THE BOSTICK REPORT-So, the Republicans have this secret and it’s really dirty. It’s also really simple. Large, multinational corporations make billions of dollars in profit because they pay millions of people poverty wages to work in retail, fast food, and banking. In order to survive, these employees enter into our welfare system.
Every year, employees at McDonalds take home seven billion dollars in the form of section 8 housing vouchers, food stamps, and Medicaid. In fact, there are so many Mickey Dees employees living on government assistance that McDonald’s has created an arm of their human resources department called “McResource” just to connect them with aid programs. McThink about that that.
Government funds are factored into the budget expectations in all these minimum wage industries. That, in effect, makes welfare a backdoor subsidy for low wage employers. Walmart has come to rely on these services for a majority of their one million employees.
The dirty, twisted part of this façade is that Republicans kill any bill that attempts to raise the minimum wage to a level that might alleviate the burden this corporate welfare is placing on our government. They rationalize these poverty wages by arguing that these are entry-level jobs you do while working your way up through college. Then you should get something better.
But people working in fast food struggle to make basic ends meet, let alone to get the education necessary to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. They struggle to find childcare for their kids. They use the emergency room for routine medical care. They don’t always have reliable transportation. They’re working at night and no one’s helping their kids with homework. They eat a lot of fast food, naturally.
The tragedy is that they don’t have the time, resources, or the capacity to raise their children out of poverty wages. Most reprehensible is that this system is indoctrinating that next generation into the welfare system. It’s their normal.
Am I being overly dramatic? For the sake of this conversation, let’s take a look at the “American Working Family” – a married couple with 2 kids – the storied example for which Republicans pretend to advocate so strongly. We’ll say they live in Los Angeles.
The average rent here is $1,435. That’s 107% of your working year if you make the minimum wage rate of $8.00/hr, but it’s only 81% of your working year if you take home $10.60/hr, the poverty rate defined for Los Angeles.
Let’s play pretend. Pretend that Walmart or McDonald’s paid their employees in LA $12/hr. With both parents working full time at the fictional rate of $12/hr, they would gross $3,840 (before taxes). Taxed at a mere 8% and subtracting rent, those families are left with $2,097.
Now subtract electricity, water, gas, and phones. This family of four is left with about $50 a day to clothe, feed, and provide healthcare for a family of four. Don’t forget about transportation.
I know what you’re thinking. They would never end up actually paying all that rent, because they would get some government subsidy in the form of section 8 housing. They would probably be on Medicaid, so they don’t have to worry about healthcare. Their electricity and gas would be subsidized by you, the tax-payer, and you resent that.
And that was an inflated example. In reality, they make minimum wage. That’s $16-17,000 a year in a region where rent costs you $17,200 a year on average. This math doesn’t add up. This person must receive welfare in order to survive.
From time to time, we do need to subsidize industries because the value those companies provide our community is worth it. So, what do these backdoor welfare subsidies Republicans keep pushing for actually do for our community?
Take fast food. No, please, take it away from my neighborhood because all it gives us is hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. It neither promotes healthful eating nor does it provide jobs capable of bringing value back to the families on my block.
Take Walmart and Target. No, please, take them away. They exploit desperate labor markets overseas, while displacing good middle class factory jobs here in the US. And what value does it provide my family in exchange for the loss of those jobs? I get to buy my kids some lead-infused toys for a couple bucks less, my neighbors get some retail job that robs them of their Thanksgiving, and all the profits go into the pockets of a CEO who will start cutting hours once they have to provide my neighbor any semblance of a healthcare plan.
The Republican fight against a living wage is putting tremendous downward pressure on the American Dream. It is creating a permanent underclass dependent upon the state to live. And it’s costing you money.
We need a living wage of $15 an hour in Los Angeles. Then it would only take about 20 hours a week just to pay the rent. A family of four would still qualify for food stamps, but at least we wouldn’t have to subsidize these industries so heavily.
(Odysseus Bostick is a Los Angeles teacher and former candidate for Los Angeles Councilman. He writes The Bostick Report for CityWatch.)
Vol 11 Issue 99
Pub: Dec 10, 2013