This is corporate welfare by another name and by an oblique method. Employers pay such low wages their employees cannot afford food, housing and health costs — and those costs are then met by the state. It is in this way employers maximize their own profits, while the American taxpayers pick up the tab. This fact was brought to the forefront in Ohio during the run-up to last Thanksgiving.
“The Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton, Ohio is collecting food for employees who can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner,” reported The Plain Dealer’s Olivera Perkins on Nov. 18, 2013. The same month in another part of the same state, a similar scene was playing itself out at another Walmart. “The Franklin, Ohio location confirmed to us that they, too, are collecting food donations for their employees,” reported WRGT-TV.
Since we’re talking about Walmart anyhow, let’s discuss the economic fortunes of the founding Walton family. “Between 2007 and 2010, while median family wealth fell by 38.8 percent, the wealth of the Walton family members rose from $73.3 billion to $89.5 billion,” wrote Josh Bivens of The Economic Policy Institute on July 17, 2012. “It is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined.”
When I filed my original Oct. 2, 2013 column on this subject, “Minimum wage is a complete joke,” I was taken aback by the vitriol it inspired in some people. I’m pretty sure none of them were members of the Walton family, but you wouldn’t know it from their tone. How could you be against something that would so obviously help our economy?
It seems the greatest trick the plutocrats of this country ever pulled was to convince the rest of us to attack each other whilst they remain spectacularly wealthy.
Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.