Amazon has had a very good year as it has reached $1 trillion in market cap, solidifying the vital role it plays in the global economy. But as can be expected, in light of this exciting news, Bernie Sanders has taken his crusade against Amazon to new levels and has proposed a new bill that is conveniently being called the “Stop BEZOS Act.”
“BEZOS” is, of course, an acronym for the full bill’s name, which is “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act.” However, either way you look at it, this is a direct hit to Amazon from Sanders. If the bill gains any traction in the Senate, it would essentially force private companies like Amazon and Walmart, to pay for government food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and any other federal assistance program employees may use. This would happen by mandating that companies with 500 or more employees must pay 100% of the cost of federal assistance programs being used by employees.
Sanders has tried to frame his bill as an effort to relieve the taxpayers from having to pay for these welfare programs. That might seem reasonable on its face value, but the reality is anything but.
Sanders has not been shy about accusing Amazon of paying its employees too little, and this bill is an expansion of this narrative. Since be believes that Amazon and Walmart underpay their employees, he is essentially blaming the continued use of welfare assistance programs on the companies themselves, a claim that is absolutely ludicrous. He said:
“In other words, the taxpayers of this country would no longer be subsidizing the wealthiest people in this country who are paying their workers inadequate wages. Despite low unemployment, we end up having tens of millions of Americans working at wages that are just so low that they can’t adequately take care of their families.”
He also tweeted:
“Thousands of Amazon workers have to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing to survive. That is what a rigged economy looks like.”
But, like many things Sanders says, the facts don’t add up.
Fact or Fiction?
Sanders’ claims that many of Amazon’s employees are struggling to get by are simply untrue. Not only did he include global employees in his initial allegations, but he also included temporary employees who are not actually full-time with the company. In response to his allegations, Amazon published a blog addressing his inaccurate statements.
The post says:
“…Senator Sanders continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits. Amazon is proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs last year alone. In the U.S., the average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour before overtime. (Sen. Sanders claims that Amazon’s median U.S. salary is $28,446, despite the fact that we’ve made clear that this number is global and includes part-time employees. In fact, the median U.S. salary for full-time Amazon employees is $34,123). We encourage anyone to compare our pay and benefits to other retailers.”
Amazon’s blog post also addressed the inaccurate picture Sanders painted of Amazon employees being the recipients of food stamps. Many of the workers who were on food stamps were temporary employees without full salaries and benefits. And many had taken temp work because they were already experiencing financial setbacks unrelated to Amazon. So to blame Amazon for this, and then force them to pay for government programs is absurd.
Of course, this isn’t the first time progressives have gone after Amazon in an attempt to force the company to pay for welfare assistance programs. Seattle’s City Council voted to force Amazon to subsidize housing for the homeless because they believe it is paying its employees too much, thus driving up the costs of homes. This is actually hilarious in light of Sanders’ new bill which claims Amazon is paying its employees too little. It seems like the real problem here is that Amazon success has made many progressives feel as if they are entitled to some of its profits. But these types of policies serve only to hurt employees.
What is Unseen
If Amazon is forced to pay for welfare programs, in addition to other attempts to squeeze money from the company like in Seattle, it will have to make cutbacks somewhere. So, either consumers will see a rise in the cost of consumer goods or employees will see a decrease in their pay. Of course, there is still another option on the table. If Amazon is forced to pay for these programs and chooses not to lower employee wages to make up the difference, it may be forced to lay off employees.
Long story short: no one wins in this situation except for Sanders, who gets to have a false feeling of moral superiority. There is no logical reason behind making Amazon pay for food stamps and public housing. Hopefully, the rest of the U.S. Senate understands this and shoots down this bill before it goes anywhere.