Magazine article Insight on the News

To Bring Welfare Reform Full Circle, Wean Millionaires off the Public

Magazine article Insight on the News

To Bring Welfare Reform Full Circle, Wean Millionaires off the Public

Article excerpt

Sometimes an idea is so solid, clear and pure that it glistens like a diamond. Stephen Moore's strikingly pristine cure for corporate welfare is such a notion. At a June 30 House Budget Committee hearing, Moore, a Cato Institute fiscal-policy analyst, suggested that the federal government not subsidize companies or individuals with incomes exceeding $1 million. "The corporate-welfare model of economic development has been a stunning failure in Europe and Japan" said Moore, who humbly credits free-market economist Walter Williams with his proposal. "We should stop imitating the economic losers." The time is now to transform this idea into law. Let's call it the Millionaires' Assistance Termination Act of 1999, or MATA for short.

Three summers ago, Congress and President Clinton ended welfare as we knew it. Since then, an estimated 40 percent of welfare recipients have left the dole for the mainstream economy. Many of those still on assistance perform some public service for benefits. The federal welfare entitlement vanished. Every American is eligible for just five years' worth of lifetime public relief. Beyond that, one is on his own.

If only the poor were millionaires. America's disadvantaged are, correctly, expected to shape up and find jobs. However, many of the very wealthy remain cozily affixed to the public teat.

As those with low incomes go to work, they join other taxpayers in financing some $75 billion every year for about 125 federal grant, loan, loan-guarantee and insurance programs for well-heeled moguls and their prosperous enterprises. Where's the social justice in that? Here are a few ways Washington handed Americans' hard-earned money to business last year:

* $37 million for the Essential Air Service program for air carriers;

* $265 million for high-performance computing and communications at the National Science Foundation;

* $351 million for fossil-energy research and development; and

* $1.03 billion for federal crop insurance.

Despite meticulous work on corporate welfare by Cato, the "New Democrat" Progressive Policy Institute and other think tanks, these boondoggles are nearly immortal. Not even a reputedly free-market GOP Congress will kill them. In fact, under Republican stewardship, most of these shakedowns actually have grown an average of 10 percent since 1995. Since last year alone, the Power Marketing Administration's budgets swelled 164 percent.

On July 9, two former high-level Archer-Daniels-Midland, or ADM, executives each received two years in prison for fixing the price of lysine, a livestock-feed additive. …

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