Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Taxpayers top up low wages

It's long been clear that American taxpayers are subsidizing the fast food industry because so many of its low-paid workers end up needing some form of public assistance. But banks? Banks are one of the nation's most profitable businesses. They pay top executives huge sums. Why is it that nearly a third of bank tellers rely on government benefits of one kind or another to keep their families afloat? The low pay in too many areas of the private sector essentially transfers responsibility and costs to the public sector that are paid by taxpayers instead of business.

America's widening income inequality is largely due to industries such as banking that bring in billions of dollars in profits but pay low wages to rank-and-file employees. According to a recent report from the Committee for Better Banks, a coalition of labor advocacy groups, the median annual income for a bank teller in the United States is $24,100, or $11.59 per hour, an amount so low it qualifies 31 percent of the nation's half-million bank tellers and their families for a range of government benefits.

The report says that when all those benefits are added up, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid, children's health insurance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and other forms of welfare, it costs taxpayers nearly $900 million a year. The public perception of bank tellers may be that they have middle-class jobs, but every year bank tellers rely on $105 million in food stamps to help feed their families.

Meanwhile, the median salary for a banking chief executive is about $550,000 and within the industry there are some eye-popping pay packages. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan received $12 million in 2012.

This doesn't just happen. It is the culmination of industrial policies that have allowed the economy's gains to enrich those at the top without being fairly shared with employees who work lower-rung jobs. More than half of families of fast food workers receive some form of public assistance, costing American taxpayers $7 billion annually, according to a study by the University of California Berkeley Labor Center and the University of Illinois. Workers need the ability to seek reasonable compensation and decent benefits as a reward for hard work, or increasingly the government — meaning taxpayers — will have to step in to make up the difference.

Raising the minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour ($7.93 in Florida starting Jan. 1) to $10.10 per hour has been proposed by Democrats in Congress and is supported by President Barack Obama. But it should appeal to conservatives as well. Working parents gain pride and independence when they are able to provide for their children rather than be forced to rely on government safety net and entitlement programs. Workers who make a decent living become taxpayers and homeowners, which brings stability to communities. And experience shows that modest increases in minimum wages have little or no significant impact on employment levels.

Most bank tellers earn more than the minimum wage, but a raise for workers at the very bottom can help raise wages up the income ladder. Taxpayers have a stake in making work pay fairly, but it will only happen if government insists that government stop subsidizing private enterprise.

Comments

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17