Endless pages could be written criticising Bernie Sanders’ platform and voting record, but despite his affinity for trying to pass off milquetoast social democracy as democratic socialism he has suggested some useful solutions on occasion. One such occasion was when he introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act or the Stop BEZOS Act.
As the name suggests, this bill was inspired by stories of Amazon employees surviving on state welfare such as food stamps and public housing assistance despite working for the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos. Sanders claims, as have many libertarians, socialists, and anarchists from across the spectrum, that employee welfare is actually a form of corporate welfare. Instead of paying their workers a living wage, despite making more than enough in profit to do so, companies like Amazon, WalMart, and McDonald’s instead encourage employees to seek out government benefits. This form of welfare abuse allows companies to skirt by without paying the full cost of the labor they employ, instead passing that cost off to taxpayers.
Such welfare abuse costs taxpayers around $153 billion per year. The typical solution is to call for the enactment and enforcement of minimum wage laws. But seeing as how many libertarians and anarchists are rightfully skeptical of blanket minimum wage laws, other solutions must be pursued. The usual anarchist response is to organize on the job for better wages however this is a long process that usually leads to many people getting fired for even trying.
So what is Sanders’ solution? The Stop BEZOS Act would require any company with over 500 employees to pay the full cost of any government benefits received by their employees. This puts such companies in the position of either having to adequately compensate people for their labor in the first place or pick up the costs after the fact by paying the welfare costs of any employee not paid a living wage. This means that taxpayers no longer have to subsidize labor for large corporations that can easily afford to adequately compensate their employees.
Living under a rigged market system flooded with various forms of government subsidized corporate welfare leaves us with a lot of work to do if we ever wish to truly see a free market society. In order to achieve such a society, we must attack corporate welfare on every level. This is far from the ax that strikes the root of corporate welfare, but it does go a long way towards both ending a major form of corporate welfare while also significantly decreasing the number of people who have to rely on personal welfare programs, which will also significantly decrease the amount of tax money needed to cover the costs of our welfare programs. Such a net reduction in taxpayer expenses is not only the fiscally responsible thing to do but it also directly aids a large portion of the working class. Sadly, it’s doubtful such a bill would have a chance at success anytime soon, at least not without a major grassroots movement backing it and forcing it into the public conversation much like folks did with subjects such as cannabis decriminalization, Medicare for All, and the Green New Deal.