Friday, May 10, 2013

U.S. workers and the real 'freeloaders'

Huffington Post featured three excellent articles in two days about the plight of America's workers, who struggle to work enough hours to pay their bills, while not getting any paid leave or health insurance.

This week a Republican friend was complaining to me about "freeloaders" in America who don't pay any income taxes and thus feel no responsibility for our government; they just want to take, take, take.  This was his version of Mitt Romney's secretly taped complaint about the "47 percent" -- a moment of candor that likely cost Romney the 2012 U.S. presidential election.  (Such complaints are bald assertion: there is no indication that a large number of our fellow citizens feel this way; and people who make such accusations don't feel any need to offer evidence for such a conclusion.)

I replied to my friend, first, that Romney's 47 percent by definition includes millions of Red State Republicans.  Second, I said that nobody who works in America is a freeloader, even if they don't pay income tax.  Why?

The article about KFC provides a pretty good example.  A young man worked hard and was promoted by his boss and given extra hours and responsibilities, with a promise that a raise was just around the corner, but the raise never came. When he said he didn't want to be a manager anymore, it was too much stress for a poverty wage, his boss accused him of being "selfish."  Meanwhile, from 2007 to 2011, KFC (part of Yum!Brands) saw its profits rise 45 percent. 

This is true nationwide, where U.S. corporate profits are at an all-time high, while workers' wages are at an all-time low.  Yes, companies are getting more efficient and workers are getting more productive, but the profit gains from all that increased productivity are not going to workers.  

So just who is freeloading off of whom?  I don't mean to sound like a Marxist, but obviously, that guy working his tail off at KFC while living in his uncle's basement is not seeing any of that 45 percent in profits; it's all going to the corporate managers and shareholders.  His story has been repeated millions of times at other fast-food and retail joints around the country.

Or take the article about Amazon that, like many companies, outsources many aspects of its operations to temp agencies that don't give their workers any job security, full-time hours or benefits. Similarly, the U.S. Government's contractors often employ temp and part-time workers who earn below-poverty wages who then must rely partly on government benefits.  

This is not to mention Wal-Mart, the nation's #1 employer, whose average employee earns less than $9 an hour (less than $19,000 a year, full-time), and who has the most employees receiving federal welfare benefits.

Knowing all this, I don't see how anybody can have the gall to complain about the "selfishness" of U.S. workers who don't pay income tax.  Paying income tax is an elite privilege; and I'm sure these poor working Americans would love to be members of that elite club, earning enough money on salary with benefits to qualify for the "burden" of paying income taxes... while still enjoying all the other tax expenditures that middle- and upper-class Americans receive, which, according to Bloomberg, make up the largest category of government spending$1.3 trillion:

Middle-class families get an average benefit from the mortgage interest deduction of $139, while families in the top 1 percent get $3,752.

Taken together, individual income tax expenditures are the equivalent of sending $686 each year to those in the bottom fifth of the income distribution, $3,175 to those in the middle fifth, and $30,714 to those in the upper fifth. The average member of the top 1 percent gets nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year -- a statistic that might have proved useful for the folks protesting in Zuccotti Park.

By Saki Knafo
May 7, 2013 | Huffington Post

By Jillian Berman
May 8, 2013 | Huffington Post

By Dave Jamieson
May 8, 2013 | Huffington Post

No comments: