Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the “Stop BEZOS Act” on Wednesday, which would require large, profitable companies like Amazon to pay the government a 100% tax on any federal aid their employees receive, including Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing.
The legislation, supported by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), encourages companies with 500 or more employees to pay a high enough wage so that their employees don’t need federal support.
“Let us be very clear: We believe that the government has a moral responsibility to provide for the vulnerable—the children, the elderly, the sick and the disabled,” said Sanders in a statement. “But we do not believe that taxpayers should have to expend huge sums of money subsidizing profitable corporations owned by some of the wealthiest people in this country. That’s what a rigged economy is about.”
The full title of the legislation—”Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act”—takes a swipe at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Sanders has long been critical of Bezos, especially since reports earlier this year said many Amazon warehouse employees require federal assistance to put food on the table.
According to Sanders, “one out of three Amazon workers in Arizona and 2,400 in Pennsylvania and Ohio need food stamps in order to feed their families.” But Amazon calls this data “inaccurate and misleading,” The Washington Post reports, saying those numbers include temporary and part-time workers.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s CEO is the richest man in the world (Bloomberg Billionaires Index values Bezos’ wealth at $168 billion), and Amazon briefly joined Apple Tuesday as one of two companies with a $1 trillion market value.
“The American taxpayer should not be subsidizing Jeff Bezos so he can underpay his employees,” Sanders tweeted last week.
“The basic premise of the American Dream is that if you work hard and you work for a company that’s doing well, you should earn enough to support your family,” said Khanna, according to The Washington Post. “Instead, we have an absurd situation where companies with a trillion dollars in market cap—the wealthiest in the world—with employees who don’t make enough to support the basic needs of themselves and their families.”
Amazon declined to comment about the legislation, but in a blog post the company argued it provides “competitive pay, health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans, company stock, and flexible schedules for new parents, along with opportunities to learn skills and further develop their career,” countering Sanders’s accounts of employee experiences.