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."
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."
This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.
Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.