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Archive for February 26th, 2013

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There is this, from Mother Jones:

Just how rich are the Waltons? According to the latest edition of the Forbes 400, released yesterday, the six wealthiest heirs to the Walmart empire are together worth a staggering $115 billion. This marks the first time in American history that one family has controlled a 12-figure fortune. While the nation’s richest person is still Bill Gates, the sixth-, seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-richest Americans are all Waltons.

To put that in perspective, here’s a chart of things the Waltons could afford to pay for:

Then there is this:

WAL-MART

And then there is this, from the blog Walmart 1%:

Fact: Walmart is a Job Killer

  • Walmart store openings destroy almost three local jobs for every two they create by reducing retail employment by an average of 2.7 percent in every county they enter.[1]
  • Walmart cost America an estimated 196,000 jobs – mainly manufacturing jobs – between 2001 and 2006 as a result of the company’s imports from China.[2]

Fact: Walmart Jobs Are Poverty Jobs

  • Walmart workers average just $8.81 hour.[3] This translates to annual pay of $15,576, based upon Walmart’s full-time status of 34 hours per week.[4] This is less than 70% of the poverty line for a family of four.[5]
  • Walmart pays less than other retail firms. A 2005 study found that Walmart workers earn an estimated 12.4% less than retail workers as a whole, and 14.5% less than workers in large retail in general.[6] A 2007 study which compared Wal-mart to other general merchandising employers found a wage gap of 17.4%.[7]
  • Last year, Walmart slashed already meager health benefits, leaving more workers uninsured.[8]

Fact: Taxpayers Are Paying the Price for Walmart

  • Despite all the damage they have done to US workers and communities, a 2007 study found that, as of that date, Walmart had received more than $1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land, infrastructure assistance, low-cost financing and outright grants from state and local governments around the country.[9] This number has surely increased as Walmart continues to receive additional subsidies.
  • Taxpayers Subsidize Walmart’s Low Wages and Poor Benefits – In many states across the country, Walmart is the employer with the largest number of employees and dependents using taxpayer-funded health insurance programs.[10]
  • A few examples:
    • In Arizona, according to data released by the state in 2005, the company had more 2,700 employees on the state-funded plan.[11]
    • The company also topped the list in their home state of Arkansas, with nearly 4,000 employees forced onto the state’s plan according to data released by the state in 2005.[12]
    • In Massachusetts, in 2009, taxpayers paid $8.8 million for Walmart associates to use publicly subsidized healthcare services.[13]
    • Although national numbers are not available, if the cost to Massachusetts taxpayers is adjusted nationwide, the cost would be roughly $1 billion.[14]

And finally, there is this, from Addicting Info:

  • Walmart’s intentionally low wages force employees to need approximately $420,000 per year, per store, totaling $2.66 BILLION annually in food stamps and other taxpayer assistance…to survive.
  • Walmart’s intentionally low wages cost the country HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars in payroll tax deductions for Federal, State, and Local taxes.
  • Walmart’s intentionally low wages cost our communities the ability to hire and retain important public service workers like firefighters, police officers, maintenance workers, and teachers.
  • Walmart’s intentionally low wages cost our communities with their increased need for those same public services they are underfunding.
  • Walmart’s intentionally low wages and lack of covered benefits cost taxpayers over $1.02 BILLION a year in healthcare costs.
  • Walmart’s intentionally low wages cost taxpayers as much as $225 MILLION in free and reduced price lunches for school-age children.
  • Walmart’s intentionally low wages cost taxpayers over $780 MILLION in tax deductions for low-income families.

So the Sam Walton heirs are almost unimaginably wealthy, a wealth produced by the labor of their underpaid workers, many of whom depend on the State for health care and even food. How would a just society respond to this situation? Here is the Catechism:

2405Goods of production – material or immaterial – such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.

2406 Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.189

And here is Paul VI:

If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation.

If that applies to “landed estates” it should surely apply to corporations. In a just society this ill-gotten gain would be expropriated and those who came by it in such an immoral way would be imprisoned. Tempering justice with mercy, we could forgo the prison sentence and the Waltons could be left with enough to live lives of frugal comfort.

Their vast wealth should be redistributed to their workers, and Walmart should be remade into a worker cooperative. But as a democratic behemoth would still be a behemoth, each department -hardware, clothing, etc.- should be restructured as a small cooperative.

But as we live in a corporatocracy rather than a just society, we at least should support Walmart employees in their efforts to organize a labor union and to wrest a living wage from these criminals.

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