Jeb Bush argues that black voters want more than what Democrats can offer them.

"Our message is one of hope and aspiration," the former governor of Florida said last week in response to a question about how he'd win over the black electorate.

"It isn't one of division and, 'Get in line, and we'll take care of you with free stuff,' " Bush continued.

It was at least the second time he has mentioned "free stuff" while campaigning this year. This time, he was presumably referring to food stamps, unemployment benefits, welfare and other public assistance programs that economically disadvantaged voters in particular rely on to get by.

Black voters aren't as well off as white voters on the whole, and they do benefit from these programs disproportionately. Yet public largesse helps support the lifestyles of Americans of every race and class -- including governors from wealthy families.

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For example, taxpayers have long been able to deduct interest paid on a home loan from their income when filing taxes, giving them a substantial tax break that you could fairly describe as "free stuff."

According to a Wonkblog analysis of his federal income tax returns, the Republican presidential candidate has personally avoided at least $241,000 in taxes by deducting the interest on his mortgages since 1981.

Over the years, the Bush household (like so many other American families) has benefited substantially from this kind of special treatment.

It's hard to calculate other benefits Bush has received from the government with any precision. For example, he and his wife, Columba, have made regular contributions to their individual retirement accounts, the tax returns show. Doing so will allow them to avoid taxes on any gains the investments produce. The government gives them an additional financial advantage over families that can't afford to save for retirement at all.

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And the income tax returns don't show at all the ways in which state and local governments have helped finance Bush's dealings during his long career in real estate.

Two decades ago, the city of Jacksonville spent $121 million renovating the stadium in which the newly formed Jaguars would play football, The New York Times reported at the time. Bush was an early investor in the team.

And while his father was in the White House, Bush was retained to help sell pumps built by a firm called Moving Water Industries. To expand its business in Nigeria, the firm relied on a $74 million loan guaranteed by the federal Export-Import Bank.

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Few Americans have the opportunity to fly to Nigeria and make deals financed by the U.S. government. Even fewer have the chance to fly to Nigeria and say, "My father is the president of the United States," while they're there (as Bush is shown saying in footage of his trip).

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These advantages are less tangible than food stamps or tax breaks, but there's no doubt wealthy and well-connected Americans get "free stuff" from the government, too -- including tax breaks on yachts, rental properties, lavish business lunches and more.

The tax break for mortgage interest is one of the best examples. The subsidy is available to every homeowner, but few working class people use it, since they can save more by taking the standard deduction. Affluent homeowners, who have enough interest and enough other deductions to claim, benefit the most. Data from the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation shows that the the vast majority subsidy is paid to households with income over six figures.

Now, it's true that Bush has called for taxing homeowners on most of the interest they pay on their mortgages. His proposal would limit most itemized deductions to a total of 2 percent of a taxpayer's adjusted gross income. By one estimate, the limit would save the government $54 billion annually. Overall, though, his plan reduces taxes in a way that gives the most relief to the wealthy.

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The disproportionate benefit for higher income earners of the mortgage interest deduction can be seen in a couple of ways beyond simply the amount of the benefit. Economists say the primary effect of the tax break is to encourage wealthy families to buy larger houses, rather than helping poor families buy a home that wouldn't be able to afford one otherwise. One group of researchers estimated the increase in the size of the average U.S. residence due to the mortgage-interest deduction, along with other housing subsidies. Collectively, those policies add floor space equivalent to a laundry room, a master bath and two family rooms to homes in Los Angeles, the researchers found.

Wonkblog's analysis of Bush's tax returns adjusted for inflation and is likely a conservative estimate. The analysis did not account for the increased marginal tax rates that Bush would have paid had he been taxed on the interest.

In 1986, for example, Bush reported no taxable income as he was able to deduct everything he earned that year. No tax was levied on the first $3,670 of income that year, but Bush's household would have been in a higher tax bracket, and he would have had to pay tax at a much higher marginal rate if he had not been able to deduct the interest he paid on his mortgage.

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