The not-as-funny way to make the point Jon Stewart made about the Republican conception of the entitlement society and where it fails to intersect with reality comes from Simon Johnson. The true “moochers” in American life are, not surprisingly, the ones with all the political power and influence, who can grab themselves gifts and goodies from the political class. That would include large corporations and major banks:
…special interests compete for influence through campaign contributions and other forms of political donations. They also run large, sophisticated media campaigns aimed at persuading policymakers and the public that what is good for their special interest is good for the country.
No one has succeeded in the modern American political game like the biggest banks on Wall Street, which lobbied for deregulation during the three decades prior to the crisis of 2008, and then pushed back effectively against almost all dimensions of financial reform.
Their success has paid off handsomely. The top executives at 14 leading financial firms received cash compensation (as salary, bonus, and/or stock options exercised) totaling roughly $2.5 billion in 2000-2008 – with five individuals alone receiving $2 billion.
Just this week, we saw the House vote, in bipartisan fashion, to undermine another element of Wall Street reform, which would roll back requirements for financial advisors for municipalities to register with the SEC and accept fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the municipality and its taxpayers. Barney Frank voted in favor of rolling this back, which would invite the worst kind of ripoffs by bank banks on the muni sector.
The takers in American society line up with those who have the ear of the government they can take from. That wouldn’t be the poor, elderly and disabled. The financial crisis cost taxpayers $12.8 trillion, according to the group Better Markets, almost all of it flowing to Wall Street. A meager food stamp program can hardly compete on a scale with this corporate welfare. And those are just the explicit subsidies; the implicit ones from Too Big to Fail, in terms of added risk thresholds and ability to borrow, is incalculable.
Johnson thinks Romney missed a step by focusing the subsidy issue on the poor rather than at Wall Street. Sadly, that’s not a bug, but a feature.