Conservatives are constantly carping that one-fifth of the U.S. population is getting food stamps.
You know their refrain—that all food stamp recipients are on the dole because they don’t either don’t want to work, or they are illegal immigrants who want to game the system.
There may be grains of truth in those accusations, but they are tiny grains. They are not the reason 20 percent the people in our country are surviving on food stamps. It is fairly simple—except, perhaps, to simpletons—to understand why people need food stamps. They must eat to live. Many of them also need Medicaid, another rightwing bugaboo—because they sometimes require medical care, and they don’t have the money to pay for that, either,
Why can’t they pay for food and medical care? They don’t make enough money, that’s why. Not enough American workers are making a living wage.
For example, the company today that employs the most people on food stamps is Wal-Mart, which generally pays poverty wages that force its workers to rely on $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store. Most of the same workers are on Medicaid because they also can’t afford to have their own doctors.
So while Wal-Mart workers are being blamed for gaming the system, their employer is getting a huge subsidy from taxpayers who are providing food and medical assistance to the workers that Wal-Mart refuses to pay
Wal-Mart is only one example, though. There are many corporations, including multinationals, that use similar strategies in dealing with their workforces,
So who is gaming the system? Not the workers.
For the past 20 years wages paid to 99 percent of U.S. workers have declined or stagnated, while income has increased for the top one percent.
“The unequal distribution of labor income—with nearly all the gains in wages going to the top 1 percent while earnings stagnated or declined for the 99 percent—has gone hand-in-hand with the decrease in the share of national income going to labor and the shift from labor income to profits,’ says Eileen Appelbaum, senior economist for the Center for Economic and Policy Research
“Absent a countervailing force that enables workers to share fairly in the economy’s productivity gains, the decline in labor’s share appears likely to continue.”
What could be the major countervailing force for that would enable workers to share fairly in the economy’s productivity gains? Labor unions, of course.
If congress would simply pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), the balance of power between labor and management would be restored, and there would be an immediate, positive effect on wages of all workers, union and nonunion.
But labor must have friends in Congress and labor’s friends seem to be diminishing daily. Some 28 Democrats voted recently against restoring $4.1 billion in food stamps cut that had been reduced in favor of corporate welfare for crop insurance companies. Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennett were among them.
Senator Udall, who was a vocal sponsor of EFCA when he was in the House, seems to have quietly retreated from labor’s ballets now that he is a senator. How about it, Senator?