One week after a war of words erupted between Bernie Sanders and Jeff Bezos, the vendetta between the Vermont Senator and the world's richest man escalated on Wednesday when Sanders introduced a Senate bill called the "Stop BEZOS Act", that would require large employers like Amazon and Walmart to pay back the government for food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their workers.
The bill's acronym is a direct dig at Bezos and stands for Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act. It seeks to establish a 100% tax on government benefits received by workers at companies with at least 500 employees, Sanders said on Wednesday according to the Washington Post.
"In other words, the taxpayers of this country would no longer be subsidizing the wealthiest people in this country who are paying their workers inadequate wages," Sanders said at a press conference announcing the bill. "Despite low unemployment, we end up having tens of millions of Americans working at wages that are just so low that they can't adequately take care of their families."
The proposed bill came one day after Amazon briefly hit $1 trillion in market cap, just a month after Apple did the same, although a quick look at recent price appreciation suggests that Amazon will soon eclipse even Apple to become the world's most valueable company.
Bezos, who founded Amazon, is the world's wealthiest man: he has added $67 billion to his fortune in 2018, giving him a $167 billion net worth on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The median Amazon worker, meanwhile, was paid $28,446 last year, according to company filings.
The increase in Bezos' wealth has outpaced the rest of the billionaires tracked by Bloomberg by an obscene margin.
Some other statistics putting Bezos' $167BN in context, courtesy of Bloomberg:
- It’s more than the entire market capitalization of FedEx Corp.
- Bezos’s gain this year alone would make him the seventh-richest person on Earth, ahead of Mexico’s Carlos Slim and Alphabet Inc.’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
- It’s about the equivalent of Walt Disney Co.’s blockbuster bid for most of the assets of 21st Century Fox Inc.
- His wealth has increased by an average of about $8 million an hour in 2018.
- It’s roughly 10 times Amazon’s total net income since it went public in 1997.
- The 499 other billionaires on the Bloomberg ranking have added a net combined $8.3 billion to their fortunes this year.
None of this was lost on Sanders who on Tuesday tweeted that "Amazon is worth $1 TRILLION," adding that "Thousands of Amazon workers have to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing to survive. That is what a rigged economy looks like."
In a surprising retaliation, last week Amazon publicly fired back against Sanders and his claims that thousands of Amazon employees rely on federal benefits to make ends meet. Those figures are “inaccurate and misleading,” the company said last week, because they include temporary workers as well as those who choose to work part time.
Amazon's answer did not dent Sanders' enthusiasm to redistribute some of Bezos' wealth, and according to the WaPo a spokesman for Sanders said the senator's office had heard from hundreds of current and former Amazon workers in recent weeks who had to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and other government programs to cover their families' basic needs. There is no official measure of a "living wage," but the federal poverty level for a family of four is currently $24,600.