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Agitate, America!: How profligate CEOs and prosperous employers are gaming the system

March 19, 2014

Nancy ChurchillBy Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary

Since the passage of the farm bill, states have found ways to cheat once again on signing up people for food stamps,” Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a news conference Thursday, March 13. “And so, I would hope that the House would act to try to stop this cheating and this fraud from continuing.”

What’s he talking about?

Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Oregon and New York have announced they would raise home heating subsidies to residents to prevent them from losing food stamps, and many other states are considering following suit (http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dc/2014/03/boehner-new-york-other-states-guilty-of-cheating-and-fraud-on-food-stamps).

Let’s put this into context. On Facebook last December, Robert Reich explained how CEOs, “whose pay is tied to share prices,” use company cash to buy back their own shares of stock, thereby raising share price and bestowing upon themselves huge rewards (https://www.facebook.com/RBReich/posts/716213048391294).

In fact, in 2013, 30 Dow Jones companies “authorized $211 billion in buybacks, lifting the Dow (and CEO pay) to record heights. This $211 billion could have gone instead to American workers in the form of higher wages,” creating greater sales for the companies.

What’s more, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (D) revealed last Wednesday, March 12, that “securities industry workers in New York City earned more in bonuses last year than the total earnings of all the full-time minimum wage workers in the United States combined.” The bonuses for NYC alone would have more than doubled the pay for more than 1 million Americans (http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-wall-street-bonuses-vs-minimum-wage-earnings-2014-3).

On the other side of the coin, congressional Democrats blame low wages on employers like Walmart, who rely on controlling labor costs through low wages, meager benefits and aggressively denying workforce unionization. They “not only harm workers and their families — they cost taxpayers,” who pick up the tab for what workers cannot afford. In fact, a 300-person Supercenter could cost taxpayers as much as $5,815 per employee, the report said (http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/sites/democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/files/documents/WalMartReport-May2013.pdf).

Consequently, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has doubled. Turns out a minimum wage increase would cut approximately $46 billion from the need and eligibility for benefits over 10 years (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/report/2014/03/05/85158/the-effects-of-minimum-wages-on-snap-enrollments-and-expenditures/).

So, Boehner’s House rushed to the rescue with a minimum wage hike, right? Wrong! They pushed for $40 billion in SNAP cuts, settling for $8 billion written into the 2014 farm bill.

Something is horribly wrong with our priorities when profligate CEOs and prosperous employers can rake in billions by gaming the system against, and on the backs of, the working poor — and Boehner is outraged that states choose to feed them anyway, with an end around his party’s completely unnecessary SNAP cuts.

This disconnect boggles the mind.

Elections do have consequences. We’ve got to get these guys out of office!

Nancy Churchill was raised in the D.R.C. (Congo), raced stock cars on short dirt tracks for 25 years, and is a proud, lifelong member of “We, the People.” She lives in Oregon, Ill.

From the March 19-25, 2014, issue

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