welfare recipients and wealth redistribution, they’ll approve this plan, no questions asked.
But that assumes that Republicans actually have an internally consistent belief system aside from doing whatever their corporate and billionaire backers want them to do.
Of course, they don’t have such a belief system, so that means real tax reform is still a long ways away.