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Sen. Tom Coburn targets 'welfare for the well-off' in new report

November 14, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Sen. Tom Coburn speaks with reporters in the Reuters newsroom in Washington last week.
Sen. Tom Coburn speaks with reporters in the Reuters newsroom in Washington… (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters )

As the congressional "super committee" works to overcome divisions on a deficit reduction deal, a leading conservative lawmaker is blasting billions wasted on "welfare for the well-off."

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who served on the president's bipartisan fiscal commission and has been a member of the so-called Gang of Six, released a report Monday detailing the kinds of subsidies and loopholes that he says benefit those least in need of a government safety net.

Coburn calls his 37-page report, which features a number of charts along with clip art of the Monopoly man, "Subsidies of the Rich and Famous."

"We should never demonize those who are successful. Nor should we pamper them with unnecessary welfare to create an appearance everyone is benefiting from federal programs," Coburn writes.

Among the most egregious offenses of "reverse Robin Hood" handouts: $20.8 million in unemployment insurance paid to millionaires in 2009; $16.4 million in subsidized student loans for millionaire college students from 2007 to 2010; $27.7 billion in mortgage interest deductions for millionaires.

Coburn estimates that $9.5 billion in government benefits has been paid to millionaires since 2003.

"From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes and luxury yachts to subsides for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous," Coburn writes.

Under the terms of this summer's debt-ceiling agreement, the super committee must offer by Nov. 23 a plan to reduce long-range deficits by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Part of that discussion is an overhaul of the tax code that would address issues like the ones brought up in Coburn's report.

But so deep is the divide between the parties over taxes -- Democrats prefer to discuss "revenue" -- that the panel is reportedly considering a two-step approach that would establish the outlines of a deal but propel that debate to the 2012 election.

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