October 22, 2013

Tuesday Tax Tradeoff: Nutritious Meals for Seniors OR Subsidizing Corporate Wrongdoers

By William Rice, Policy Consultant, Americans for Tax Fairness

AFTF_or_graphic_12_largeFew people would object to their tax dollars helping to provide at least one hearty meal a day to struggling senior citizens. Most people would object to their tax dollars helping to pick up the tab when a corporation did something that was really wrong and got sued for it. Yet, thanks to recent budget cuts and an out-of-whack tax code, we’re feeding fewer seniors but subsidizing corporations that lose lawsuits for egregious behavior.

Meals on Wheels and community dining programs deliver nutritious meals and companionship to older Americans. But across-the-board budget cuts known as the “sequester” have squeezed this valuable program: this year the average senior nutrition program has cut over 350 meals a week and has had to let 50 more seniors languish on waiting lists for services. One in six programs closed a community dining room or cancelled home deliveries. 2013 Budget Cut: $39 million

When corporations lose in court, they usually have to pay to compensate the person they injured for lost wages, medical bills and other costs.

However, if the company’s behavior was really outrageous, a judge or jury will sometimes force it to pay “punitive” damages as well – and the bill can be big: Exxon was forced to pay half a billion dollars in punitive damages for the Valdez oil spill in Alaska. But corporations are allowed to deduct the cost of punitive damages from their taxes (p. 139), thus making the rest of us subsidize the costs of part of their punishment. Annual Tax Break: $35 million (p. 4)

Corporations should pay the full price for their wrongdoing, so we can make sure seniors stay adequately fed.