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An Open Letter to Tucker Carlson

Mr. Tucker Carlson
Fox News

Mr. Carlson:

Yesterday you agreed with Bernie Sanders that corporations that employ workers who receive government welfare benefits are subsidized by taxpayers. You are mistaken. These workers’ wages are low because they produce too little value per hour while on the job to enable them to earn enough to escape eligibility for welfare benefits. Their wages aren’t low because they receive welfare benefits.

To blame Jeff Bezos and other business owners for the low incomes of their low-skilled workers is akin to blaming people who give money to beggars for the low incomes of beggars.

Sen. Sanders is also wrong to believe that, by taxing employers of low-income workers by the full amounts that these workers receive in welfare benefits, government will thereby prompt employers to raise these workers’ pay by enough to allow them to escape welfare eligibility. Adoption of Sen. Sanders’s proposal would lower, not raise, the incomes that these workers get from private employers.

If you doubt me, I ask you this: Do you believe that the incomes that beggars receive from begging would rise if government taxed the activity of giving to beggars? If not – that is, if you understand that taxing the activity of giving to beggars would discourage people from giving to beggars in the first place rather than encourage those who give to give beggars even more – then you should see that taxing the activity of employing low-skilled workers would discourage employers from employing such workers in the first place rather than encourage employers to pay these workers even more.

With respect, I really do wish that Fox News would hire a competent economist to help you avoid making such economically illiterate arguments.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030