New Article: Candace Kovacic-Fleischer, Food Stamps, Unjust Enrichment and Minimum Wage, Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Vol. 35 (forthcoming). Abstract below:
A number of large retail chains with monopsony power, such as Walmart, pay their low level employees so little that these employees are eligible for food stamps and other governmental benefits. In addition to paying low wages, these chains often have hourly restrictions so that their employees are not eligible for overtime pay. At times the chains violate the wage and hour provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by making hourly employees work “off the clock,” a practice known as wage theft.
One of the reasons these low wage retailers can pay so little is because their employees can supplement their income with food stamps. Another reason is the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has not been raised since 2009. Paying anything more seems generous.
Whether to raise the minimum wage is fiercely disputed. This paper suggests the debate focus not only on the effect of the minimum wage on jobs, but also on the unjust enrichment of monopsonistic employers. By applying the law of unjust enrichment (also referred to as restitution), the government should be able to recover from these employers the amount of food stamps their low paid employees receive at taxpayers’ expense. A lawsuit in unjust enrichment should make the public aware that with food stamp payments and other benefits, the government is subsidizing monopsonistic employers.
New Article: Representative Rosa L. DeLauro, Why America Should Save SNAP, 52 Harv. J. on Leg. 267 (2015).
New Article: Anna Johnson & Steven M. Sheffrin, Rethinking The Sales Tax Food Exclusion With SNAP Benefits, 79 State Tax Notes 149 (Jan. 11, 2016). Abstract below:
Most states either totally or partially exclude food at home from the general sales tax. This exclusion generates a debate between tax policy analysts with their emphasis on broad base, low-rate tax systems against the advocates for the poor who argue that the exemption for food is necessary on distributional grounds. States that do tax food at home are often singled out as having particularly regressive and punitive tax systems. What is missing from this debate is a serious discussion of the consequences of non-taxability of benefits under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps). We present evidence that the SNAP program effectively reaches the vast majority of the poor thus making the taxability of food at home much less important for individuals in lower income tiers.
-Thanks to http://taxprof.typepad.com/ for the heads up!
New Article: Andrea Freeman, The 2014 Farm Bill: Farm Subsidies and Food Oppression, 38 Seattle U. L. Rev. 1271 (2015). Abstract below:
The 2014 Farm Bill left intact the allocation of agricultural subsidies established by the Bill’s first incarnation in 1933. This stasis is surprising in light of evolving medical insights into nutrition and shifting national health priorities, indicating that health and nutrition are not driving the Farm Bill. Instead, it appears that large agribusiness has succeeded in capturing the majority of resources allocated to farm support. Although farm subsidies comprise only 14% of the Farm Bill, they are highly controversial because, not only do they determine which agricultural industries are likely to thrive and survive, they guide the nation’s consumption patterns. The health of farmers and individuals are therefore both at stake in each Farm Bill. Further, agribusinesses’ influence over the Farm Bill appears not only to contribute to poor health outcomes in the United States generally, but also to cause disproportionate harm to individuals marginalized by race and class. To deconstruct the racial and socioeconomic harms of subsidized commodities, it is useful to analyze farm subsidies using the lens of food oppression theory. Food oppression theory examines how facially neutral food policy and law can physically debilitate members of marginalized and subordinated groups, creating and perpetuating racial and socioeconomic health disparities. It considers how corporate influence can lead to policy that prioritizes industry over health. Additionally, it explores how racial stereotypes and myths about personal responsibility create apathy toward health disparities, making them appear natural and irremediable, rather than products of structural inequalities that law and policy have created and thus have the potential to dismantle. Employing a food oppression lens, this paper assesses whether new aspects of the 2014 Farm Bill serve to improve health outcomes, both generally and across racial and socioeconomic lines, and offers brief proposals that would represent progress toward mitigating or eliminating both the general and disparate harms of subsidized commodities.