A Look at the $335 Billion Federal Asset-Building Budget

April 14, 2004

The idea that the federal government could play a role in helping low-income families accumulate assets to educate their children, buy a home, or plan for their future may be new, but the federal role in helping other households accumulate assets is well established -- primarily through tax breaks for home ownership, retirement savings and other investments.

According to this Corporation for Enterprise Development study, federal subsidies for asset development total $335 billion a year (nine times the annual highway/transit budget) -- but heavily favor already-wealthy families. In fact, over a third of the asset-building benefits go to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans (those who typically earn over $1 million per year). Less than 5 percent of the benefits go to the bottom 60 percent of American taxpayers.