There is a lot we hear about how those who rely on public assistance are unwilling to work. That public assistance has become less for the needy and more for the lazy. But then, here are some statistics that will destabilize this myth. 41.2 million working Americans (about 30 percent of the American workforce) receive some public assistance and nearly 50 percent of them (19.3 million) have full-time jobs. An even gloomier statistic is that a majority of these workers earn less than $12.16 per hour, an amount so small that these people need to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.
Why does this happen? Why the low wage? The primary reasons are: weakened or inadequate labor standards and archaic overtime regulations. It is high time the government took a look at this. This is a vicious circle and results in unhappy taxpayers and low minimum wage workers, and overly strained public resources. It is alarming because these very corporations that pay the low wages are making huge profits, then why not share the burden with other taxpayers and reduce the dependency on public assistance?
According to epi.org,
A report by Bivens, Josh, Elise Gould, Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz in 2014 stated, “The failure of regular, full-time employment to provide adequate levels of income is one of the many damaging consequences of the long-term stagnation of American workers’ pay. Over the past generation, despite significant increases in labor productivity, inflation-adjusted hourly pay for the vast majority of American workers has either stagnated or declined. This is the result of deliberate policy choices that have reduced workers’ ability to negotiate higher pay, and that have allowed capital owners and corporate managers to extract an increasing share of the income generated by American workers.”
A good start to curb the strain on public assistance is to raise the minimum wage. Raise the minimum wage to a point where workers can make ends meet without depending on public assistance. Businesses must ensure that they are doing their bit to ensure their workers have the means to a decent life. Better wages can also help free up the assistance funds for other needs, such as strengthening anti-poverty programs, investing in areas to boost the economy, and funding new education initiatives.