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The True Costs of Corporate Welfare

We need to stop rewarding businesses for screwing over their employees.

Walmart, a corporation that made $16 billion in net profits in 2013, is getting some $2.66 billion in government subsidies each year. (Image: Lance Page / Truthout; Adapted: daliborlev, Kenneth Hynek )

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Who should we really be drug testing?

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a series of bills into law that will require some welfare recipients in Michigan to be drug-tested.

Meanwhile, other states are considering following in Rick Snyder’s footsteps.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is on the record saying that he also wants to make drug testing welfare recipients and applicants a law.

And, according to ThinkProgress, “In 2014, at least 18 states introduced proposals or addressed bills that would require some form of drug testing or screening for applicants for or recipients of public assistance.”

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

One of the main reasons why conservatives across the US are trying to pass welfare drug-testing laws is to shame and punish poor people. It’s really that simple. But they rationalize it by saying they need to “control government costs.”

Welfare programs in the United States include programs like the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) and food stamps.

And, as Lou Colagiovanni over at points out, in 2012, a married person with one child making $50,000 per year paid just over $36 in taxes for “food and nutrition assistance” programs like food stamps and WIC.

That’s just 10 cents per day!

While conservatives will never admit it, welfare is a mind-bogglingly small expense and a very small piece of the pie.

On the other hand, the nation’s biggest welfare recipients – rich people and big corporations – are making out like bandits, because the welfare they take isn’t for food or housing – it’s to increase their profits and wealth.

As Paul Bucheit points out over at Common Dreams, the average US family pays a staggering $6,000 each year in subsidies to big business.

Think about that for a second.

Each year, you’re forking over around $6,000 of your hard-earned money to big banks, fossil fuel giants and massive transnational corporations that already rake in billions and billions of dollars in profits.

But you don’t see conservatives arguing against that.

So, where is all of that money going?

Of that $6,000, $870 goes to direct subsidies for corporations, including the likes of Exxon, Shell, BP and other fossil fuel giants that are taking our money and destroying our environment at the same time.

Meanwhile, hundreds more go to corporations as indirect subsidies.

Researchers at the University of Illinois and University of California-Berkeley found that US taxpayers pay a staggering $243 billion each year in indirect subsidies to the fast food industry alone.

That’s because the fast food industry pays its workers such low wages, and gives them such poor benefits, that “We The People” foot the bill for their health care, food and, in some cases, their housing and transportation.

And then there’s Walmart, the United States’ largest retailer.

In 2013, Walmart brought in a staggering $476 billion in revenue, netting some $16 billion in profits.

Every hour, that retailing giant takes in over $36 million, making just over $34,000 in profit every minute.

Yet, as Michael Snyder points out over at The Economic Collapse Blog,

“Wal-Mart’s low wages have led to full-time employees seeking public assistance. These are not the 47 percent, lazy, unmotivated bums. Rather, these are people working physical, often difficult jobs. They receive $2.66 billion in government help each year (including $1 billion in healthcare assistance). That works out to about $5,815 per worker. And about $420,000 per store.”

So, a corporation that made $16 billion in net profits in 2013 is getting some $2.66 billion in government subsidies each year.

That’s crazy.

If we’re serious about going after “welfare queens” in the US, to use Ronald Reagan’s phrase, then let’s start by going after the corporations and industries that use the Walmart business model of paying such low wages that their employees qualify for welfare benefits.

It’s unconscionable and morally reprehensible that a worker working for the largest retailer in the United States, or for a fast food giant, isn’t making enough money to survive and provide for their family.

We need to stop rewarding businesses for screwing over their employees.

That starts by raising the minimum wage to a point where giant corporations like Walmart can’t run this scam of a business model on the US public any more.

And while we’re at it, maybe we should drug-test a corporate executive or two.

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