Big banks eating up taxpayer subsidies isn’t a new story. We heard a lot about the hundreds of billions of dollars doled out to Wall Street in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). And a May analysis by Bloomberg News estimated that the six largest banks alone had scooped up over $100 billion more in subsidies since 2009.
But a new study finds that we’re also subsidizing their profits by keeping their low-wage workforce out of poverty. Danielle Douglas reports for The Washington Post:
Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report due out Wednesday.
Researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks. The workers collect $105 million in food stamps, $250 million through the earned income tax credit and $534 million by way of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center.
The center provided the data to the Committee for Better Banks, a coalition of labor advocacy groups that published the broader study, to be released Wednesday, on the conditions of bank workers in the heart of the financial industry, New York. In the that state alone, 39 percent of tellers and their family members are enrolled in some form of public assistance program, the data show.
“This is the wealthiest and most powerful industry in the world, and it’s substantially subsidized by our tax dollars, money that we could be spending on child care or pre-K,” said Deborah Axt, co-executive director at Make the Road New York, one of four coalition members.
Profits at the nation’s banks topped $141.3 billion last year, with the median chief executive pay hovering around $552,000, according to SNL Financial. In contrast, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the median annual income of a bank teller at $24,100, or $11.59 an hour.
The report comes amid growing awareness of the high costs tax-payers pay for low-wage jobs in the fast food and retail industries. On Thursday, fast food workers in 100 cities will participate in one-day strikes demanding a living wage and an end to workplace abuses.
Those actions follow dozens of Black Friday protests at retailers across the country. Meanwhile, a growing movement is achieving victories in living wage campaigns across the country.