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Bernie's Bezos Boondoggle (or, How to Keep Low-Income Workers Unemployed)

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Thomas Knapp       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   36 comments

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On September 5, US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and US Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) announced a new bill intended to claw back $150 billion per year in public assistance costs as tax revenues. Because all laws must come with catchy acronyms these days, and because this one targets Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, it's called the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies -- Stop BEZOS -- Act.

According to the press release from Sanders's Senate office, Stop BEZOS "aims to end corporate welfare by establishing a 100 percent tax on corporations with 500 or more employees equal to the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers. For example, if a worker at Amazon receives $2,000 in food stamps, the corporation would be taxed $2,000 to cover that cost."

Let's consider the desired effect, and the more likely actual effects, of the Sanders/Khanna scheme.

The desired effect, of course, is that Amazon, Walmart, and other large employers will pay their workers "living wages" such that those workers needn't turn to food stamps, subsidized housing, etc., to get by.

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The more likely effect is that Amazon, Walmart, and other large employers will 1) speed up their adoption of labor-saving technologies such as robotics, and 2) change their hiring and employee policies.

Robots don't need food stamps. Or housing. Or healthcare. Or public transit. They'll work 24/7/365 without complaint, vacation or overtime pay. They don't get mad and walk out. They seldom "call in sick." And they're already increasingly cost-competitive with even low-wage human labor.

Job applications will include questions like "do you receive any of the following forms of government assistance?" Applicants who answer "yes" won't get interview callbacks. Employee policies will make it clear that accepting any of the tax-triggering programs will result in immediate termination.

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Yes, those policies will reduce the pool of workers available to work for those companies. That might force wages up some. But it's also likely to increase the length of time that people who NEED government assistance CONTINUE to need that government assistance. Not because they don't want to work, but because the wage deals they're able to drive won't exceed the lost benefit dollars.

If the programs in question are going to exist -- as a libertarian I would prefer to see them phased out in favor of voluntary charity and of the higher wages that companies with lower tax burdens can afford to offer, but I don't expect that any time soon -- the smarter option is to scale down benefits as a fraction of increased earnings.

Like: For every $3 an assistance recipient earns in the labor market, the benefits are decreased by $1, reaching zero when his or earnings reach a "living wage" level.

Perfect idea? No, but better than Bernie's bozo BEZOS boondoggle.

 

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Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


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Amazon depends on Government handouts and charity. Nothing sadder than a self professed libertarian slave arguing on behalf of the Wall Street master's welfare.

Corporations don't do charity in reality. The rich never do the slaves favors. Everything comes back to what benefits the rich. Amazon pays no tax. Amazon writes all the legislation that will fail to contain them. The question is did Khanna and Sanders use Amazon Prime to download the their copy of the legislation?

Submitted on Saturday, Sep 8, 2018 at 2:49:03 PM

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Yes, Amazon is a corporate welfare queen. So is Walmart. Not just in terms of letting taxpayers subsidize their payroll, but in many ways.


I don't see why low-income people seeking work should be punished for that, which is what the Stop BEZOS Act amounts to.

Submitted on Saturday, Sep 8, 2018 at 3:20:24 PM

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You imply that your scenario will happen and it may not.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 12, 2018 at 1:38:16 PM

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Like most of Bernie's solutions, this one is a band-aid on a hemorrhage. What we need is a universal guaranteed income.

Submitted on Saturday, Sep 8, 2018 at 7:33:37 PM

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Bezos gets his lucre from a corrupt system refined every day by the caretakers of the system to pick the meat off the zombie corpse of the 99%, greedily gnawing on our bones and sucking the marrow out of them.

How is that for ugly and disgusting?

Therefore and here afterwards, f*ck a universal guaranteed income and all the other good for me but not for you syndrome aka, the rule of law. The bill does not go far enough. What the bill needs to do is deliver the 1% heads on a pike and claw back ALL their stuff returning it to the commons. Then let us take a look at the next 9%...repeat, rinse. Otherwise it is a meaningless gesture, mere words, no demand, no force worth speaking of not even an idea, only a way to ease into bed and apparently tirelessly pray again to god for a beautiful heaven in our next life.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 10, 2018 at 12:22:59 AM

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It's sort of like we're actually arguing here as to whether or not anything should be done to address the obvious problem of corporate exploitation. An exploitation that is not only decimating the ability of the workforce to live adequately (never mind comfortably), but also the entire economy at large.

On the one hand, there's the acknowledgement that there is a serious problem, yet on the other hand, we're supposed to worry about what these companies will do in reaction to any measures, in order to preserve their current profit figures.

I find the latter to be a very dangerous line of thinking, as it implies we need to accept that we just can't screw with the corporations, for fear of their retaliation to anything we attempt to do to correct the problem.

I don't buy that.

Submitted on Saturday, Sep 8, 2018 at 9:42:29 PM

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Translation: Screw the poor, as long as you get to feel like you punished a corporate evil-doer.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 12:58:36 AM

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That's a very irresponsible "translation". What I said doesn't equal anything close to that.

I said you can't just assume nothing should be done, simply on the premise there will be some form of retaliation. That line of thinking, literally, translates as surrender.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 4:56:08 PM

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I didn't propose that nothing be done. In fact I very specifically proposed WHAT I think should be done.


"If it costs me $X to hire Person A and $X + $1,000 to hire Person B, I'll hire Person A" is not "retaliation." Do you consider it "retaliation" when you choose to buy the $1.79 version of something as opposed to the $2.89 version of that thing?

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 5:55:06 PM

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I honestly didn't think you actually proposed anything, as you only touched on something that wasn't much different from what you're criticizing.

What you described still calls on the "social assistance" element that wants repayment from the employers, who are, as you say, only going to react in the usual ways. Similar solution, same problem.

As to your question involving purchasing a lower-priced item - that's not even a proper parallel. You can't compare the habits of consumers to those who employ them. Consumers reflect the incentives and disadvantages bestowed upon them by a system that only gives breaks to the very people who won't pay them.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 9:13:41 PM

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People who employ other people ARE consumers. They're buying labor, which as Marx pointed out (while decrying the fact) is a commodity like any other.


If I buy a loaf of bread and you buy an hour of work, each of us is engaged in precisely the same activity. Unfortunately, the state puts its finger on the scale to drive down the price of labor for the corporations. I'd rather it stopped doing that.

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I don't agree with that comparison.

Consumers are in the position of REACTION-DEPENDENCY, while companies collectively create the conditions for that position. The system also gives a variety of breaks to companies, which consumers don't enjoy.

The buying power of consumers should be the driving force in repairing the damaged economy, but instead, corporations have successfully migrated everyone to accept an "austerity economy", which can only spiral downward. If society continues down this path, there won't be a market, or an economy.

Saying the employers are nothing more than "shoppers" is akin to the style of reasoning that brought in the Citizens United decision - giving COMPANIES the same consideration as PEOPLE.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 11:00:21 PM

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I'm failing to see where we disagree with each other on the fundamentals.


The state subsidizes corporations at the expense of everyone else.


I want the state to stop doing that (in point of fact I want to abolish corporations altogether; oh, and the state too).


That doesn't change the FACT that the Sanders plan would punish low-income people and produce only a feel-good "wow, we really stuck it to Bezos" feeling in return.


Real results aren't going to come from state policy -- the best to be hoped for from that quarter is the kind of band-aid I suggest.


Probably the most likely way to get real results is mass unionization, but FDR put the kibosh on that when he got together with the corporations and parasite "labor leaders" to pass the NLRA and stop the spread of anything like a real labor movement.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 11:22:09 PM

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It's laughable...but a deadly serious laugh.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 10, 2018 at 12:24:59 AM

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In the present day United States the working class, which has become the poor, is being screwed. Libertarians are against Socialism for all, but encourage, even legislate, Socialism for corporations and attempt to justify that by making one feel it helps the working class.

Let's not regulate corporations, but let's regulate welfare programs. Seems a bit lopsided thinking.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 3:54:53 PM

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OK, so you've demonstrated that you haven't the slightest idea what libertarians are against or what we encourage (we control precisely zero legislatures, so we legislate nothing).

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 5:56:31 PM

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Look at the Koch's agenda and tell me I'm wrong

.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 9:51:50 PM

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I've looked at the Koch's agenda many times. They're corporate welfare queens who occasionally pretend to be libertarians when they think that will get them what they want.


There are all kind of libertarians. Many, perhaps most, of us don't even think that corporations are something that can legitimately be allowed to exist, seeing as how they are chartered by state authority, receive direct and indirect subsidies by such authority, etc., thus giving them artificial advantages over actual market institutions.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 9, 2018 at 10:21:47 PM

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There are all kind of libertarians, true.

But I have not seen one who truly advocates for disadvantaged people.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 12, 2018 at 1:40:18 PM

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I'm not sure what you mean by "have not seen." We've never met, but I know you read my material.


Which disadvantaged people have I ever failed to advocate for?

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 12, 2018 at 2:18:09 PM

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Disabled, orphans, poor.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 12, 2018 at 11:26:40 PM

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Ah. And here I thought you had actually read my stuff.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 13, 2018 at 12:13:01 AM

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Where did you advocate for them?

Submitted on Friday, Sep 14, 2018 at 1:48:12 AM

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In print. For three decades or so.

Submitted on Friday, Sep 14, 2018 at 2:56:37 AM

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Just one example, please, here.

Submitted on Friday, Sep 14, 2018 at 6:32:19 PM

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Well, this column advocates for the poor.


I have always been an advocate for cutting taxes from the bottom up and welfare from the top down. That is, Medicaid, food stamps, etc., don't get touched until billionaires stop getting subsidies, and taxes need to be 1) not regressive and 2) cut in a way that removes the poorest from the tax rolls rather than e.g. reducing the top rate for the rich.



See, for example, my column here at OEN on last years "tax reform." It advocates cutting taxes on the poor and instituting a "FICA floor" so that Americans in poverty don't pay the highly regressive Social Security/Medicaid taxes.

Going back a few years, the political party that I founded in 2006 and ran as the 2008 vice-presidential candidate of (the Boston Tea Party -- not the conservative "tea party" movement that came several years later) called for "legislation adopting an annual, regularized increase in the personal exemption to the federal income tax of $1,000 or more, and the additional application of said personal exemption to all FICA/Social Security taxes paid by employees and employers."


Orphans: I don't recall whether or not I've written any columns on it, but I think I've been reasonably vocal in opposing state laws that give taxpayer money to adoption agencies which discriminate against same-sex adopters.


As with orphans, I don't consider the disabled a major topic area for my own writing, but in at least one recent column I defended a man who was violently assaulted (and defended himself) when he chewed out a non-handicapped woman for using a handicapped parking space. At the Libertarian Party's national convention, I supported a call for handicapped accessible microphones to allow our wheel-chair/scooter-bound delegates to participate in the party's business.



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I appreciate your good writing and you have a lot of it.

And lowering taxes from the bottom up is certainly good, thanks.

I do believe that you have good intentions and honest convictions.

But I don't believe that what you wrote amounts to what we would normally call advocacy for the poor. Fairness to all, yes.

For example, you do advocate for cutting welfare from the top down.

Nice, but it seems that you still want to cut the bottom too, eventually.

My 'problem' with libertarians seems to be that apparently they don't believe that the society should actively help some people and that we all 'owe' something to each individual.

So, some libertarians are much better than the others and you may be among the best ones but please reconsider that notion above.

If a person has meningitis as a child and is quite disabled what should the society do?

Submitted on Saturday, Sep 15, 2018 at 9:21:06 PM

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There are lots of different kinds of libertarians, so I can only speak for myself.


Yes, I want to cut the bottom of welfare too, eventually -- because I want it to not be needed. Just like I want to cut the top of taxation too, eventually -- because while getting rid of the state would not itself end poverty, poverty will never be ended so long as the state exists.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 16, 2018 at 2:04:14 AM

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See, this is wrong.

The 'state' is never perfect and God knows we have some of the worse today.

But it is the instrument by which society achieves its goals.

If the people manage to exert reasonable control over state all the problems are easier to solve.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 16, 2018 at 3:42:19 PM

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"Society" has no goals. It has no mind, it has no consciousness, it has no volition. It's just an aggregate. And the state is a parasite on that aggregate, its sole essential function being to redistribute wealth and power from the productive members of the aggregate to the its parasitic self.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 16, 2018 at 4:20:55 PM

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shad williams

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Reply to Thomas Knapp:   New Content

Just as the 99% that barely control their bodies but apart from that, control absolutely nothing.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 10, 2018 at 12:28:09 AM

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David William Pear

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As a socialist I believe that people don't need to work so much and everybody should receive a guaranteed stipend, healthcare, education, mass transportation, and excellent infrastructure (defined broadly).

The problem with our current system, call it capitalism, is not a lack of jobs but overproduction. It is not how much is produced (GDP) that is important, but what is produced. The current system has to over consume to keep up with overproduction. That is one reason why wars and advertising are necessary to keep the economy running.

With AI the problem will only get worse unless the political economy evolves into a more humane system. That means that people would be able to work less, have more leisure time to devote to family, friends, cultural pursuits, arts, science, sports, volunteering and meeting human needs of self and others.

There is no law of nature that says that every human being has to work as a slave for 8 hours or more a day, 5 days or more a week in order for the economy to produce more than it can rationally consume, and for there to be obscene accumulation of wealth by a tiny minority.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 10, 2018 at 10:24:28 AM

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Thomas Knapp

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Reply to David William Pear:   New Content

Interesting comment! Some thoughts:


"our current system, call it capitalism"


Many libertarians don't call it capitalism, because they have re-defined capitalism from its historical meaning (and the meaning 99.9% of humans attach to it). They conflate capitalism (a mixed, state-regulated, industrial economy) with free markets. The two are not only not the same thing, they're opposites.


This is one area in which Marx was correct, if only by dint of being the primary popular definer. The general outlines of capitalism were described pre-Marx by e.g. Hodgskin. The word was coined by Thackeray. But it was Marx who integrated the notion into his theory of history as the (necessary and laudable) penultimate step in economic evolution preceding revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, institution of socialism, and eventual communism.


Unfortunately, another place where Marx was correct was when he asserted that "the state is the executive committee of the ruling class." He hoped that socialist revolution would eliminate the class system, but the history of Marxist/Leninist/Maoist revolutions is that the party ends up substituting itself for the proletariat and establishing itself as a new ruling class. Marxism as such is a dead end (which is not the same thing as saying that socialism is a dead end).


If there's a future for socialism, in my opinion it is in anarcho-syndicalism a la the Industrial Workers of the World (yes, I am a member). I do doubt that wage labor as such will ever disappear -- or even that it necessarily should -- but I do think that a revived labor movement, employee-owned cooperatives, etc. would both reduce its incidence and boost wages such that work hours would go down until subsistence was virtually guaranteed and hiring one's self out would be a matter of how many material "extras" one wanted.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 10, 2018 at 12:29:02 PM

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David William Pear

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Reply to Thomas Knapp:   New Content

Likewise, interesting reply.

Agreed, it is laughable to call the current kleptocracy capitalism. Nor am I dogmatic socialist. I agree that corporations should not exist, at least not in their present form with limited liability and monopolistic power.

A "socialist" economy which I only have a fuzzy conception of what it would look like, would have adequate room for sole proprietors and partnerships. People should be free to work 18 hours a day running a business if that is there choice.

In a developed economy there are adequate resources that the unemployable and those that would rather work less, and devote their non-working hours to whatever they wanted.

Yes, there would have to be more government structure, but even bureaucrats would steal less than CEO's that give themselves $25 million salaries.

My ideas are not original. I think that John Kenneth Galbraith put it best in the "Affluent Society".

Regards,

Submitted on Monday, Sep 10, 2018 at 6:45:04 PM

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Thomas Knapp

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"Agreed, it is laughable to call the current kleptocracy capitalism."


Oh, that's not what I was saying. This kleptocracy is DEFINITELY capitalism.


Some libertarians say that it's "crony" capitalism, not "real" capitalism, but I don't think it's possible for capitalism to NOT be crony capitalism.


"Anarcho-capitalists" think they can have capitalism without the state, but the state is baked into the very definition of capitalism.


The existing system is capitalist, and I oppose it. Not in favor of state socialism, to which it is Marx's necessary and beloved precursor, but in favor of freedom, which I believe would deliver various economic arrangements that would tend to reduce scarcity, poverty, and the need to labor nearly as many hours to live, tending toward a flatter, more equitable spread of wealth.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 10, 2018 at 9:06:05 PM

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Peter Franzen

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Bernie Sanders led the US people up the garden path in order to pave the way for serial war monger Hilary Clinton to be elected as president. Thankfully he failed. Now fake leftist Sanders has been left with no credibility whatsoever.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 10, 2018 at 11:03:55 PM

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Thomas Knapp

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"He's just another opportunistic political careerist, sort of a left version of Ron Paul," insists political writer Thomas L. Knapp. While he clearly started out with some ideological principles " "at some point that ideology took a back seat to establishment pragmatism and re-election necessities, while continuing to provide a great fundraising pitch to people in an unexploited ideological niche -- if they don't look to closely.


-- Bernie: A Lifelong Crusade Against Wall Street & Wealth, by Darcy G. Richardson

Submitted on Monday, Sep 10, 2018 at 11:23:06 PM

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