The super-wealthy are receiving billions of dollars in federal benefits, according to a report released Monday by the office of Sen. Tom Coburn, one of the leading congressional opponents of government waste.
In the 37-page report, titled “Subsidies of the Rich and Famous,” Coburn (R-Okla.) states that since 2003, persons with an annual gross income of at least $1 million have received a total of $9.5 billion in government payments, including $9 billion in Social Security retirement benefits, $74 million in unemployment insurance and $316 million in farm program payments.
Coburn also details about $114 billion in federal tax breaks claimed by millionaires since 2006, at an annual average of $28.5 billion. In 2009, nearly 1,500 millionaires paid no federal income tax, according to Coburn’s report.
“This welfare for the well-off — costing billions of dollars a year — is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many of who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and IOUs to be paid off by future generations,” the Oklahoma Republican said in a statement. “We should never demonize those who are successful. Nor should we pamper them with unnecessary welfare to create an appearance everyone is benefiting from federal programs.”
The move by Coburn, a prominent conservative who is also a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators that earlier this year worked on a far-reaching debt-reduction plan, could re-open debate among congressional Republicans about how to address comprehensive tax reform, particularly as a bipartisan “supercommittee” enters the final stretch of its debt talks.
Coburn’s criticism of the federal government for “subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous” echoes the rhetoric of congressional Democrats who have called for higher taxes on the wealthy in order to help reduce the country’s nearly $15 trillion debt.
But it also backs up the argument made by some congressional Republicans in favor of “means testing” federal entitlement programs so that government benefits are reduced for those who can cover their own costs.
In July, Coburn presented a sweeping plan to achieve $9 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade through taking on both parties’ sacred cows, including $1 trillion in cuts to Pentagon spending and $2.6 trillion in changes to Medicare and Medicaid.