How to Steal from the Taxpayers While Blaming the Poor
How to Steal from the Taxpayers While Blaming the Poor
By Paul Buchheit /

It's a vicious circle of hypocrisy: Americans dependent on the safety net are urged to "get a job" by the same free-market system that pays them too little to avoid being dependent on the safety net.


Theft, Part 1: The Average U.S. Household Pays About $400 for Safety Net Programs for Low-Wage Workers 

According to the Economic Policy Institute, $45 billion per year in federal, state, and other safety net support is paid to workers in the bottom 20 percent of wage earners. Thus the average U.S. household is paying almost $400 to employees in low-wage industries such as food service, retail, and personal care. 

Blame: Accusing the Poor 

Paul Ryan said that social programs "turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency." But 63 percent of eligible working-age poor Americans are employed, and 73 percent are members of working families. Yet in a show of hypocrisy by some of the leading safety net critics, Congress has killed or blocked or ignored numerous attempts to create better jobs for underemployed Americans.

Greed: Profits for Stockholders, Poverty Wages for Workers 

Demos study found that raising wages to $25,000 per year (about $12.50 per hour) for full-time retail workers would lift 734,075 people out of poverty. 

It would probably help a lot more. An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals that about 22 million workers are underpaid (about a sixth of the total), over half of them in food service, cashiering, personal care, and housekeeping. 

Paying everyone $12.50 (assuming full-time) would cost an extra $80 billion. That's about 3 percent of total 2014 corporate profits. Three percent, compared to the 95 percent spent by S&P 500 companies on investor-enriching stock buybacks and dividend payouts. 

Outrage: The Walmart Numbers 

About two-thirds of low-wage workers are employed by large corporations with over 100 employees. The very worst offender is probably Walmart, which pays its estimated 1.4 million U.S. employees so little that the average Walmart worker depends on about $4,400 per year in taxpayer assistance, for food stamps and other safety net programs. 

As Walmart was depending on us, the taxpayers, to pay $4,400 a year to each of its employees, the company was spending the equivalent of $5,000 per U.S. employee for price-boosting stock buybacks. 

Theft, Part 2: More Taxpayer Money for the Big Corporations 

Corporate tax avoidance costs us anywhere from $870 to $1,600 per family. 

Incredibly, even though every hour worked by an IRS auditor uncovers over $9,000 in misreported tax dollars among large corporations, IRS auditing for those firms has been cut back by one-third. Meanwhile, communities around the nation are relying on regressive property and sales taxes to make up the difference. 

This is a second theft from the taxpayers, executed quietly for the benefit of the most powerful corporations, as poor Americans continue to get blamed for being poor.


Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at

4.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 10,887 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 8,406 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 4,404 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 3,910 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,405 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · 1,761 views today · Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 1,605 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,578 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,299 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 1,096 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 1,082 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 1,048 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 1,006 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 764 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 643 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Lessons in the Calais Jungle: Teaching Life Stories and Learning About Humanity
Aura Lounasmaa · 512 views today · I am part of a team of academics teaching a course to residents in the Calais Jungle, a camp for migrants and refugees outside the French city. Life Stories in the Jungle has...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 403 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 367 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
The Untold History of Palestine & Israel
22 min · 335 views today · Previewing Abby Martin’s on-the-ground investigation in Palestine, The Empire Files looks at the long history of Zionist colonization, expansion and expulsion of Palestine’s...
Eckhart Tolle: Your Facebook Ego, That's Not Who You Are
2 min · 304 views today · “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past: the "little me" and its story. This...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
How to Steal from the Taxpayers While Blaming the Poor