The Book That Uncovered ‘Wealthfare’

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by Gerald E. Scorse / May 18th, 2017

Over 20 years ago, long before the experts caught on, the writers Mark Zepezauer and Arthur Naiman zeroed in on the upward redistribution of income in the United States. They called it “wealthfare,” and used the term to open their 1996 book Take the Rich Off Welfare. Here’s the first sentence: “Wealthfare—the money we hand out to corporations and wealthy individuals—costs us at least $448 billion a year.”

It’s no exaggeration to say that the book predicted America’s fortune (or, more accurately, misfortune). Government actions to make the rich richer have become standard fare. There’s more allegiance to corporate profits than there is to the common good. “Wealthfare” is the ruling national ethos—economically, politically, even in the courts; at bottom, Citizens United is a Supreme surrender to the supremacy of people with money.

Let’s explore the first “wealthfare” total of $448 billion in “subsidies, handouts, tax breaks, loopholes, rip-offs and scams.” To begin with, the number looks almost puny today. Total tax expenditures (a.k.a. tax breaks) in fiscal 2018 are expected to cost the federal government more than $1.5 trillion; most Americans will get at least a dollop, but the lion’s share by far will line the pockets of people whose pockets are already bulging.

That $1.5 trillion easily tops what the country spends for any other single purpose. In fiscal 2015, according to the Center for…

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