Lewis Diuguid

Low-wage workers annually cost taxpayers $153 billion in public assistance, a new report says

Protesters on Wednesday pushed for wage increases in the drive-through of a McDonald's Restaurant at 6406 Troost Ave. in Kansas City. Stand Up KC organized the protest to draw attention to the fight for food service and other low-income employees to organize and be paid a minimum of $15 an hour.
Protesters on Wednesday pushed for wage increases in the drive-through of a McDonald's Restaurant at 6406 Troost Ave. in Kansas City. Stand Up KC organized the protest to draw attention to the fight for food service and other low-income employees to organize and be paid a minimum of $15 an hour. The Kansas City Star

People who file their taxes on this deadline day and those attending rallies, marches and speeches Wednesday dedicated to boosting the minimum wage to $15 an hour or paying adjunct professors $15,000 per class have one thing in common.

Each should know that the terribly low wages in this land of plenty costs taxpayers about $153 billions each year in public assistance, including $25 billion at the state level. That’s from a new report from the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California- Berkeley.

The report said 56 percent of all state and federal spending on public assistance programs goes to working families. That includes Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), food stamps and earned income tax credit.

In Missouri, 52 percent of the $644 million in total state cost for Medicaid, CHIP and TANF funding goes to working families, or workers whose wages are so low that they have to rely on public assistance to get by. In Kansas, 48 percent of the $224 million in total state cost for assistance programs goes to low-wage workers.

So the people hurrying to get their tax returns in the mail are subsidizing businesses that pay the minimum wage to their employees. Some of those were the targets of protests and strikes on Wednesday. They are socializing the cost while privatizing the profits.

“Three of the occupations with particularly high levels of public assistance program utilization that have been recently analyzed are front-line fast-food workers, child-care providers, and home-care workers,” the report said. “Each of these have at or near 50 percent of their workforce in families with at least one family member relying on a public assistance program.

“However, high reliance on public assistance programs among workers isn’t found only in service occupations. Fully one-quarter of part-time college faculty and their families are enrolled in at least one of the public assistance programs analyzed in this report.”

This should be a hot topic now in Congress and every statehouse in the country and certainly it should become part of the debates in the race for the White House in 2016.

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