Backgrounder: Welfare for the Rich

July 31, 2020

by Paul Harvey and Lisa Conyers

Our book, “Welfare for the Rich,” is designed to inform Americans — especially taxpayers who are footing most of the bill — about the massive movement of money from millions of middle- and lower-income Americans to much wealthier people and corporations that do not need and should not be entitled to these favors.

What’s most remarkable about these policies is their variety and ubiquity. While today’s politicians — especially those vying for the presidential contest in 2020 — are proposing ways that the government should act to reduce income and wealth inequality, we ask, at the least, that the government stop making inequality worse. Ironically, this is one area of economic policy that the vast majority of Americans of all political persuasions are likely to agree upon.

The ways by which government policies transfer taxpayer funds to the wealthy break down into four basic categories:

How do these public payoffs to the wealthiest people and companies happen? It’s no secret. Special interests line up at the trough in Washington, where the big guys have loud voices. In a recent study, the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes government accountability, found that “between 2007 and 2012, 200 of America’s most politically active corporations spent a combined $5.8 billion on federal lobbying and campaign contributions. Those same corporations got $4.4 trillion in federal business and support” during those five years, including subsidies, tax breaks and favored government contracts. “After examining 14 million records,” Sunlight concluded, “we found that, on average, for every dollar spent on influencing politics, the nation’s most politically active corporations received $760 from the government.”

The amount of talent and energy that goes into these efforts is staggering. There are 20 registered lobbyists for each of the 535 members of Congress, and they work hard. The stated rationales for these political maneuvers range from protecting vulnerable family farms to promoting useful industries to enhancing public safety. So rich farmers get more money, wealthy individuals enjoy more arcane tax breaks, and big companies get even bigger subsidies. Meanwhile, middle- and low-income taxpayers get pinched, including entrepreneurs and small businesses that are being stymied by regulations and tax levies that don’t affect the big boys. The process exacerbates income inequality in America, which is both unnecessary and wrong.

Lisa Conyers, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review, is the co-author with Paul Harvey of “Welfare for the Rich,” to be released Aug. 4, 2020. Conyers has led a foundation seminar in Fort Wayne on how the poor are hurt by social welfare. Contact her at and @PostHillPress.

Reading List

Robert Coleman. “The Rich Get Richer: 50 Billionaires Got Federal Farm Subsidies,” Environmental Working Group AgMag, April 18, 2016, 2016/04/rich-get-richer-50-billionaires-got-federal-farm-subsidies

Tom A. Colburn, M.D. “Subsidies of the Rich and Famous,” November 2011, http://

Yvonne Zipp. “A New Law Hurts Small Toy Stores and Toymakers,” The Christian Science Monitor, January 9, 2009, Forum/2009/0109/p25s23-hfgn.html

M. Garside. “U.S. Gas and Oil Industry Annual Revenue 2010-2017,” Statista, September 26, 2019, oil-industry-in-the-us/

Damian Carrington and Harry Davies. “US Taxpayers Subsidising World’s Biggest Fossil Fuel Companies,” The Guardian, May 12, 2015, environment/2015/may/12/us-taxpayers-subsidising-worlds-biggest-fossil-fuel-companies

Erin Duffin.“Total Lobbying Spending in the U.S. 1998-2018,” Statista, April 29, 2019,

Bill Allison and Sarah Harkins. “Fixed Fortunes: Biggest Corporate Political Interests Spend Billions, Get Trillions,” Sunlight Foundation, November 17, 2014, https:// spend-billions-get-trillions/


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