So much of the political rhetoric surrounding spending is focused on programs like Food Stamps. Republicans have tried hard to make government program recipients seem lazy and unworthy while working equally as hard to to cut social welfare programs in general. But do we not subsidize other things? We absolutely do!
Fossil fuels are heavily subsidized, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They found this study “shocking” and said that most of the subsidies can be attributed to polluters not paying the costs created by burning coal, oil, and gas.
The United States is the second biggest fossil fuel subsidizer, only behind China, giving about $700 billion a year. And who are benefits of the subsidies: mostly rich people. President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, and The IMF have both said that existing subsidies disproportionately go to the rich. To be specific, the richest 20% of people get six times as much as the poorest 20%. World entities and leaders have called for an end to government-based fossil fueled subsidies but little progress has been made.
Why is there even a need for so many subsidies for something as harmful to the climate as fossil fuels? These numbers illustrate the priorities of countries including the United States. We disdain the very thought of helping feed able-bodied people (because if you aren’t lucky enough to have a decent wage job, then you deserve to starve) yet smile and perpetuate a system that pours big money into big oil, polluting our planet into oblivion.
There are studies and data to prove the negative effects of these policies. The IMF suggests that ending these subsidies would cut carbon emissions by 20% which would greatly help in the fight against global climate change. This prestigious financial institution also has stated that ending these subsidies would cut the number of premature deaths from air pollution by a whopping 50% a year.
So why the “giving” behavior when it comes to fossil fuels but hostitility from some (Republicans mostly) when it comes to social welfare programs? About 1 in 6 Americans are hungry. This is outrageous in a country that is as rich as the United States.
In 2014, we spent about $74 billion on food stamps for an estimated 46 million people. This may seem like a lot. But whenever your hear Republicans crying and complaining about balancing the budget, think about the $700 billion we spend to subsidize fossil fuels.