Taxpayers Subsidize Wealthy Capitalists

Steven Attewell, over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, gives a pretty good rundown of the politics behind Mario Cuomo’s call for increasing the minimum wage for some workers in New York City. Can’t think of anything to add on this.

But I would like to highlight this statement in the Cuomo op-ed Attewell cites:

Fast-food workers and their families are twice as likely to receive public assistance compared with other working families. Among fast-food workers nationwide, 52 percent — a rate higher than in any other industry — have at least one family member on welfare.

Yes, US taxpayers support fast food workers with $7 billion in public assistance every year while the industry generates huge profits and generous CEO salaries.  And it’s not just the fast food industry.  Retail giants like Wal-Mart generate huge fortunes for small groups of people while taxpayers subsidize their wages to the tune of billions of dollars.  Fast food and retail CEOs take multi-million dollar salaries, and wealthy families and stockholders take billions in profits while their workers live in poverty and taxpayers subsidize their business models.

These CEOs and shareholders will argue that paying higher wages would cut into profits and force them to raise prices.  But BLS statistics show about 3.3 million workers making the minimum wage or less.  Paying them all $15 an hour, plus employer contributions for Social Security and Medicare, comes to less than $110 billion a year.  This is not the total cost of increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 – this is the total cost of paying all current minimum wage workers $15 an hour, 40 hours a week, for 50 weeks each year.

This is less than 1.5% of all US corporate after tax profits in 2014.  This means that Corporate America could pay a $15 minimum wage to all current minimum wage or below workers – and still generate more than $7 trillion in profits.

Why don’t they do this?

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