Monday, October 28, 2013

Who Sucks Off The Government Teat?

When I first wrote about this bit from Media Matters for America, I didn't know that others had already pointed out the group which also gets subsidized when low-wage workers get food stamps or other help from federal and/or state governments.  That group is the firms themselves and ultimately their owners, because the low wages help to keep the profits higher .  From the article on Moyers&Company:

  • More than half (52 percent) of the families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs, compared to 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.
  • The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry is nearly $7 billion per year.
  • At an average of $3.9 billion per year, spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) accounts for more than half of these costs.
  • Due to low earnings, fast-food workers’ families also receive an annual average of $1.04 billion in food stamp benefits and $1.91 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit payments.
  • People working in fast-food jobs are more likely to live in or near poverty. One in five families with a member holding a fast-food job has an income below the poverty line, and 43 percent have an income two times the federal poverty level or less.
  • Even full-time hours are not enough to compensate for low wages.

One person at Fox News made this comment about the idea that perhaps the low-wage workers should be paid more:

PAYNE: There is a lot of unfortunate parts of the story. If you want to create a society where these jobs -- $8 jobs go for $15. Then what you're saying to people is like, okay, "don't improve your life. Don't finish high school. Don't go to college. Don't, you know what, have three or four kids out of wedlock. Don't put yourself in a predicament where this is your only option. In fact, keep doing what you're doing, smoke weed all day if you want. Doesn't matter. You'll get rewarded because in this society Mickey D's has got the money. They owe it to you." And I think that's a work mentality.
This is the whip-not-the-carrot policy to everything, the one which appears to be the preferred approach in US politics.  Make certain jobs (working at McDonald's, say) so poorly paid that you cannot survive.  Now, that will give you a good incentive to better yourself!

But it does nothing about the need for someone to work those kinds of jobs, and it shows very little empathy towards those who are employed in them.  Neither does it make any kind of moral inferences about those whose profits are made larger due to the subsidies the government provides, only about the workers in the low-wage industries.