Two-Thirds of Public Assistance Enrollments Come from Working Families

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This past July, a study was published that showed that given McDonald’s large profits, could double the salary of all of their employees – from CEO Donald Thompson to the minimum-wage fry cooks – and to pay for it all they would only have to raise the price of a Big Mac by 68 cents. In August, fast-food workers staged a walkout to protest their low wages, and reports began to surface of fast-food employees who still needed public assistance to make ends meet.

Reuters reported Tuesday that, according to a study using US Census data, that between 2007 and 2011 52 percent of “front-line” staff depends on at least one public assistance program in order to get by. Whether it’s Medicaid benefits, the Earned Income Tax Credit program, or – ironically – food stamps, the study reports that this dependence on public assistance costs US taxpayers billions of dollars per year.

Critics of raising wages argue, such as Art Carden from Forbes, that doing so would decrease the availability of jobs for low-skill workers and advocates, “[t]o the extent that there is a solution, it’s economic growth.” Suggesting that by making things better for business, wages and the like would soon catch up to the ever-skyrocketing profits. 

If this is the case, then they can’t have it both ways and call for a massive reduction in public assistance, such as in this Forbes article from Peter Ferrara. Admittedly, this article is two years-old, but it calls “the welfare state” an abject failure that has only increased poverty if one were to look at the numbers.

The study also discovered that workers in a number of other service jobs also depend on public assistance. Families with one working member make up 73% of enrollments in public assistance programs, accounting for two-thirds of all public benefits.