Fast-Food Workers Aren’t the Only Ones Costing Taxpayers Money

About a third of bank tellers nationwide receive some kind of public assistance to make up for their low wages.

Bank tellers may dress professionally and handle our money all day, but they don’t necessarily have much in their own accounts.

A recent report found that taxpayers spend $7 billion a year subsidizing low-wage fast-food workers through programs like food stamps and Medicaid. A new report from the Committee for Better Banks says we also spend about $900 million a year helping bank tellers.

“The University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education found that salaries for bank tellers nationwide are so low that 31 percent of bank tellers and their family members are enrolled in some type of public assistance program (including EITC, Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, and TANF), which costs states and the federal government a total of $899 million,” the report says.

The money breaks down this way, according to The Washington Post:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps — $105 million.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit — $250 million.
  • Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program — $534 million.

“These struggling regular workers are seeing their pay get cut. They’re seeing their hours get cut,” Brigid Flaherty, a representative of the Committee for Better Banks, told NPR. “And really, we know that the banks have the money to pay their workers a fair wage with benefits.”

U.S. bank profits were higher than $141.3 billion last year, and median bank CEO pay was about $552,000, the Post notes. Meanwhile, the typical bank teller made $24,100, or $11.59 an hour.

What do you think? Do bank tellers make a fair wage? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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  • John Hughes

    Nobody that contributes 10 hours of their day (including commute time) should need government assistance. No taxpayer should supplement a companies bottom dollar. Especially if profits are going to shareholders.

  • Paula

    I’d rather see them require those who pay low wages to pay into education funds so that employees might be trained for better jobs. Just raising the minimum wage will result in more bank fees to the consumer, along with the faster implementation of more ATM machines to REPLACE tellers. I don’t think the solution is in raising the minimum wage law, I think we need to create more jobs that are worth more (which in my opinion, we won’t do by creating more burdens for employers).

    There will always be jobs which are easily done and which employers can’t pay a lot to have people do and still be competitive. These are perfect jobs for students, and those who want a low key job and who are not trying to be the primary breadwinner. The key is more good paying jobs which add the appropriate value to the business. The key is not just in “redistributing the wealth”. I’m not saying that a teller is not important to a bank, they are. But, it is a relatively simple job and requires very little training. It is also one that can be easily done by a machine, and I don’t think we want to encourage that either.

    • TheTruth

      “Just raising the minimum wage will result in more bank fees to the
      consumer, along with the faster implementation of more ATM machines to
      REPLACE tellers.” — You could easily rewrite this to say: Just raising
      the outrageous executive board members’ compensation and perks will
      result in more bank fees to the
      consumer, along with the faster implementation of more ATM machines to
      REPLACE tellers… Can we at least agree recognize that the actual
      value of minimum wage, in constant dollars, has dropped over the last 40
      or so years. Shouldn’t we at least inflation-index minimum wage so it
      doesn’t continue to fall even further in value?

      • Paula

        I hope that someday our government programs will actually ADD value to the economy instead of depleting it. I do believe there is great disparity between the “classes”. I don’t feel the way to effectively eliminate that is through government sanctions that tells people running businesses and providing jobs HOW to run their business. What if, for instance, instead of just giving people money in the SNAP, unemployment, health insurance programs, we required something in return? (NOTE: I DON”T MEAN THOSE WHO ARE GENUINELY SICK OR DISABLED OR FRAIL). I know some are already working at low paying jobs…what if a condition of their benefits required them to attend classes in higher paying fields needed, get GED’s, attend classes to bolster their skills? Then, not only would they have more food that month, we would be adding permanent value to their lives that might enable them to get a better paying job. What if, for those mothers who have many small children at home and who are getting benefits, we picked them up in a van everyday and took them to a center for learning where other trained “beneficiaries” of the system watched their children while they took classes? What if, as they learned, they also gave back in other ways by helping (and being trained) in nursing homes, daycares, computer jobs, retail, etc. What if the government actually sent out workers to industries to work as a condition of their benefits instead of sending them more red tape and mandates?

        What if, instead of the government telling McDonald’s how to run their business, the government trained some of the “beneficiaries” of our welfare programs in the food service industry, maybe starting it’s OWN chain of restaurants which offer healthy food alternatives? (I know I’d eat there…if it was affordable!) Then the government would be in a position to understand what running a business is like. Then they could figure out how to pay for all that overhead, how much to charge so they have customers, and yet, cover the cost of the employees. (Note, they would have to make it on their own…no tax subsidies, and if ends didn’t meet, they close.)

        What if America had policies like Australia where there are tight controls on who can enter the country…requiring a job plan be in place, English spoken proficiently, no existing health issues, character and background checks be done, and allegiance to the laws be required? Think of the number of job openings that would happen right here in America, if immigration was curtailed? Granted, they would be in industries not currently frequented by American job searchers….poultry industry, janitorial services, construction, agriculture….BUT if taking those jobs were a CONDITION of receiving extra help from our government, then many more would be motivated to make sure they were doing all they could to help themselves. And I always believe in providing training to people willing to learn and move into better jobs, and that would apply to people in these jobs as well.

        Finally, prisons should be much more self supporting. There is always work to be done, the way I see it, and too few workers. Why should we have littered highways as long as we have such a robust prison population? Why isn’t it required that they give back as a condition of having all their living expenses met? Hey, they put themselves in this position, the least we can do is make it uncomfortable for them. (If they are really dangerous, keep them locked up, not out on a job, but I’d still find something to occupy their time besides the weights in the gym.)

        So, to answer your question, I’m not totally against the minimum wage per say, or the possibility of raising it a bit. But only after ALL the REST of these ideas are tried FIRST. And personally, I’ve never been one to be jealous of those rich execs at the top. Most of them have worked hard to get there, and they can have it as far as I’m concerned. I wouldn’t want their responsibility, and I don’t sit around wishing I had their money. If we did steal all their money and redistribute it to the poor, I doubt we would feed them all for long.

        I believe in lifting up the poor, but I believe in doing it in a process that adds value to them permanently, and in a way that enables them to move to new levels of living permanently, taking their children and future generations with them. America is growing increasing ignorant on the world’s stage as far as jobs go. Just raising the minimum wage does nothing to address our growing ignorance or dependence on government handouts. And it DOES stifle the businesses who give us the jobs we do have now, and might have. I believe we are all served when we allow them to operate based on markets, and not more government mandates. No wonder they move overseas.

  • Tracy

    Let’s not forget, the low income workers are also the tax payers. I spend 32+ hours a week caring for those that can not care for themselves in a long term care facility. Yet, once taxes and insurances are taken out, I can barely care for myself. One of the ironies I’ve found is that I was really excited to have optical insurance and be able to get new, much needed, glasses, but then couldn’t order them because I couldn’t afford the co-pay. There is truth in the saying, “the working poor.” I’m living proof. And, I would be quite offended to hear that some would consider my plight is due to laziness; as long term care and laziness are quite bi-polar.

    • Paula

      Tracy, I personally feel that people who do the kind of you work you do should be paid plenty. In my mind, it is one of the hardest jobs to do…take care of other people, especially the sick and the elderly. I also think teachers should be paid more, at least the good ones should be. The others shouldn’t be there. Where I live, the only nursing home/long term care facilities making profits are those that cater to the wealthy, and they really don’t make much for the work and liability involved. I certainly wouldn’t want to own one of them. The rest are operated non profit and medicaid determines the rates they get paid to take care of those who are there. So, really, medicaid= government. Why AREN’T they paying more so people like you can get a raise? It’s easy for people to blame “rich corporations” for being greedy and withholding money rightfully earned by their workers, but in many cases similar to yours, it would seem the government is to blame for the low salaries.

      I believe the working poor are the ones who suffer most in this country. My mom served as a public school teacher all her career, and is now elderly and in need of an assisted living facility. The problem is, most of the ones where we live are either HUD or so expensive she cannot afford them. She barely makes too much for HUD, but not nearly enough to afford the others. People like her (and you, in the case of your glasses) are the ones in our country really getting the shaft. Many people ARE lazy and WONT work, because they’ve figured out they will fare just as well if not BETTER if they just let the government take care of them instead. Not all who receive benefits from the government are lazy, but we’re growing a huge “entitlement mentality” in this country and more and more people believe it is their right for other people to pay for all their needs up to the standard of living equaling those who work. They are sucking up more and more of the resources and we should put an end to this mentality, and not merely go after the “rich corporations” to finance all this. I do believe in taxing the rich and the corporations, but I believe in eliminating the “you owe me” mentality too.

      • Frances King Matchett


      • Endahay

        so, it is always the other guy who is the moocher. Why didn’t your mom go to school and get a better paying job so she could afford her retirement? Why is it my responsibility to come to her aid? I say this in jest, what a Christmas Story to behold.

        • Paula

          Oh, I’m so sorry I didn’t make my point clear! Why do people like yourself gloss over my saying “not all people who receive benefits from the government are lazy”? Some are, some are not! There ARE moochers, however, and if my mom had not had to pay for them all these years, she would have more money to spend on her own upkeep, which is her first choice. People who only take and never give run up the cost for everyone. She doesn’t expect you or anyone to pay her way, never fear.

          Why is it that people like yourself think you are the only one capable of understanding the Christmas story??? A little arrogant, don’t you think?

  • Paula

    Well, Truth, I certainly admire your passion, writing ability and power of persuasion! I appreciate your in- depth response. You certainly seem to have lots of experience with the “evil corporations”. Maybe you are correct in some of your observations. I personally, come from more of a working class background, grown doggedly into small time, small business owner. Maybe you think our federal government is “all that”, but personally, I think it costs most of us more than it helps. I think it’s inefficient and creates work to justify more taxes. I think private business/corporations are much smarter/efficient at figuring things out. The government is necessary and has it’s place, and does often time have to step in when “the little guy” (and I’m one of them, even though I have employees) is being trampled.

    You know Truth, there’s not a darn thing wrong with making a profit. They come in handy! They pay the bills (including the overhead of employees) and hopefully buy into helping the guy’s business down the street. I don’t know where you live, but personally, I live in a small, rural, poor state, (although most of us don’t know we’re poor till we read it in USA Today, which we try not to read) and most people are employed by mom and pop who have sacrificed a lot to have the opportunity to give other people jobs. It’s no cake walk, operating a business year after year, competition, recession, the government breathing down your neck. Always some wolf at the door. I’m glad we make it look easy to those like yourself, who depict us as the despicable blood suckers of society. Maybe you’ve worked for a bunch of jerks, but most employers care very much about their employees. I know we do. They help us and we help them. We admire and appreciate them, and I like to think they have some of those feelings for us.

    Truth, I’m curious, how do you really know what other people/corporations pay in taxes? I think some of that is just a bunch of steam. I know we pay plenty, and I bet a lot of corporations do too. Not that all of what they do is on the up and up, I know it’s not, but let’s not paint with such a wide brush of accusations. I’m pretty sure when it comes to paying for roads, bridges, schools, educations, private jets, we all do our part.

    I love this thought of “transfer” of wealth. I hear that thrown around a lot. You make it sound as if it flies on a magic carpet, this wealth, to the “top”. More likely it travels by pack mule. I like to think of an America where a kid from “Back Yonder” raised by a single mom cleaning houses for a living, can work hard to get an education, and with enough determination, willingness to take direction (no small thing!) and yes, luck, can become one of the “biggies” some will later call greedy tax evaders. Education is the key…and then…well…a hell of a lot of hard work sustained over a very long time. You say we’ve moved our jobs to India for cheap labor. Well, they may be cheaper, but they’re also a lot smarter than us too! Most of our MRI’s and XRays are being read by doctors in India now, and they are filling the ranks of our hospitals here too. And we’re about to need a lot more. Do we have enough American med students ready to fill the ranks? Of course not! Why is that? Corporate greed, is this too Exxon’s fault?

    Then there are those who work hard all their lives and don’t make enough to live. I HEAR YOU! I see it everyday! I don’t like it either! I just don’t’ agree that there’s someone who is taking that AWAY from people and keeping it to themselves, as you seem to believe. I believe it happens because we’ve not figured out the best way to do things, and throwing money is never a good way to fix anything permanently. You say all the good jobs are gone…well, stop looking backwards. Look around, what do you see? I see fat old people where I am. The kind who need care, who will be quitting their jobs, who will need healthcare, nursing care, places to live. It’s going to take a lot of people to care for all the ones who are about to need care. It will take others to be ready to step into their jobs.

    I believe our country has to get creative. If we gave all our manufacturing to China, well so be it. Quit crying about it and come up with a new plan. Reinvent yourself. Those of us unfortunate enough to be greedy employers have to do it everyday to keep sending everyone a paycheck. For instance, why not train those getting benefits who don’t have a job to go Africa and dig water wells, or teach people to sew or take goats or something? There are private companies that do it. Why doesn’t our government do that instead of sending “aid” in the form of $? Send some of our people on “aid” who have been trained to help!

    If I live to be 150 (and I hope I don’t) I will still be finding ways to keep people busy and productive. I believe it’s one of the keys to happiness, being productive. I know it’s one of the keys to success. Oh, and one more thing…I’m pretty sure I’ve never cost you a dime to run my little business. Just so you’ll know. But you can go on ahead and rage about it if that makes you feel better.

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