Republicans Love Giving Away Free Stuff — But Only to People Who Already Have Lots of Stuff

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Over at Vox, Christopher Faricy tells us that both Democrats and Republicans like to give away free stuff:

The main difference between the two political parties is not whether to deliver government benefits to supporters but rather who those supporters are. The Republican Party’s core socioeconomic voting groups are wealthier households and businesses, both of which benefit when social welfare is provided through the tax code rather than through explicit spending.

We are talking here of tax expenditures, that lovely oxymoron in which welfare for the rich is disguised as a tax cut. Tax expenditures include just about anything that gives people a tax break: health savings accounts, retirement accounts, the mortgage interest deduction, and so forth. These are usually pitched as ways to help the average Joe, but in fact the average Joe usually doesn’t take much advantage of them. And when the average Joe does, his tax rate is low enough that it doesn’t help much.

But high earners are a different story. About 70 percent of the benefit of all tax expenditures goes to top earners. For that reason, the chart on the right should come as no surprise: Republicans love tax expenditures, while Democrats are lukewarm about them. On average, tax expenditures have gone up about 12 percent under Republicans, but less than 5 percent under Democrats.

Bottom line: To quote Jeb Bush, the Republican message is “Get in line, and we’ll take care of you with free stuff.” But only if the free stuff goes to corporations and the wealthy.


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