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The War Between Minimum Wage-Earners and Billion-Dollar CEOs

As our capitalistic society progresses, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, it is becoming increasingly difficult for hard-working people to survive. The minimum wages in every state are not enough to cover an independent person’s expenses, and even a living wage isn’t enough to factor in elements such as student debt or extreme health emergencies.

In 2016, 2.2 million workers comprised those in America making at or below the hourly minimum wage of $7.25. Half of these employees were aged 25 or older. An astounding 60% of the companies employing these people for minimum wage are large chain corporations, including Walmart, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and other billion-dollar companies.

You might mistakenly think that the reason these extravagantly rich household names only pay their workers minimum wage is so they can pay for their food or healthcare, but you’d be wrong.

They aren’t paying. You are.

A report from Americans for Tax Fairness estimated that in 2014 alone, 6.2 billion taxpayer dollars paid for Medicaid, food stamps and subsidized housing for Walmart employees.

So if corporations aren’t paying for amenities, where is all the extra money going?

According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in recorded history, with a net worth of $150 billion. This may be a hard pill to swallow, if you’re a frequent Amazon shopper like me. The quick shipping, almost unbeatable prices and reliability are hard to step away from, even once you know your money is going to someone that despicably rich.

All around the world, Amazon workers have been going on strike protesting less-than-satisfactory working conditions and a pay that, while above minimum wage, just doesn’t cut it. The median hourly wage for Amazon factory workers is under $14, and it has many labor unions wondering how much of the 4.2 billion dollars in operating income goes towards their workplaces and paychecks.

So as Bezos is looking for a philanthropy outlet, he is overlooking bettering the lives of his own employees.

And it isn’t just Amazon or Walmart that are the problem, but rather every company with a CEO that stocks up on wealth and gives the scraps to their employees. None of these workers, even those making above minimum wage, can support their families, pay off their student loans, or live comfortably.

As an appropriate finish to Amazon Prime Day on the 16th, Senator Bernie Sanders held a town hall with previous and current employees from various big-name corporations to discuss their unfair wages as well as their working and living conditions. The hour-long talk consisted of many tears and poignant stories describing life, paycheck to paycheck. From living in cars, to suicidal thoughts, to deteriorated health and familial relations, the horrors and realities of these people seemed to be never ending.

The evidence was present and compelling. But the chief executive officers? Suspiciously nowhere to be seen.

There are many people out there who will say all of the economic problems are the fault of the poor and financially struggling. You’ve heard the arguments before: “You can’t make rent? Well maybe you should stop going to the movies and eating out.” “Then why do you have an iPhone?” “I don’t get why they have kids when they can barely get by… They shouldn’t have a family.”

Understand that when you say someone shouldn’t be able to have a family, or take away going to the movies or going out to have fun, then you diminish their ability to enjoy life. You take away the things that ease the gruesome long hours and low pay, making life miserable and insufferable. You’re no longer living, but just surviving.

Why are fulfilment, family and happiness prerogatives of the rich?

Most people working for minimum wage or anything under $15 can’t afford things like health care, cars, or housing. Many can’t even afford $400 in immediate emergency expenses, such as a car breakdown or hospital visit. However, due to something called a disposable income, people of low socioeconomic status can easily purchase iPhones, movie tickets and other small things without being in danger of not making rent. Only an ignorant millionaire would think that buying avocados and coffee is why millennials can’t afford houses.

As far as overpopulation goes, it isn’t a problem of people in poverty “copulating” or “breeding,” as privileged people tend to say in a derogatory way. It’s a problem of the rich hoarding resources from the poor. With half of the entire world’s wealth in the hands of one percent of the population, it seems doubtful that there really isn’t enough to go around.

People with low incomes deserve to be able to have a family and do things that make them happy. How much money someone makes shouldn’t determine which privileges they get to enjoy, or the quality of life they have.

Something needs to change, because the Jeff Bezos of the world are only getting richer and more untouchable. They have power that no human being should have over others. Giving away hundreds of millions of dollars won’t even put a dent in $150 billion.

So let’s get busy pestering the rich with pathos. Maybe it will take heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story to convince them that no person on earth deserves even a billion dollars when people have loans and debt, and others are starving, sick and dying.

Instead of giving money to a millionaire to make her a billionaire, give money to the working class.

Donate to the people and causes that need it the most.

Photo: Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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