On the false dichotomy between “makers” vs. “takers,” “producers” vs. “parasites”

One of the most infuriating ideas the American right and the Tea Party have promoted is that Americans can be neatly divided into two main groups: makers and takers. The makers, of course, are the predominantly white upper and middle-classes who happen to pay federal income taxes and the takers are the relatively less white lower-classes who pay no federal income taxes. Like most other right-wing axioms, it is based on a series of false claims, namely:

  1. People who benefit the most from government programs are lazy and don’t have jobs. (Actually, “90 percent of the benefit dollars that entitlement and other mandatory programs spend go to assist people who are elderly, seriously disabled, or members of working households.”)
  2. Americans who happen to pay no federal income taxes add very little value to society. (This flat out ignores the massive wealth produced by our large low-wage workforce. It doesn’t help that the working classes have been getting the shaft as far as productivity gains and wages are concerned. People who don’t make enough money to pay federal income taxes do work that is vital to the functioning of our society and undoubtedly service the same self-proclaimed “makers” who disdain them as parasites. Those at the top have largely been pocketing the productivity gains for themselves. Why aren’t they considered the “takers”?)
  3. Americans who are wealthy or middle class and pay federal income taxes generally don’t benefit from government spending. (“Contrary to claims that entitlements take heavily from the middle class to give to people at the bottom or shower benefits on the very wealthy, the middle 60 percent of the population receives close to 60 percent of the entitlement benefits, while the top 5 percent of the population receives about 3 percent of the benefits.” Add to that all the generous perks the wealthy get in government subsidies and contracts and you’ve got a difficult case to make for downward distribution of wealth being the norm.)

Government programs do not disproportionately benefit a class of “moochers” who leech off of productive Americans while contributing nothing to society. The assertion that they do so is only enabling the oligarchs to dismantle what is left of our social safety net.

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