Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is planning to introduce a bill that would require companies with 500 or more employees to fully cover the cost of food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their employees. The legislation, which is expected to be introduced in the Senate on Sept. 5, would charge the companies a 100 percent tax on government benefits received by their workers. The move would effectively reimburse the government for distributing those benefits.
Sanders said that the legislation is needed because of the massive wealth and income inequality that has gripped the nation. Roughly $150 billion in taxpayer dollars go to funding federal assistance programs for low-wage workers each year. At the same time, those who own the companies and their top executives are taking home an ever larger share of the money.
The nation’s largest and most profitable companies tend to have the biggest income gaps between the top and the bottom tiers of employees. Amazon has been called out in particular. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index says that the company’s founder, Jeffrey P. Bezos, is currently worth more than $150 billion, up from $99 billion a year ago.
According to public records obtained by the New Food Economy, a non-profit news organization, nearly 30 percent of Amazon employees in Arizona and 10 percent of employees in Pennsylvania and Ohio have incomes so low that they are eligible to receive food stamps. The median Amazon worker earned $28,446 last year. The federal poverty level for a family of four is currently $24,600.
Sen. Sanders released a statement stating that the goal of the bill is to force corporations to pay their employees a living wage. In his statement, he said, “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.”