Two recent pieces highlight neglected dimensions of corporate and upscale welfare, already wealthy people making large amounts of money from the tax dollars of ordinary people.
At Slate , Krissy Clark asks the obvious question of who ultimately benefits from food stamp programs. The program feeds poor kids and families, of course, but they don’t get food unless they take their stamps to approved stores: “Last year $76 billion flowed from the U.S. Treasury to people’s food stamp cards. That money then flowed into the revenue streams of about 240,000 stores across the country, all of which have been approved by the federal government to accept food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. You can look at SNAP as a government subsidy with two lives. First, low-income people enrolled in the program get financial help to buy food. Then, when they swipe their EBT cards at the checkout counters, the government pays those stores for that foodwhich is, of course, being sold at a profit.” Do we pay taxes to subsidize Wal-Mart?
At the New Yorker , Kevin Roose analyzes where start-up companies that lose money get their funding. He answers, “while some of the money used to fund money-losing start-ups comes from rich Silicon Valley investors, some large amount of it comes from public pensions, college endowments, and other, more modest sources. . . . If you asked them, I’m sure that firefighters in Memphis and public schoolteachers in El Centro would have no idea that their retirement funds are being used to lower the price of my delivery lunches and rides across town. But that’s exactly what’s happening. And when these venture-backed price wars happen in dozens of high-end service sectors all at once, you have a strange cultural phenomenon in which Main Street dollars are being used to finance the lifestyles of cosmopolitan yuppies.”