Michael Rappaport

Let's talk about welfare.

Call it what is is -- the dole, relief, entitlements, whatever -- but it's time to start cutting back on welfare at the federal level.

You might be surprised to know that poor people dining on steak and lobster or driving Cadillacs to pick up their checks aren't the biggest welfare cheaters.

In fact, those people don't really exist all that much anymore, if they ever did. I know Ronald Reagan was convinced there were "welfare queens" in our big cities collecting as much as $150,000 a year, but remember this is the same guy who believed trees were the greatest cause of pollution and ICBMs fired from submarines could be recalled.

Reagan was an inspirational leader to many, but he was never the sharpest tool in the shed.

In fact, Reagan paid out more welfare than any president before or since.

He just called it defense spending.

Let's not even talk about the amount of money we wasted in the early '80s. How we did it is much more frightening.

Defense contracts -- like most government contracts -- are supposed to be put out for bids. The lowest bidder (with a few other restrictions, like competence) is the one that wins the contract.

"I can name that tune in four notes ..."

The problem, especially during the Reagan years, was that the guys deciding on the contracts were in bed with guys bidding on them.

Talk about gay marriage.

If Weapons 'r' Us says they'll do a job for $25 billion, it used to be that they were responsible for that price, and whatever overages there were came out of their profits.

Except that things changed in a fairly secretive way. Contracts were let under what was known as "cost plus 10," meaning that no matter what the bid was, the company wound up being paid its cost plus a 10 percent profit.

That's why a $25 billion job could come in at $60 million, because the people expected to be keeping an eye on things were actually setting themselves up for high-paying jobs with the companies they were supposed to be watching.

That's why we got $750 screwdrivers and $20,000 toilets.

Then there's agriculture. During the Depression, particularly during the Dust Bowl years, farmers were paid a subsidy to leave their land fallow some years. It made sense because the land was better when it wasn't used every year.

Of course, family farmers who needed those subsidies to get by eventually stopped farming. Now the subsidies go to companies like Archer Daniels Midland or Monsanto -- $10-30 billion a year.

Here's one that's more symbolic than real, but it's still true -- the federal government paid tobacco farmers more than $191 million in subsidies in 2011.

So let's be honest with ourselves. We pay a lot more in welfare to people who are already rich than we do to people who are truly needy.

Rich folks.

Rich white folks.

You want to cut federal spending, they're the real welfare queens -- and kings.