Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

We Can Do Better

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Dorothea Lange. “Nipomo, Calif. March 1936. Migrant agricultural worker’s family.
Seven hungry children and their mother, aged 32. The father is a native Californian.” Gelatin silver print, 7 3/8 × 9 5/16″ (18.8 × 23.6cm). Farm Security Administration–Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Library of Congress

Hourly Wages
Dollar General: $8
Kroger: $10
Walmart: $11
CVS: $11
Home Depot: $11
Lowe’s: $12

2020 Profits
Dollar General: $1.4 billion
Kroger: $2 billion
Walmart: $15.6 billion
CVS: $6.2 billion
Home Depot: $10 billion
Lowe’s: $4.9 billion

U.S. workers need at least $15/hr and a union.

Per capita health care spending:
Norway: $6,647
United States: $11,072

Number of uninsured/under-insured:
Norway: 0
United States: 92 million

COVID-19 deaths:
Norway (population 5.3 million): 306
Louisiana (population 4.6 million): 6,260

Yes. It is time for Medicare for All.


Federal Study: Millions of Full-Time Workers Rely on Federal Health Care and Food Assistance Programs – Walmart’s and McDonald’s Employees Lead the Way

by Eli Rosenberg
November 18, 2020 at 5:02 p.m. CST

Some of the biggest and most profitable companies in the United States, including Walmart and McDonald’s, pay their employees such low wages that significant numbers of them must turn to Federal food and medical assistance.

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan Congressional watchdog agency, made at the behest of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) there is a direct relationship between employers paying low wages and employees receiving the Federal assistance. The report examined February data from agencies in 11 states that administer the Federal programs Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Walmart was one of the top four employers of SNAP and Medicaid beneficiaries in every state. McDonald’s was in the top 5 of employers with employees receiving federal benefits in at least 9 states.

The GAO research found that in the 9 states that responded about SNAP benefits — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington — Walmart was found to have employed about 14,500 people who were receiving benefits, followed by McDonald’s with 8,780. In six states that reported Medicaid enrollees, Walmart again topped the list, with 10,350 employees, followed by McDonald’s with 4,600.

In Georgia, for example, Walmart employed an estimated 3,959 workers who were on Medicaid — comprising an estimated 2.1% of the total of non-elderly, non-disabled people in the state who were receiving the benefit. McDonald’s was next on the list, employing 1,480 who received Medicaid, or 0.8% of the total of non-elderly, non-disabled people on the program.

In Oklahoma, 1,059 Walmart workers on Medicaid made up 2.8% of the state’s total, and McDonald’s was next, with 536 workers, or 1.4%.

In Arkansas, where Walmart was founded and maintains its global headquarters, 1,318 employees were receiving SNAP benefits — comprising 3.1% of the state’s total. McDonald’s was next on the list with 865 workers, which made for 2% of the state’s total.  And in Georgia, another 3% of SNAP recipients worked for Walmart.

The GAO report found that the next companies with large numbers of workers receiving federal benefits included Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Amazon, Burger King and FedEx. (Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

In a statement by McDonald’s spokeswoman Morgan O’Marra, the company claimed the data was taken out of context and misleading, and noted that McDonald’s and Walmart are two of the largest employers in the United States.

The statement said in part that, “The average starting wage at U.S. corporate-owned restaurants is over $10 per hour and exceeds the federal minimum wage. McDonald’s believes elected leaders have a responsibility to set, debate and change mandated minimum wages and does not lobby against or participate in any activities opposing raising the minimum wage.”

Last year, McDonald’s corporation announced that it would stop lobbying against efforts to raise the minimum wage.

Walmart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield claimed that they are the nation’s largest employer, and noted that the figures were in proportion with that.

A statement issued by Walmart read in part that, “If not for the employment access Walmart and other companies provide, many more people would be dependent on government assistance. A small percentage of our workforce comes to us on public assistance, and we remove employment barriers and create opportunities for individuals that too many overlook. Walmart has invested more than $5 billion in increased pay, expanded health benefits, and a debt-free college program over the past five years and our starting rate is more than 50% higher than the federal minimum wage, which Washington hasn’t changed in more than a decade. We support efforts to raise the minimum wage while we continue to make investments in our associates.”

The GAO reported that they reached out to agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but ended up focusing upon a smaller group that provided the most reliable and verifiable data.

Each agency in those states reported back the 25 most common employers of Medicaid enrollees and SNAP recipients.

Senator Sanders said companies like Walmart and McDonald’s rely upon “corporate welfare from the federal government by paying their workers starvation wages.”

In a statement to The Washington Post, he said in part, “That is morally obscene. U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize some of the largest and most profitable corporations in America.”

This week, Walmart, which maintains global headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, reported $5.1 billion in net income for the third quarter of 2020, noting that business has surged during the pandemic.

The GAO noted that increased numbers of beneficiaries of government-run social safety net programs could not be fully explained by part-time schedules, and that in general, about 70% of the 21 million people receiving Medicaid or SNAP benefits work full time, with 90% working in the private sector.

The GAO’s recent data findings agree with with other research that has explored the consequences of low wages at some of the nation’s largest and most profitable corporations.

A 2013 study from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that 75% of people in the major public benefits programs such as Medicaid and SNAP came from working families. A follow-up report two years later found that the numbers were worse for the fast-food industry, where a little more than half — 52% — of fast-food workers are in families where one or more family members relies on a public social safety net program.

The GAO data also reflects some of the large-scale economic changes that have economically benefited the wealthier segments of society. Before the pandemic, while many of the job gains over the last decade came from the service sector, wages have failed to keep pace with increased productivity.

Yet the matter involves the Federal minimum wage as well, which has remained at $7.25/hour since July 24, 2009, and when adjusted for inflation, has fallen even further, providing even less purchasing power.

Ken Jacobs, Chairman of U.C. Berkeley’s Labor Center and a co-author of both Berkeley reports, said, “Wages at the bottom and middle of the income spectrum have been essentially flat since the late 1970s. As productivity has increased, pay has stayed very low, and again, our federal minimum wage is well below where it would have been if it kept up with inflation and very far where it would have been if it kept up with productivity growth. So many families earn too little to get by on what they earn from their jobs.”

Increasingly, discussion about improving the condition and pay of low-wage workers, and the effort toward a $15 minimum wage is finding support in unlikely corners such as the state of Florida, which just approved a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage, as well as with the incoming Biden administration.

Chairman Jacobs added that, “There is growing evidence of serious, long-term, negative effects on families of low income. Increasing family income has big effects on children’s educational outcome, children’s health, adults’ mental health, and crime and recidivism.”

Heather Boushey, President of the think-tank Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a non-profit research and grant-making organization dedicated to advancing evidence-backed ideas and policies that promote strong, stable, and broad-based economic growth, has been advising President-elect Joe Biden according to numerous independent news reports, and said that the greater concern was principally one about taxes.

She said that, “The idea that we can finance access to health care through the tax system is what many other countries do. So we shouldn’t be appalled by that, but we should make sure that everybody is paying their fair share. In some ways, it pushes us to say, ‘What’s a sufficient way to do this?’”

Ms. Boushey said employee reliance upon government programs shouldn’t necessarily be thought of as inherently problematic, only as long as corporations were paying their fair share of taxes to the government to support such programs.

While the survey was taken before development of the pandemic, the GAO wrote that, “The economic effects of the covid-19 pandemic have further exacerbated conditions for these workers, increasing the importance of federal and state safety net programs to help them meet their basic needs,” and noted that conditions could have worsened for workers since the pandemic occurred.

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