The Trump Administration’s war on the poor


Dear Rebecca:

Yesterday I noted a House GOP proposal to criminalize poverty among undocumented migrants. Turns out that’s not the only trick Trumpistas have up their sleeves.


The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed a rule that would make it legal for employers to pocket their workers’ tips, as long as they pay those workers at least the minimum wage. The proposed rule rescinds portions of longstanding DOL regulations that prohibit employers from taking tips. We estimate that if the rule is finalized, every year workers will lose $5.8 billion in tips, as tips are shifted from workers to employers. Of the $5.8 billion, nearly 80 percent—$4.6 billion—would be taken from women who are working in tipped jobs.

The one small bit of good news in this is that restaurant workers would be paid minimum wage — one reason that tipping is a moral imperative for some of us is that waiters and waitresses are often making $2 an hour without the tips; it’s up to customers to make the job even close to lucrative enough for waitstaff.

But everything else about the proposal is reprehensible. When I tip, it’s my intention that the money goes to my server; if they’ve made a deal to share tips behind the scenes with other grunt level workers, I’m fine with that. My intention is not to give additional money to the restaurant’s owner: That’s why I pay the bill.

The proposal is in some ways worse than it looks on the surface: The current minimum wage hasn’t been raised in 9 years; the purchasing power of the minimum wage peaked 50 years ago. One likely result of the proposal: Crappy-paying jobs will become, over time, even more crappy relative to the pace of inflation. The working poor will work even more poorly.

I often can see the rationale behind my conservative friends’ policy proposals, even when I disagree with them. This idea? No. I don’t think rank-and-file conservatives disdain poor people — many of them are working poor. But I think conservative leaders have an absolute disdain for he poor. (I’m probably being generous.) I don’t know how else to read this and the aforementioned immigration proposal.

It’s just picking on people who can’t afford to fight back. Shameful.

— Joel

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