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What American Taxpayers Should Really Be Outraged About

Helping Americans pick themselves up and get back on their feet is more important than forking over billions to corporations that don’t need it.

(Image: Money grenade via Shutterstock)

Let’s talk about what’s really costly to the average American taxpayer.

Last Thursday, the Senate again failed to pass legislation that would’ve extended long-term unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million Americans who were cut off from it back in December.

That number continues to grow in the direction of 2 million.

Fifty-nine Senators, including four Republicans, voted to extend unemployment insurance benefits, and so by a vote of 59-41, it should have passed the Senate because a clear majority voted for it.

But Republicans in the Senate chose to filibuster the extension of unemployment benefits, and so lacking 60 votes, the legislation came up short.

Many of these Republicans say that America can’t afford unemployment insurance.

They say this lifeline for millions of Americans is too expensive and too costly.

And they say that we’re Taxed Enough Already (TEA).

But unemployment insurance is not what’s really costing us money.

According to the White House’s 2012 Tax Receipt, an American who made $50,000 in 2012 only paid $22.88 in taxes towards unemployment insurance.

Similarly, an American who took home $50,000 in 2012 paid just $36.82 for federal food stamps benefits and just under $7 for additional welfare and government assistance programs.

So what should American taxpayers really be outraged about?

According to the White House’s 2012 Tax Receipt, an American who made $50,000 in 2012 paid nearly $248 in taxes for America’s military and defense programs.

And overall in 2012, the United States spent a whopping $689 billion on defense and military-related programs.

Just think how strong and well-funded the unemployment insurance program could be if we cut just a fraction of that defense spending and put it towards America’s social safety net.

But the amount of money Americans hand over to the defense industry each year pales in comparison to what they hand over in the form of corporate subsidies.

In 2012, the average American taxpayer making $50,000 per year paid a staggering $6,000 in taxes for corporate subsidies, over 174 times what they paid for unemployment insurance.

Of that $6,000, $870 goes to direct subsidies for corporations, including the likes of Exxon, Shell, BP and other Big Oil corporations that are polluting our planet and driving climate change.

Hundreds more go to corporations as indirect subsidies.

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

That’s because the fast food industry pays such low wages that We The People are forced to make up the $243 billion difference to pay for the healthcare and other public benefits of fast food workers.

Americans are also paying millions in indirect corporate subsidies to Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer.

America’s largest retailer makes nearly $35,000 in profit every minute, and as of 2012, the corporation’s annual sales were around $405 billion.

But those huge profits don’t trickle down to Wal-Mart employees, who on average take home just $9 per hour.

Those low wages, combined with very poor benefits, force many Wal-Mart employees to reach out to the government for assistance with healthcare, food and housing costs.

As result, a report released earlier this year by congressional Democrats found that Wal-Mart’s low wages and poor benefits cost American taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.75 million per store.

Despite what Republicans might try to tell you, the overwhelming majority of taxpayer funds are not going to social safety net programs like unemployment insurance or food stamps.

Instead they’re going to prop up multi-billion dollar corporations and an out-of-control military industrial complex that’s ballooning in size and power.

This is a simple matter of priorities.

If the average American has to pay $6,000 in taxes, should that money go to oil companies, defense contractors, and the low-wage retail and fast food industries?

Or should it go to fund a strong social safety net, including an extension of long-term unemployment benefits?

Helping Americans pick themselves up and get back on their feet is more important than forking over billions to corporations that don’t need it.