Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Cost of Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart was listed as one of The Ten Worst Corporations of 2004" in the USA. But how can this be? Wal-Mart "registers more than a quarter trillion dollars in sales. Its revenues account for 2 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
" The company takes in more than one in five dollars spent nationally on food sales, and market researcher Retail Forward predicts Wal-Mart will control more than a third of food store industry sales, as well as a quarter of the drug store industry, by 2007. Wal-Mart is the largest jewelry seller in the United States, despite the fact that the prime target market for jewelry - high-income women from 25 to 54 years - are the least likely of all consumers to shop for jewelry in discount channels," as Unity Marketing notes. Wal-Mart is the largest outlet for sales of CDs, videos and DVDs. And on and on. "

Sounds like one of the Best Corporations, doesn't it? But see link above for many details about how it cheats employees and routinely breaks labor laws.
One of the most interesting parts of that report is how taxpayers wind up subsidizing Wal-Mart's profits by filling in social welfare support for its full-time employees. Their wages and heath benefits are substandard. So as usual, the government is called upon to fill in for minimal social welfare in order to prop up capitalist enterprise:

"The report estimated that one 200-person Wal-Mart store may result in a cost to federal taxpayers of $420,750 per year - about $2,103 per employee. These public costs include:

  • $36,000 a year for free and reduced lunches for just 50 qualifying Wal-Mart families.
  • $42,000 a year for Section 8 housing assistance, assuming 3 percent of the store employees qualify for such assistance, at $6,700 per family.
  • $125,000 a year for federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families, assuming 50 employees are heads of household with a child and 50 are married with two children.
  • $100,000 a year for the additional Title I [educational] expenses, assuming 50 Wal-Mart families qualify with an average of two children.
  • $108,000 a year for the additional federal healthcare costs of moving into state children's health insurance programs (S-CHIP), assuming 30 employees with an average of two children qualify.

"There's no question that Wal-Mart imposes a huge, often hidden, cost on its workers, our communities and U.S. taxpayers," Miller said. "And Wal-Mart is in the driver's seat in the global race to the bottom, suppressing wage levels, workplace protections and labor laws."

But hey, it's a great country right? Especially if you own the store rather than work in it. All that uneducated, timid, hungry workforce out there to be exploited! And all the politicians you can buy too: Wal-Mart paid "$2 million to federal candidates in the last U.S. electoral cycle, more than any oil company". Long Live "Freedom"!


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