Why Are We Subsidizing Profitable Corporations?
By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
Over the past few days, the corporate media has been trumpeting September’s “low” 7.2% unemployment rate. For the most part, the mainstream media fails to report that joblessness has only decreased 0.1% since August. Or that 20,000 of the 148,000 jobs created were temporary jobs. They also neglect to mention that most new jobs since the 2008 economic crisis don’t pay enough to live on. Which means that US taxpayers subsidize minimum wage workers to the tune of $7.8 billion a year. Given the current $17 trillion government debt, this seems like a major chunk of change.
In 2012, half of US jobs paid under $33,000 annually. Most of these minimum wage jobs are in America’s fast food restaurants, where employees struggle to get by on $7.25 an hour.
According to a recent University of Berkeley/University of Illinois study, 52% of fast food workers rely on federal programs like Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to provide for their children. This is due partly to poverty-level wages and partly to heavy reliance by fast food outlets on part time workers (under 30 hours per week). MacDonald’s et all are reluctant to take on full time employees owing to the new requirement (under Obamacare) that they provide health insurance for full time workers. .
Something seems terribly wrong here. MacDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Wendy’s, Domino’s Pizza are all highly profitable corporations. So why is the US taxpayer bailing them out by providing health care, food stamps, and other federal benefits for their employees and their families?
Work Week Shrinking Under Obamacare
Under Obamacare, employers are only required to provide health insurance if workers put in more than 30 hours a week. Investors.com has been tracking employers that are either cutting work hours or only hiring part time workers to reduce their obligation under the new law.
When employers cut back their full time workers, Obamacare shifts responsibility to the federal government (through expanded Medicaid programs and premium subsidies) to provide health coverage for minimum wage workers. Thus in addition to subsidizing MacDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Wendy’s, Domino’s Pizza, the taxpayer is also subsidizing highly profitable insurance companies like Aetna, United Health Care, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
The Government Accountability Office reports that Obamacare will increase the federal deficit by $6.2 trillion. $709 billion of this will fund Medicaid expansion (from 2014-2023). The rest will take the form of direct subsidies to insurance companies.
Sarah Palin Describes Obamacare as Corporatism
In a recent oped on Breitbart, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin describes Obamacare as “a sort of corporatism, which is the collusion of big government with big business.” While she and I disagree on many issues, that we definitely agree on.
She goes on to predict that the exorbitant costs will cause a breakdown in the US health care system. When this happens, she believes, Americans will clamor for the government to enact a single payer system which excludes parasitic health insurance companies from the health care equation.
I sure hope she’s right. Palin makes the unsubstantiated claims that single payer funding will lead to death panels and higher costs. There are no death panels in Medicare, which is a single payer system. Moreover Medicare, which was enacted in 1965, enables senior citizens to access health care far more cheaply and efficiently than private insurance does.
Nor are there death panels in the dozens of other countries that publicly fund health care. Even more importantly, they all pay about half what the US does for medical services. Seems to me it’s high time for the US to catch up with the rest of the civilized world. Except for the US, all other industrialized countries guarantee that all citizens, regardless of income, have the right to see a doctor when they’re sick.
photo credit: caribb via photopin cc
Dr. Bramhall is a retired American child and adolescent psychiatrist, activist and political refugee in New Zealand.
Her first book The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led her to leave the US in 2002. She has also published two young adult novels about political activism: The Battle for Tomorrow: A Fable
She is involved in the national leadership of the New Zealand Green Party and has a political blog at StuartJeanneBramhall.com