The debate on trickle-down economics nationally will rage on, with proponents convinced that reducing taxes on businesses and the rich benefits the broader community, and critics arguing that the tax revenue lost is better spent by the government on infrastructure and programs that help the most vulnerable among us.
But in Robeson County, the conversation should be over.
News last week that BB&T, which employs about 550 people in Robeson County, would raise its minimum wage from $12 to $15 while also providing a one-time bonus of $1,200 to 75 percent of its workforce, those who do not qualify for commissions or incentives, should be cheered locally as it is destined to float a lot of boats. Anyone who argues otherwise needs to go back and take Econ 101.
BB&T officials said the decision was its response to the tax-reform package that was approved last week by Congress and quickly signed into law by President Trump that will, among other things, reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, returning an incredible amount of capital to corporations across the country. BB&T was just one of a slew of corporations that announced pay hikes and bonuses, with some others being AT&T, Comcast, Boeing and Wells Fargo.
In addition, BB&T said it would pour $100 million of new money in its fund designated for charity, and while there is no information yet on how much good that potentially could do in Robeson County, the bank’s presence here and the great need here suggests we will get our share and some.
We can’t know how many of the 550 BB&T employees in Robeson County will benefit, but a high-ranking bank official told us that “most” would. A sadly high percentage of these folks, like too many Americans, are living paycheck to paycheck, so when the bonus of $1,200 arrives in January, expect that money to be injected into the local economy quickly.
More enduring will be the wage hike, which for a BB&T worker making $12 an hour during a 40-hour work week amounts to a raise of $6,240 a year, a 33 percent increase. This will inject million of dollars into the local economy, and unlike the bonus, this is income that will carry from one year to the next, providing dollars that will feed local businesses, create jobs and enhance the quality of life for many of us.
Critics of the tax-reform package appeared almost angry as one company after another said that some of the savings would be shared with employees through bonuses and pay increases, pointing out — correctly we believe — that these corporations had not had time to read the legislation and the announcements were PR ploys.
But what does that matter to hundreds of BB&T employees locally who will benefit, suddenly finding the house mortgage, car payment, and grocery bill more manageable, while having a few dollars left over to enjoy?
The tax-reform package could not have been more telegraphed, so it’s not surprising that corporations were poised to pounce. Additionally, the math to determine the difference in tax liability imposed by a 35 percent rate when compared with a 21 percent rate is rather elementary.
We applaud BB&T and its decision to share it savings with so many of its employees who call Robeson County home. And we are pleased that those employees will be sharing it with the rest of us.