The Best Thing That Happened This Week: Marie Antoinette Lives!
A new study out this week from the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education revealed just how much the working poor rely on state and federal assistance programs to make ends meet. It showed that 52 percent of American fast food workers, 48 percent of home health workers and 46 percent of child-care workers — the backbone of our “service economy” — receive assistance from Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Temporary Aid to Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and/or food stamps. Because these workers get few or no benefits and are paid so poorly — the federally mandated minimum wage stands at $7.25 an hour — U.S. taxpayers ante up $152.8 billion annually to aid them and their families. As Patricia Cohen explained in the New York Times, taxpayers “are providing not only support to the poor but also, in effect, a huge subsidy for employers of low-wage workers, from giants like McDonald’s and Walmart to mom-and-pop businesses.” All by itself, McDonald’s costs taxpayers $1.2 billion a year.
On Wednesday, Tax Day, workers across the nation turned out to protest the low wages that make them a drag on instead of a boon to the economy, calling for the minimum wage to be raised to $15 an hour. Everyone from the Washington Post to the Huffington Post to the Daily News reported on the uprising. So did the Wall Street Journal, whose readership proved something less than sympathetic toward the protesters. Said one magnanimous commenter, “$15 an hour to greet me like I just killed your dog? $15 an hour to get my order wrong? $15 an hour for food that tastes like c–p?” Wrote another: “The minimum wage argument … overlooks the fact that beside the hourly wage, most restaurants workers also get one or two free meals per shift.” Ah! Let them eat cake!
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