United States Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative of the 17th District of California, Rohit Khanna, have introduced legislation Wednesday to tax corporations for every dollar that their low-wage workers receive in government health-care benefits or food stamps.
The act is aimed at shaming companies like Amazon, Walmart and United Airlines who, despite being such large corporations, practically force their employees to depend on public assistance.
The act was named after Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon. The House version of the bill is called the Corporate Responsibility and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2017.
The bill would impose a 100% tax on companies equal to the benefit their employees are receiving from public sector assistance programs like Medicaid, Section 8 housing, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. It covers companies with more than 500 employees.
Sanders has criticized Amazon for months because of the reports that Amazon warehouse workers are paid less than the industry average and rely on food stamps while the CEO Jeff Bezos holds the status of being one of the wealthiest men in the world with a net worth of more than $168 billion.
"Our legislation gives large, profitable employers a choice: Pay workers a living wage or pay for the public assistance programs their low-wage employees are forced to depend upon," Sanders said of the proposed law. He also mentioned that Amazon is doing “phenomenally well” and Bezos could send a ‘profound message’ by paying all of its employees a living wage.
Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and previously Vice President Biden’s chief economist, said he had two concerns about the Sanders proposal. One is that it “joins the right in vilifying benefit receipt.” Secondly, employers might not want to employ people who they think would trigger the tax. Hence, it might give rise to another kind of discrimination while hiring.