The vacuous, cheerful expression of the Walmart smiley face has long been associated with the paradoxically dark reality of low-wage work. With the recent fast-food worker walkouts in New York, the golden arches may go down, too, in the annals of class-war symbology. But a report released Wednesday by the public policy organization Demos, reveals that there is one employer responsible for creating more low-wage jobs than Walmart and McDonald’s combined: Us.
According to “Underwriting Bad Jobs: How Our Tax Dollars are Funding Low-Wage Work and Fueling Inequality,” taxpayers subsidize nearly 2 million low-wage jobs through federal contracts, Medicare and Medicaid spending, Small Business Administration loans, federal infrastructure funds, and other areas of government spending.
Low-wage workers in these sectors include apparel manufacturers, construction laborers, retail workers, security guards, janitors, and home health aides, to name a few. The vast majority of these workers are paid less than $12 per hour, and depending on the sector, wages are often much lower than that. The struggle to live and raise families on low wages is made even more difficult by the lack of benefits and job security that are typically part and parcel of these jobs.