As big cuts in supplemental nutrition programs take effect on Nov. 1, the fast food industry continues to thrive on subsidies from the federal government.
There’s no law that says congress will pay $1.2 billion annually to subsidize McDonald’s, for example, but that’s roughly the amount of money spent on McDonald’s employees who are paid such low wages that they have to rely on public assistance.
McDonald’s is not the only fast food company to take advantage of government subsidies, nor is fast food the only industry: big box retailers like Walmart also benefit from government subsidies by paying employees so little that they can work a full week and still qualify for federal assistance.
Something is rotten in the state of … well, in the United States. Aristocrats with big money have the cash to elect and influence lawmakers who set policies that allow them to make even bigger pots of money, while the poor folk who work the front lines of stores across the country have to rely on food stamps for a square meal.
Overall, the supplemental nutrition programs don’t cost Americans that much — as little as ten cents per day by one estimate, though I’ve also seen estimates of 20 cents — but even that amount is too much when it’s being spent to bolster corporate profits while putting hard-working Americans in the demeaning position of accepting public assistance.
The ideal solution would be for major retailers of every stripe to do the right thing, pay their workers a living wage, and accept smaller profits, even if it means smaller dividends for stockholders and less extravagant bonuses for executives. The government could require that by increasing the minimum wage, but economic justice does not appear to be on the congressional agenda.
So, if nothing else, the nation’s most massive retailers could just charge a bit more, and I wouldn’t mind if I thought it would go to benefit the workers. Even if I’m paying 20 cents per day to support supplemental nutrition programs, that would make $1.40 per week, about the same frequency with which I stop at a fast food joint.
I’d happily pay an extra buck forty for my combo meal if the money would help the folks in the back and at the window be able to shop at the grocery store with their wages instead of an EBT card.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.