Keep Your $1,000 Hush Money

By Free Radical

In an ostensible show of support to the Republican tax reform passed at the end of 2017, several businesses have given their employees bonuses to celebrate what they claim to be a new era of economic prosperity.

In highly-publicized fashion, companies from Walt Disney to AT&T to Home Depot have given their employees one-time bonuses ranging from about $200 to $1,000. A much smaller group of other companies have offered other incentives such as FedEX, who has promised to increase employee compensation, and Honeywell, who pledged to increase its 401k contributions.  Apple has agreed to give some employees $2,500 in company stock and even pay $38 billion to return hundreds of billions it had horded in overseas accounts to avoid US taxation.

Undoubtedly, the bonuses will be welcome to the estimated 1.3 million employees who will receive them. Hell, I wish I had jobs at several of these companies so I can cash in multiple $1000 checks. But even in doing so, I would be clear of what is really going on. I hope that you are too.

These measures aren’t what sustainable economies are made of. According to USA Today, the total bonuses make up a $1.3 billion. While this may seem like a lot, companies will save an estimated $75 to $100 billion in paying taxes with the new Republican tax plan. So of course companies don’t mind shelling out $1,000 chump change bonuses that almost pay for themselves in free publicity.

Broken down, the bonuses only equal $85 per month. Most folks have cell phone bills that are more expensive. You definitely won’t build wealth off of a mere $1,000.

An appropriate question is what will companies do with all of their savings? Based on right wing ideology, companies will reinvest their additional revenue into the economy to create more workers and more consumers. However, time and time again, this logic has not panned out.

Unequal distributions of wealth have been the primary cause of the greatest economic dislocations of the 20th century (Great Depression) and so far in the 21st century (Great Recession). If you’d think that today’s modern day robber barons were attuned to history, you’d be wrong. A recently published report by Oxfam has shown that in 2017, even before the tax reform has kicked in, 82% of the wealth produced in that year went to the world’s top 1%.

If companies fail to reinvest their profits back into the economy, it usually falls on government. Yet, according to Donald Trump’s budget plan, it is not the role of government to provide a social safety net. His budget proposal released last year aimed for double digit cuts in transportation, education, housing and urban development, and the Army Corps of Engineers (remember Harvey and Irma?). Nearly 30% cuts were targeted for the EPA and international aid. Apparently, Trump’s America First priorities don’t account for the fact that global economic crises impact the United States too, because the country is, in fact, part of the world.

In any case, we must be mindful that these one time bonuses are merely hush money and are in no way a substitute for holistic, transformative economic restructuring. The current status quo is far from sustainable. And when shit hits the fan, it falls hardest on those at the bottom of the totem pole.

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