Sunday, November 3, 2013

American Capitalism Is Really Corporate Welfare

It's not really socialism; it's American capitalism: privatizing profits and socializing losses.  In other words, the one percent gets all the money and the rest of us get the shaft.

Under the Mountain Bunker:
More proof that multi-billion dollar corporations like McDonald’s are quite successfully bilking the American taxpayer to increase their own take-home profits:

Video: McDonald’s tells workers to get food stamps – – An audio recording released by labor activists Wednesday afternoon captures a staffer for McDonald’s’ “McResources Line” instructing a McDonald’s worker how to apply for public assistance.

The audio – excerpted in the campaign video below – records a conversation between Chicago worker Nancy Salgado, a ten-year employee currently making the Illinois state minimum wage of $8.25, and a counselor staffing the company’s “McResources” 1-800 number for McDonald’s workers. The McResources staffer offers her a number to “ask about things like food pantries” and tells her she “would most likely be eligible for SNAP benefits” which she explains are “food stamps.” After Salgado asks about “the doctor,” the staffer asks, “Did you try to get on Medicaid?” She notes it’s “health coverage for low income or no income adults and children.”

“It was really, really upsetting,” Salgado told Salon Wednesday, “knowing that McDonald’s knows that they don’t pay us enough, and we have to rely on this.” Noting that McDonald’s was “a billionaire company,” she asked, “how can they not afford to pay us?”
Of course McDonald’s (and other fast-food / big box retail corporations) could afford to pay their employees better wages and stop draining so much out of the taxpayer-funded safety net, but that would mean the corporate big wigs would have to share or reinvest some of their profits.

The new video follows two reports released last week… which estimated that fast food workers utilize nearly $7 billion annually in public assistance, while fast food corporations last year netted $7.4 billion profits.
And, by the way, many of these companies (and their executives) don’t contribute as much to the safety net as, proportionally speaking, the average middle-class taxpayer. As Scott Klinger recently noted:

In the 1950s, corporations paid nearly a third of the federal government’s bills. Last year… corporate income taxes accounted for less than a tenth of Uncle Sam’s total revenue.
Over the past year, one in nine of the companies listed on the S&P 500 paid an effective tax rate of zero percent–that’s zero as in nothing–and that’s on top of taxpayers picking up the tab on public assistance for those profitable corporations who won’t pay their workers a living wage.

There are 57 separate companies listed on the index that paid a zero percent rate from the past year. Those companies include both household names like Verizon and News Corp. and lesser-known corporate giants like the data storage manufacturer Seagate (market value $15.9 billion) and Public Storage (market value $29.5 billion). Many of the companies USA Today identified in its analysis as paying negative rates make the list because they lost money, but several were profitable. Previous analyses have shown that the typical corporation pays a lower effective tax rate than most middle-class families, and a far lower one than the statutory corporate tax rate against which business interests disingenuously rail.
Even though Mitt Romney tried to convince us that “corporations are people, my friend,” the majority of corporations today are not our “neighbors,” they don’t contribute towards the greater good of whichever country they’ve parked a headquarters—in fact, today’s corporations (and their executives) actually seem to do whatever is necessary to get out of contributing their proportional share towards the society which benefits them so greatly. Today’s corporations are run by people who are low on talent and basic morality, but are paid enormous sums of money. And they are nothing like those who came before them. Vanity Fair remembers,

In 1914, [Henry] Ford decided to pay his employees a rich wage and otherwise improve the working conditions…

In January 1914, (Henry Ford) startled the world by announcing that Ford Motor Company would pay $5 a day to its workers. The pay increase would also be accompanied by a shorter workday (from nine to eight hours). While this rate didn’t automatically apply to every worker, it more than doubled the average autoworker’s wage. While Henry’s primary objective was to reduce worker attrition—labor turnover from monotonous assembly line work was high—newspapers from all over the world reported the story as an extraordinary gesture of goodwill.

After Ford’s announcement, thousands of prospective workers showed up at the Ford Motor Company employment office. People surged toward Detroit from the American South and the nations of Europe. As expected, employee turnover diminished. And, by creating an eight-hour day, Ford could run three shifts instead of two, increasing productivity.

Henry Ford had reasoned that since it was now possible to build inexpensive cars in volume, more of them could be sold if employees could afford to buy them. The $5 day helped better the lot of all American workers and contributed to the emergence of the American middle class. In the process, Henry Ford had changed manufacturing forever.
Or, as Henry put it, raising wages “has the same effect as throwing a stone in a still pond,” creating an “ever-widening circle of buying” that increases the prosperity of a nation.
It’s simply a fact that Henry Ford didn’t base his decisions on what Ford Motor Company’s net profits would be the next quarter–he had much greater things to accomplish. Because of Henry’s decisions, an entire nation benefited for years, and you know what? So did his company. Unfortunately those times are over (Reaganomics was the beginning of The End), Henry Ford would be run out of most corporate boardrooms today, and the word Patriotism now holds some twisted meaning that includes offshore bank accounts for the wealthy and easy access to guns for the rest of us. There is no longer a balance or any kind of mutual respect between industrialists and workers—negotiated, contrived, or otherwise. And each one of us ought to ask ourselves, “how did we allow this to happen?” and more importantly, “how can we change it?
Here’s Bill Maher from last week:

“Now when it comes to raising the minimum wage, conservatives always say it’s a non-starter because it cuts into profits. Well… yeah. Of course. Paying workers is one of those unfortunate expenses of running a business. You know, like taxes or making a product. If you want to get rich with a tax-free enterprise that sells nothing, start a church.”
“…And, look, even if you’re not moved by the Don’t-Be-Such-a-Heartless-Prick argument, consider the fact that most fast food workers (whose average age, by the way, now is 29–I’m not talking about kids) are on some form of public assistance. Which is not surprising… when even working people can’t make enough to live, they take money from the government in the form of food stamps, school lunches, housing assistance, daycare. This is the welfare that conservatives hate but they never stop to think: if we raise the minimum wage and force McDonald’s and Walmart to pay their employees enough to eat, we the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pick up the slack. This is the question the Right has to answer: do you want smaller government with less handouts or do you want a low minimum wage–because you cannot have both. If Col. Sanders isn’t going to pay the lady behind the counter enough to live on, then Uncle Sam has to. And I for one am getting a little tired of helping highly profitable companies pay their workers.”
If the minimum wage accurately reflected the value of the last 30 years of increased productivity by those workers, it would be $20 per hour. Companies that pay the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour are stealing $12.75 per hour not just from each worker, but from the American taxpayers and the economy as a whole.

A national minimum wage of $20 would create millions of jobs, add billions of dollars to government tax revenues while slashing domestic spending and boosting the economy out of recession.

But it would cut corporate profits by a few pennies per share, and we can't have that.  

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