This is no doubt how Mitt Romney and other wealthy people would like the public to see the debate. However the reality is that the government has implemented a wide range of policies that have led to a massive upward redistribution of before tax income over the last three decades. These policies have affected every corner of the market economy.
Just to take a few biggies, the fact that drugs are expensive is entirely due to government-granted patent monopolies. We spend about $300 billion a year on drugs that would cost less than$30 billion a year in a free market. The difference of $270 billion a year is close to 5 times what is at stake in extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest 2 percent of the taxpayers. (There are alternative mechanisms for financing drug research.)
If Republicans, and conservatives, are going to complain about welfare costs, they would do well to take a close look at corporate welfare. It’s just as insidious as individual welfare, it’s extremely costly, it’s undoubtedly unconstitutional, and it provides perverse behavioral incentives. While I have no love for welfare queens or for the pathologies that federal and state welfare programs generally encourage, it seems hypocritical to me to complain about one group of welfare recipients but not the other. Big business is not special or irreplaceable, and if mega-corporations need government to survive then perhaps it would be better to let them die. At any rate, principle demands that opposition to one form welfare be accompanied by opposition to all other forms of welfare. Hopefully Republicans pick up on this point and work to end corporate welfare.