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J.K. Rowling Hasn't Forgotten Welfare Moms

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling donated a "six figure sum" to a British organization that advocates for single parents. Before winning fame and fortune, Rowling was a single mother on welfare. She has talked publicly about her memories of the social stigma she felt in Scotland when she relied on welfare to support herself and her daughter. "When I went to claim my first weekıs Income Support, I felt as though there was an enormous neon arrow pointing at my head," she told the British tabloid The Sun. "I knew that nobody was setting out to make me feel humiliated and worthless--though that is exactly how I felt."

Imagine how she would have felt as a welfare mother in the U.S. during the 90s, when the entire country mobilized to make welfare mothers feel humiliated and worthless. Scotland, apparently, merely impoverishes its single mothers. Rowling had to live in a mouse-infested Edinburgh apartment on $101 a week. She wrote her best-selling series on notepad paper in Edinburgh cafes while sheltering herself and her daughter Jessica from the cold. It is lucky for Rowling, her daughter, and the readers of Harry Potter, that Scotland has not yet discovered "time limits," "workfare," and the misogynist demonization of "unwed" mothers and "illegitimate," father-free children.

"It makes me sad that nobody turns a hair to see the words 'penniless' and 'single mother' together in a sentence," Rowling said. People seem to accept that the two things usually go together."

(info from Asoociated Press, Oct 4)

Giant Corporations Rake in Citizen Money

Large corporations, which receive far more welfare money than single mothers do, seem to feel no shame or humiliation whatsoever for their dependency. Goodyear, Texaco, Colgate-Palmolive, MCI WorldCom and eight other large corporations earned more than $12.2 billion in profits in 1996 through 1998, but none of them paid corporate income taxes over that period. Instead, the companies received $535 million in "credits" and "refunds." Apparently, these companies refuse to settle for a mere $101 a week, or $4,900 a year of taxpayer subsidy, like a single mom must try to do.

Even though corporate profits overall soared 23.5 percent during the three-year period, corporate tax revenues grew just 7.7 percent. A study of 250 large companies showed that 24 were not obligated to pay any taxes during these three years, and that 71 of the 250 companies paid taxes at less than half the official 35 percent corporate rate. All but 18 of these companies are on the Fortune 500 list, and the others are in the Fortune 1000.

The most significant factors behind companies being able to make a large profit and still avoid taxes were the tax relief bill passed in 1993--when Democrats controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House--and the bill passed in 1997, when Republicans dominated the House and Senate. The Personal Responsibility Act, which ended the federal safety net for poor mothers and children, was passed in 1996.

The study found that in at least one of the three years from 1996 to 1998, 41 of the 250 corporations paid no federal income taxes, though they reported a total of $25.8 billion in profits to shareholders in the year they paid no taxes. If they had been obligated to pay the full 35 percent corporate rate, the tax bill would have been $9 billion (which is more than half of what the entire annual federal allotment for poor families used to be: $15 billion). These companies not only avoided taxes. They also received $3.2 billion in refunds.

(info from Citizens for Tax Justice and New York Times, Oct 20)


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