Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

To Force Billionaires Off Welfare, Sanders Tax Would Make Corporations Fund 100% of Public Assistance Their Low-Paid Workers Receive

"I don't believe that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest person in the world because you pay your employees inadequate wages."

Jake Johnson

"While Mr. Bezos is the most egregious example, the Walton family of Walmart and many other billionaire-owned large and profitable companies also enrich themselves off taxpayer assistance while paying their workers poverty-level wages," Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement. (Photo: Getty)

Amazon CEO and world's richest man Jeff Bezos makes more money in ten seconds than his company's median employee makes in an entire year, and thousands of Amazon workers are paid such low wages that they are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid, and other forms of government assistance to survive.

"While Mr. Bezos is the most egregious example, the Walton family of Walmart and many other billionaire-owned large and profitable companies also enrich themselves off taxpayer assistance while paying their workers poverty-level wages."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

Declaring that this ever-growing gulf between the obscene wealth of top executives and the poverty wages of workers—which is hardly unique to Amazon—is morally unacceptable, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced on Friday that he will introduce legislation next month that would impose "a 100 percent tax on large employers equal to the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers" in an effort to pressure corporate giants into paying a living wage.

Under the new legislation, "if an Amazon worker receives $300 in food stamps, Amazon would be taxed $300," the Vermont senator's office noted in a press release. The tax would apply to all companies with 500 or more employees.

"While Mr. Bezos is worth $155 billion and while his wealth has increased $260 million every single day this year, he continues to pay many Amazon employees wages that are so low that they are forced to depend on taxpayer-funded programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing just to get by," Sanders said in a statement on Friday.

"While Mr. Bezos is the most egregious example, the Walton family of Walmart and many other billionaire-owned large and profitable companies also enrich themselves off taxpayer assistance while paying their workers poverty-level wages," Sanders added. "That is why I am introducing legislation in September to demand that Mr. Bezos and other billionaires get off welfare and start paying their workers a living wage."

According to public data obtained by the non-profit New Food Economy (NFE) and The Intercept, as many as one in three Amazon workers in Arizona—one of the few states that responded to NFE's public records requests—rely on food stamps to survive.

The situation is similar at massive companies like Walmart and McDonald's, where many employees aren't paid enough to survive without government assistance. All the while, the Walton family and McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook continue to get exponentially richer.

By proposing legislation that would impose a tax penalty on companies like Amazon—which paid nothing in federal taxes last year—Sanders is adding substance on top of his recent efforts to publicly shame ultra-wealthy CEOs like Bezos at rallies and town halls across the nation.

In June, Sanders invited the CEOs of Amazon, Disney, McDonald's, and Walmart to participate in a public event with some of their low-wage workers and attempt to justify paying their employees poverty wages. None of the CEOs accepted Sanders' invitation.

Sanders continued pressuring Bezos this week with a petition declaring that it is "long past time you start to pay your workers a living wage and improve working conditions at Amazon warehouses all across the country."

According to Sanders' office, more than 100,000 people have signed the petition.

"It is beyond absurd that you would make more money in ten seconds than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year," Sanders concluded. "I don't believe that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest person in the world because you pay your employees inadequate wages."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

In Davos, UNAIDS Chief Condemns Clear 'Racism' of Global Vaccine Apartheid

"Racism is not only police violence, it is policy violence," says Winnie Byanyima.

Andrea Germanos ·


UN Chief to New College Grads: To Help Save the Planet, 'Don't Work for Climate Wreckers'

"Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a commencement address to Seton Hall University graduates.

Jake Johnson ·


AOC Blasts Democratic Leaders for Boosting 'Pro-NRA Incumbent' Henry Cuellar

"This was an utter failure of leadership," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said hours after a gunman killed 19 children at a Texas elementary school.

Jake Johnson ·


'This Fight Isn't Over,' Says Cisneros as Cuellar Declares Victory in Razor-Close Primary

"This election is still too close to call, and we are still waiting for every ballot and eligible vote to be counted," said progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros.

Jake Johnson ·


After Kids Killed in Texas, Dems Declare 'Pass Gun Safety Legislation Now'

"Congress has a moral responsibility to end gun violence now," said Sen. Ed Markey. "To those who refuse to act, there are no excuses. Only complicity and shame."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo