YOUNG VOICES: Continue war on poverty, don't target poor

2014-03-24T00:00:00Z YOUNG VOICES: Continue war on poverty, don't target poorBy Anna Ortiz nwitimes.com
March 24, 2014 12:00 am  • 

While the welfare drug testing bill recently died in the Indiana Senate, animosity against those in poverty is still very much alive.

Sadly, among economic crises, welfare has replaced poverty as the problem in need of solving.

So who is on welfare, putting a drain on tax dollars? The answer might surprise you.

We've all encountered welfare kings and queens.

I’m not talking about the caricature Ronald Reagan once famously touted on his campaign trail: the inner-city woman with 80 different names raking in $150,000 a year in welfare. I’m talking about the billions funneled to corporations and top 1 percent earners.

According to the Cato Institute, taxpayers dole out $100 billion each year in federal subsidies for corporations such as GM, Shell and Ford.

A subsidy for corporate jets annually costs taxpayers $3 billion and tax deductions for second homes cost $8 billion.

Home mortgage deductions cost $70 billion tax dollars each year. About 77 percent of those recipients have incomes of more than $100,000 per year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Federal tax breaks for hedge fund managers cost us an estimated $83 billion each year, and the National Priorities Project estimates 68 percent of the recipients have an annual income above $462,500.

In contrast, Cato Institute reports only one-third of welfare money actually goes toward what we see as traditional assistance-to-the-poor welfare.

Annually, about $21 billion goes to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and $75 billion goes toward food stamps. Adding that with the refunded Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, housing vouchers and child tax credits, this fraction totals to about $212 billion per year.

However, those assistance programs come with vilification and shame, while corporations enjoy what are deemed as “privileges.” One is a subsidy; the other is a handout.

Rather than blaming power structures that were created by the affluent for the affluent, we point our fingers at the poor, who have even less power over these circumstances.

We brawl among ourselves and let the real offenders do their pick-pocketing and then slip out the back door unnoticed.

It’s no accident we live in a system where cash is funneled to the wealthiest 1 percent. It’s a result of systematic policies and tax laws.

Almost 1 in 3 Americans lived in poverty between 2009 and 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

So where else can those billions go? Do you see improved school systems and hefty college scholarship funds? Do you see your neighborhood being revived?

Let’s work together — wealthy, middle class and poor — to demand a better life for the 15 percent of Americans living below the poverty line. Poverty is the enemy, not the poor.

Anna Ortiz, of Cedar Lake, is a senior at Ball State University. The opinions are the writer's.

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