Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna and Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the Stop Bezos Act. The acronym is pretty good (Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies), but, other than that, I really don’t like it. Here’s what the bill would do (boldface mine):
If companies won’t pay their employees a living wage, Sanders argues, the government should recoup the cost of providing government services through a specific tax.
Sanders is partnering with prominent House progressive Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) on the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act, which would enact a tax on large corporations equal to the federal benefits their low-wage employees receive in order to make ends meet. Companies such as Amazon, Walmart, and American Airlines will have to pay every dollar in aid their workers get from the government back through taxes…
Sanders and Khanna’s bill would require large companies — defined as those employing 500 or more workers, including part-time and franchise workers and independent contractors — to pay the costs of federal programs their employees use. It would impose a 100 percent tax equal to the amount a company’s workers receive in federal benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the school lunch program, and Section 8 housing.
I get what they are trying to do. It would be easier to pay employees more than pay a 100% tax on benefits. Presumably, there would be established cutoffs to make it easy to ‘opt out’ (i.e., above $X/hour and your company is automatically exempt; this pegged only to the federal benefits which are largely invariant among states). On the political side, they’re trying to tap into the anger at companies that just don’t pay enough to live.
But the simpler–and clearer–way to do this is raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. We can afford it, and it would save lives. Unless we are willing to institute Eisenhower era income taxes, which would ding not only the gentry class (and those wealthier) but also much of the upper-middle class, lower-income workers need raises. That’s a minimum wage, and it would apply to every employer, not just large ones.
Keep it simple.
Aside: Look back at this post from 2016, and this related one by Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog, if the Democrats take back the House, the Senate, and the White House in 2021, it’s worth remembering that the opponents to nice things will be inside the wire.