Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Hate Welfare Queens. You Know, Like Walmart and McDonald's

Are low wage employers the new welfare queens?
If we are using tax dollars to subsidize
the workers who don't make enough to sustain
themselves, they probably are the queens.  
Like pretty much everyone else, I don't like my tax dollars going to welfare cheats.

You know the type. These are the people who get public assistance when they shouldn't. They've found a way to receive government largess even though they already make tons of money.

The latest incarnation of the proverbial Welfare Queen some companies, like Walmart and McDonald's and all kinds of other major firms that pay minimum wage or just barely above.

They pay their workers to enhance their corporate bottom lines. The pay is so low many of the employees are on public assistance.

They can't get by on their meager salaries. So they live in subsidized housing. They're collecting SNAP benefits to put food on the table. (SNAP is the latest federal incarnation of what is commonly known as food stamps.)

This arrangement benefits the corporations, since they don't have to pay their employees adequately. Let the government do it. Your taxes and mine.

The University of California/Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education says us taxpayers are really, really subsidizing companies like Walmart and McDonald's.

It turns out us American taxpayers are subsidizing these corporations to the tune of $153 billion, yes that's billion a year.

Here's what the University of California/Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education says:

"Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of enrollees in Amerca's major public support programs are members of working familiies. The taxpayers bear a significant portion of the hidden costs of low wage work in America."

Or, to put it in more explicit terms, here's how Gawker described the situation in an article about the Berkeley study:

"It is one thing to say 'Fast food workers don't deserve $15 per hour.' But realize that what you are saying really amounts to, 'I prefer to pay the difference between what fast food workers earn and what they need to live myself, rather than making their employers pay it.' 

Yep. Your tax dollars at work. The corporate executives and shareholders, many of whom already have tons of money, are welfare queens. By paying such low wages, the government keeps these employees out of homelesseness and hunger, or at least we hope.

Shouldn't the employers be paying the workers enough money to live on, rather than making us tax payers do it? Sure, that would mean the price of some goods and services from places like Walmart and McDonald's would go up.

But either way, we're already paying.  Plus, those of us who don't even like going to Walmart and McDonald's are subsidizing the rich executives and the (often somewhat rich) shareholders in these

I know the argument. The burger flipper jobs are said to go to teenagers trying to make an extra buck for their weekend partying.

Some teenagers do work low wage jobs for that reason, or as a means of saving money for something more worthwhile.  However, most of the employees are trying to make a living on money that's not enough to live on. So they're on public assistance. On us taxpayers' dime, I will remind you again.

Or, I suppose we could be completely heartless and end government assistance to these working poor. That's one way to get rid of the problem. Starve 'em to death.

I still like the idea of pay increases more, though.

A lot of low wage workers get this. And they don't want to be on public assistance. They'd rather just collect an adequate paycheck and go on with their lives. Protests are ongoing around the country fighting for a $15 an hour wage.

I don't think that wage level will happen anytime soon, but I'd like to see some serious pay increases. Even if I have to pay more for a Big Mac to get there.

Some companies pay their workers more and do just fine. Costco is widely cited as having higher wages than most retailers and the warehouse store chain is doing just fine. It doesn't hurt that the higher wages helps Costco retain employees, who become proficient at their job, which leads to better customer service, which leads to more customers, and more profits for the company.

Well, why don't these people in low wage jobs look for other jobs, or get some education or training to obtain a higher paying job?

A lot of them probably would if they could.

A big trend among low wage employers is helping to prevent worker mobility, or their ability to seek training and education elsewhere.

It's hard enough that education is expensive, but now it's even harder because employers are preventing workers from having a set schedule so they go to classes, obtain reliable daycare for kids, or have a specific time of day to get things done.

The New Republic explains it:

"Just-in-time scheduling, as the practice is known, allows employers to efficiently allocate resources. Scheduling software offers real time analysis for staffing needs.

When customers flock to a store, managers bring in on-all workers. When business is slowk managers don't call those workers in - or they turn they away.

In some cases, these workers will have already commuted to work, paid for child are and arranged their lives around a shift that evaporates, leaving them no recompense for their troubles.

The unpredictable schedules interfere with such basic daily activities as grocery shopping, doctor's appointments and looking for a better job."

I suppose there are people who like these flexible schedules and it works for them. But what of the employees who can't manage it? They're still forced to live this way without relying on a steady paycheck.

I noticed yesterday that the New York Attorney General is looking into this practice to see if it is even legal in that state.

With all this going on, yeah, it's definitely time to put a stop to the new breed of Welfare Queens. I'd love it if Walmart and those other companies reimburse me and the millions of other taxpayers that subsidizes them.

I mean, what benefit is society as a whole getting by having our tax dollars subsidize big corporations like this.

The arrangement needs to change. I'm not holding my breath, though.

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