Make businesses rather than taxpayers pay for employees

Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation that would require companies to reimburse the government for the federal assistance their workers rely on. Not only is this long past due, but it might be one of the only ways to get Congress to essentially raise the minimum wage, barring a wave of Democratic wins this November. During an age of grifting, Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos has been the most effective at showing the negative side of capitalism with rampant worker exploitation. What is worse is that he is using our laws to insulate himself from criticism.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is supposed to be the bare minimum employers can pay their workers. That it has not been raised in nearly 10 years is not necessarily his fault. However, that Bezos has not seen fit to raise the hourly pay of his workers despite the historic growth of his company, with $7 billion in gross profit during the first quarter of 2018 alone, is simply unacceptable. Not only does this contribute to income inequality, but it suggests that he is fine with the government picking up the tab when his full time workers cannot make ends meet.

The Senate bill could not have come at a better time. The legislation would require employers with more than 500 workers to either pay a living wage or reimburse the federal government for the services, such as public housing and Medicaid, that their workers rely on to sustain themselves. For example, if an Amazon employee uses $100 in food stamps, Amazon would be taxed $100. While Bezos is not the only business owner whose workers rely on government assistance, the sheer size of his business and its monumental success make his continued reliance on paying workers subsistence wages simply astonishing.

If any company could afford to pay its workers more, it is the third most valuable one in the world. Yet, in the median Amazon employee made just around $28,400 in 2017, which is 9 percent less than the industry average. The net worth of Bezos in 2017? $40 billion. What is most interesting about the excessive greed on his part is how short sighted he is being, despite his obvious business acumen. By paying his workers so little, he is taking away potential customers for his own products, since if they are unable to feed their families without government assistance, they surely cannot afford to be consistent consumers of his unessential products.

Still, even if you are not an Amazon worker, and regardless of how convenient Amazon has been for you, Bezos has gotten the better of you. By using our federal minimum wage as a benchmark despite the ability of his company to pay far more, he has subjected tens of thousands of Americans to wages they simply cannot live on. He has become the richest man in the world through picking taxpayers pockets to the tune of $540,000 in Arizona alone. Even Tucker Carlson is publicly speaking out against Bezos "offloading his payroll costs on to taxpayers."

Remarkable yes, but hopefully, no longer acceptable. I do not want to live in a country where low income people work just as hard as the middle class, in jobs that need to be filled, but cannot feed themselves or their families. There is no such thing as a starter job, an elite job, or a useless job. Amazon fulfillment workers, trash collectors, and fast food cooks all have a role in our society. It is time for wealthy executives to stop paying their workers a tiny fraction of what they make. This is how taxpayers wind up making the difference. Since 2009, both political parties have not been able to agree on raising wages, in part because of the lobbying efforts of selfish business owners. With the Stop Bezos Act, our lawmakers have a chance to rein in the greatest of these companies.

Morris Pearl is the chairman of Patriotic Millionaires.

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