I payed for what?

This week Congress passed a bill that raised taxes, increased spending, gave tax breaks to big business, and added to the deficit. Congress conveniently forgot to address out-of-control spending, the $16 trillion debt, and entitlement reform. Oops, so much for campaign promises.

Last year, Congress spent $3.6 trillion of our money. Having borrowed 40 cents of every dollar it spent, Congress ensured that Americans will pay now and later—a gift that keeps on giving. Many Americans mistakenly assume that Congress is paying for necessary government functions like roads, defense, and the like, responsibilities spelled out in the Constitution. While some taxpayer dollars do support legitimate government functions, the lion’s share is spent redistributing money from some Americans to other Americans, both individuals and corporations.

In recent years, newspaper headlines have reported extensively on the big bailouts to banks and car makers. Corporate welfare, however, comes in all shapes and sizes, a report out of the US Senate recently found. Here’s a tiny sample of what is in the report: Taxpayers paid $1.3 million to PepsiCo Inc. to build a yogurt factory in New York, $505,000 to a pet care manufacturer in Nebraska, and $356,000 to Link Snacks Inc. for expanding meat snack products. We ponied up $283,884 to Sunburst Trout Farms, $50,000 to Martin Sidor Farms, and $25,000 to the Alabama Watermelon Association for them to market their products to us. These handouts don’t even count toward the $30 billion in crop subsidies we pay each year.

Public entities took payouts, too. Purdue University researchers used taxpayer funds to examine how golfers might use imagination to improve their game. The University of Utah got $1.5 million to create a virtual fishing video game. St. Louis got a two mile trolley line for a mere $35 million. Indianapolis shuttled Super Bowl XLVI fans around the city for just over $142,000. Incredibly, taxpayers paid $10,000 so the Michigan State Police could buy talking urinal cakes. What did they have to say for it?

Americans also pay upwards of $1 trillion for individual welfare programs. While some individuals who cannot provide for themselves benefited from public support, much of the money was spent on people who should be able to manage their affairs or spent frivolously. Records show that food stamp users “bought” meals at fast food restaurants, Starbucks coffee, beer, cigarettes, and condoms. How many food groups is that? And then there’s the $317 million that went to birth control. Most Americans are happy to help out a fellow American who needs food or housing. We draw the line at sex. Get a job. With the $1.5 billion for free cell phones and free minutes for welfare recipients, calling back that prospective employer shouldn’t be too difficult.

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