Monday, March 24, 2014

Free Lunches

There has been a lot of talk lately about free lunches.  It has been talk filled with innuendo, condemnation and, for some, an appeal to everyday Americans to voice their disapproval of those receiving these free lunches.

I did some research today and found some shocking statistics.  Based on this research, I add my name to the list of those who call for our legislators to enact laws which will greatly reduce the dependence of many people on freebies from the American taxpayer.

Unfortunately, this call may fall on deaf ears as our Congressional representatives themselves would be on my list of those who should no longer get free lunches.  You see, in addition to their $174,000 per year salary (for 113 days of work - you can google that), they receive a per diem expense which covers shelter and food.  The food portion is around $45 per day, much higher than the cost of the school lunch that so many of the GOP seem to want to eliminate. 

But the real kings of free lunches reside in the business world.  The following link details the actual amount of money an average family pays towards the social safety net that accounts for programs like SNAP ($6) as compared to what it costs the American taxpayer for corporate welfare which the author of the article tabs at $6000 per family.

To be fair, I read some other articles which debunked some of the areas listed in this article, but even those that might be deemed more business friendly, or, at least less left-leaning, place the number in the $2200 area.

In other words, those hypocrites you see crying on C-SPAN (during House and Senate hearings) and on Fox TV who claim that America is going bankrupt due to all those taking freebies are correct; but way off the mark when it comes to who the free loaders really are. 

The sad news is that much of this rape of the American tax base is legal due to all the tax breaks openly stated and hidden in our convoluted tax code.  For instance, did you know that liquor distillers get a tax break for creating flavored vodka? To the tune of $1 billion?

What I find even more galling, if that is possible, is that the lunches, dinners, trips, gifts, etc that the lobbyists use to tilt the rules of our economic system in their favor are tax deductible.  That's right, every time a Congressman eats for free, travels for free, opens a free gift or just takes a huge check for their next campaign, results in a tax deduction for the company making the legal bribe, and an increase in the tax burden on the middle class. 

Not to mention all the "business" meals, sports events, trips, etc that businesses write off in pursuit of sales, in pursuit of business, in pursuit of their profit.  All used to reduce their taxes. 

I once heard a TV pundit say that the American business community is all about capitalism on the way up, but shared sacrifice (socialism) on the way down.  They all want the fruits of their work to remain in their baskets, with as little sharing as possible when the sun is shining and money is flowing but are the first to use their tax breaks to offset poor management decisions, poor marketing plans, poor expansion efforts when the going gets tough. 

At this point, some of you might be screaming -- flat tax!!!.

Be careful of this.  A flat tax might result in the elimination of huge corporations paying no taxes, but it might also increase the tax rate of those in the middle class that use the mortgage deduction and education credit.  I favor tax rates that have a floor.  Since we all know that there are some hugely profitable corporations that pay little or no taxes, that there are very few corporations and wealthy individuals that pay the actual top tax rate, let's stop debating raising or lowering the rates.  In fact, it is all a diversion anyway, since those crying that our top tax rate is so high know that actual tax rates are much lower but like to use it as a political tool to claim that the DEMS always want to raise taxes. 

A floor tax system would be simple to enact and understand.

Regardless of the actual top tax rate, 33, 36, 39%, whatever it may be, the floor rate for that bracket would be 20%, no less.  (Or 18 or whatever we can decide is fair).  The next rate, which I believe is 28% would have a floor of 15%, or so.  And so on.  Deductions could still be taken, but only as far as the "floor" rate for that tax bracket. 

Finally, let's make sure we fully understand why so many of American children need free school lunches and why so many American citizens, old and young need a strong safety net embodied in programs like SNAP.  Income inequality in the form of inordinate pay for the top 5% of wage earners as compared to the remaining 95% of American workers, unequal pay for the same work which still hampers women in the workforce, and the power wielded by those who control a disproportionate amount or influence over our elected officials.

So, a big YES to reducing the free lunch mentality that permeates America, specifically the American business community.

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