If you think the low wages earned by that fry cook at your McDonald’s means you get a cheaper burger, think again. If that person makes so little that they also qualify for public assistance, you’re footing the bill in higher taxes for that aid. Plus, you get to subsidize McDonald’s, a company that made almost $4.8 billion in profit in 2014 (they had a bad year – no, really).

And this happens a lot; 73% of enrollees in America’s major public support programs are members of working families.1 More than half of public aid money goes to working families. That’s $152.8 billion a year in taxes.

Who gets these payments? Yes, fast food workers, but also child care and home care workers, plus – and this surprised me – part-time college faculty.

Low-Wage Occupations and Public Assistance Rates

If stats and big numbers don’t do it for you, read about three women who work and still need assistance in this piece2 by Lolly Bowean at the Chicago Tribune.

Many compassionate conservatives agree that if you work a job, you should be able to support yourself, and even liberals admit that government transfer payments are less efficient than wages and benefits paid directly by employers.

Hence, the push for livable wages. True, getting everyone that works to a point where they don’t require public assistance could mean some job losses (less than many people claim, but that’s a post for later). But with the working people now self-sufficient, we could focus on the harder-to-employ, helping them develop the skills so they too can be self-supporting.

  1. Low Wages Cost U.S. Taxpayers $152.8 Billion Each Year in Public Support for Working Families
  2. Report: Taxpayers cover the costs of low wages