Feature

Who really controls Washington

The conventional wisdom is that Washington is controlled by corporations and the rich, but federal spending proves that this wisdom is wrong.

Robert SamuelsonThe Washington Post

The conventional wisdom is that Washington is controlled by corporations and the rich, said Robert Samuelson. But federal spending proves that this wisdom is wrong. Over the past three decades, annual spending on the top 10 federal programs for the poor and the near-poor—such as Medicaid, food stamps, and Pell Grants—soared from $126 billion (in inflation-adjusted, 2011 dollars) to $626 billion. Today, the average poor person receives $13,000 in federal aid—up from $4,300 in 1980. Programs that transfer wealth to the middle classes are even more massive, with Social Security consuming $725 billion last year and Medicare $560 billion. All told, Uncle Sam spends nearly $2.1 trillion on social programs—60 percent of all federal spending. That’s not ignoring “the will of the people” to favor the rich. In fact, “the real Washington is in the business of pleasing as many people as possible,” which is why our budget deficit has ballooned out of control and our tax code is such a mess. Fixing what’s wrong would require simple common sense and some shared sacrifice. Sadly, our system rewards both parties for taking “the path of least resistance.” 

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