More Welfare for Wall Street: One in Three Bank Tellers Need Public Assistance

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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.


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  • Anonymous

    Guess tax payers are also subsidizing the payroll of Wall Street. They make billions, nearly sink the US and World economy, then get “paid off” for incompetence by taxpayers, and now we learn we are subsidizing their payroll as well. Banks need to be nationalized. BS all this privatizing of prisons, social programs, anything where GOPers can get bribes.

  • Victoria Love

    We need to go all Robin Hood on their criminal a$$es and slap a financial transaction tax on these SOBs. This won’t stop until we are all out in the street. We are going to have to cause a massive work and buying shutdown, and show the government and its owners that We. Mean. Business.

  • Rick Getzschman


  • bank teller

    I can attest to that fact, as I am currently a bank teller, and we seriously don’t get paid enough. We are “the front line” of the bank, and are not compensated enough for our job, basically handling “their” money ! Not to mention that fact that bank robberies are a daily occurrence here.

  • Patsy Olive

    Well, I thought you Guys made a lot more per hour,you risk your life every day never
    knowing when you will have a gun stuck in your face. Its not worth it.

  • Edis Allen

    The pay a CEO should get is the business of the CEO and the board of directors. not the public vote to be sure!

  • Anonymous

    How much corporate welfare is out there???

  • Avi Hartman

    I think that’s wonderful. Tell me: when you file your taxes, do you take advantage of the earned income tax credit? I know I’m prying, but it’s sorta relevant: what city do you live in? Did you get your mortgage through the FHA? What exemptions do you claim on your taxes? I’m only asking these things so I can be more like you.

  • Tim Chambers

    It used to be that if a CEO wanted that much income out of the company he would have to embezzle it. What the government needs to do instead to tax every dollar of compensation above 12:1 at 100%.

  • Anonymous

    Where and how will all of this end?

  • JonThomas

    I hope all of us remember that the next time the banks destroy the world economy and come running to THE PUBLIC for bailouts!

    The banks nearly ran the entire world economy into the ground, came to the people for bailouts, and some used those bailouts to subsidize grandiose CEO pay and bonuses.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have minded one bit if this false economy crashed, but – to be sure – one thing is true… the moment the banks (or any other private concern) took public funds to save their failures, any argument against public involvement in CEO pay, or any other business regulation, no longer had/has the least bit of validity!

  • cgmcle

    As George Carlin observed, “we’re circling the drain.” So maybe it will end when we finally go down the drain. The country will be a very different kind of place then.

  • Anonymous

    what the media doesn’t tell us, we will never know unless people like Bill Moyers or other truth tellers dare to inform us. Propaganda is all the media is nowadays. so much for the “liberal” media i hear about.

  • Anonymous

    When the public bails their sorry ass’s out they should have a say. I say take um down. It’s 99 to 1. Time for everyone to wake up and show their anger.

  • furbaby

    Good! Then we can either nationalize or just get rid of the FED altogether and finally have Congress be in charge of the money supply as the Constitution mandates. We could also get rid of the Wall St. gambling casino and just write off all the derivatives debt.
    Ask yourself: Why is our government going to a private central bank, hat in hand, to beg them to print up more money to loan to it AT INTEREST when the Constitution gives the government the authority to print its OWN money WITHOUT interest?

  • Anonymous

    If you were to look at the big picture, the government by giving Wall Street bankers, Walmart and a host of other high profit low cost corporations large tax incentives in spite of their obvious success has helped produce some of the worlds most wealthy individuals while additionally subsidizing their corporate employee payrolls by providing low income assistance. This creates a cash flow short fall on the tax end and a capital drain on the subsistence side. No company or government could hope to sustain this type of capital lose for any length of time. But rather than give up some tax incentives and increase payroll funding these greedy corporations prefer to spend millions lobbying the politicians on capital hill to cut public assistance programs and to hell with John Q Public.

  • nidur

    You can’t do that in the Northeast where I live. You seem to be saying that all these big time 11.15 earners are just extravagant people, living off the hard working. That’s simply not true. For the most part they are the hard working. Don’t fall for the propaganda. A country that has many billionaires can afford to help those in need. We could stop funding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the tune of billions and use it here. It was G W Bush who got us into this mess, with his off the books funding of two wars, and tax cuts for the rich. I know a teacher who regularly sees kids who have not eaten all weekend. Maybe it is their parent’s fault, maybe not. The school food programs may be the only food they get. This is not a third world country. We are the USA, and should be able to provide for all in our country.

  • Neil Forte

    The taxpayers support the top & floor for banks, capitalism at its purest

  • MaryTinsa

    So, if you are living In Iowa, claiming 4 deductions on your check, 0 on your hubby’s – then your family take home is about $3,042. That is net with no other deduction, such as health insurance. You live in a place where housing is very inexpensive, probably purchased a foreclosure for dimes on the dollar or Mommy and Daddy gave you the house when Granny moved on to greener pastures. So, yes. A poverty level salary for a family of four will work in specific situations, such as yours – extreme low cost housing, and a family willing to eat canned, boxed or frozen food day in and day out. PS. Sign up for the ACA, because you’re going to need it soon.