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“Walmart On Welfare”: The First 39 Minutes You Are On The Job Each Week Goes To Provide Welfare For Walmart And The Waltons

Next time you drive past a Walmart, think about how much in taxes you pay to subsidize the nation’s largest private employer, owned by the nation’s richest family.

Your cost this year:  $247 if you are single, $494 if you are a couple, and $987 if you are a couple with two kids.

And you pay whether or not you shop at Walmart or its Sam’s Clubs.

Put another way, if you are single and a minimum-wage earner, the first 39 minutes you are on the job each week just goes to provide welfare for Walmart and the Waltons.

For a family of four, the cost of welfare for Walmart and the Waltons probably comes to more than your weekly take-home pay, based on government data on incomes.

American taxpayer money explains almost a third of Walmart’s worldwide pretax profits last year. But that understates the scale of taxpayer assistance to the retailer, which made 29 percent of its sales overseas last year.

Figure about 44 percent of Walmart’s domestic pretax profits were contributed by local, state and federal taxpayers directly and indirectly, based on company disclosure statements.

These figures on welfare for Walmart and the Waltons were calculated from a report released today by Americans for Tax Fairness, part of a broad coalition of union, civil rights and other organizations trying to shame the Walton family into paying wages that if not good, are at least enough to make sure Walmart employees do not qualify for food stamps.

So far the Waltons have shown themselves to be shameless and utterly unapologetic for foisting any of their costs onto taxpayers instead of earning their way in the marketplace.

This is in a way not surprising. The best-known heir of the retailing innovator Sam Walton, his daughter Alice, 64, has a long history of drunk-driving accidents, including killing a woman hit by her vehicle.

While repeat drunk drivers are routinely prosecuted in most jurisdictions, often as a matter of policy, and upon conviction get the time behind bars their conduct deserves, to date no law enforcement agency has seen fit to prosecute Alice Walton. Instead she basks in the glow of encomiums for the philanthropy enabled by the fortune her father built and boosted by the steady flow of money taxpayers are forced to give her, her relatives and other Walmart investors.

Compared to this taxpayer largesse, Walton philanthropy is small change.

The Walton Family Foundation ranks 22nd in America with $2.2 billion in assets, which may seem large. But Walmart and the Waltons have already extracted that much from the taxpayers this year. In fact they hit about $2.2 billion of taxpayer subsidies on Saturday, April 12, based on the Americans for Tax Fairness report.

The $7.8 billion a year annual cost estimate in the new report is based on a study last year by the House Education and the Workforce Committee Democratic staff. It showed that each Walmart in Wisconsin costs taxpayers between $905,000 and $1.75 million in welfare costs.

Americans for Tax Fairness extrapolated to all the Walmarts in America based on that study and then took into account other costs taxpayers are forced to bear to subsidize the company and, thus, its controlling owners, the Waltons.

The study estimates that if the subsidy costs were divided equally among the company’s 1.4 million American workers, the cost would be $4,415 per Walmart employee.

Welfare for Walmart workers, the Americans for Tax Fairness report says, costs $6.2 billion, making it by far the bulk of the costs taxpayers must bear.

The study estimates that only $70 million is for the use of tax dollars to build Walmart stores, distribution centers and other property provided by the largesse of the taxpayers. That number is small because Walmart has pretty much built out across America.

To date Walmart has probably received $1.5 billion from taxpayers to build and equip stores, distribution centers and other buildings, according to Phil Mattera, research director at Good Jobs First, which on a budget of about $1 million annually has for years dragged out of local, state and federal officials details of how much welfare Walmart gets.

The discounted rates at which dividends are taxed, a policy first put forth by then-President George W. Bush in 2003, save the Walton heirs $607 million in taxes annually, the Americans for Tax Fairness report calculated from company disclosure reports.

One aspect of the report should be regarded with caution.

Americans for Tax Fairness says Walmart saves $1 billion each year by taking advantage of an almost universally used method to deduct the value of new equipment quickly rather than slowly. It is called accelerated depreciation.

That lowers taxes in the early years after an investment is made, but it means higher taxes in later years.  The proper way to measure this is how much less the future taxes are worth because they are delayed between one and 20-plus years. A more realistic figure is probably $100 million, a tenth of what the report says.

Despite this, I used the report’s estimate of accelerated depreciation costing $1 billion annually in calculating how much it costs you to subsidize Walmart and the Waltons.

That caveat presented, the core issue here is why does Walmart need welfare? Indeed, why has welfare become almost universal among large American companies, some of which derive all of their profits from stealth subsidies?

Walmart is far from alone among big corporations that do not depend on what they can earn in the marketplace, but instead extract your tax dollars to juice their profits.

Every big company I know of (except one) not only takes from the taxpayers, but has its hands out for all the welfare it can collect in the form of tax dollars paying for new buildings, exemptions from taxes, discounted electricity, free job training and all sorts of regulatory rules that thwart competition and artificially inflate prices. From Alcoa and Boeing on through the alphabet, America’s big companies – and a lot of foreign-owned companies – are on the dole.

The one exception is Gander Mountain, a chain of retail stores that sells sporting goods, especially for hunting and fishing. It refuses all welfare and once sent a check for $1 million to a municipal agency after being alerted to a hidden subsidy.

Imagine how much more money you would have in your pocket if the Waltons stood on their own proverbial two feet, pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, and gave back all the welfare they have taken year after year after year.

Then ask yourself why you voted for any politician in either party who has not introduced legislation and regulations to stop this and recover that money – with interest.


By: David Cay Johnson, The National Memo, April 14, 2014

April 15, 2014 Posted by | Corporate Welfare, Walmart | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Would Jesus Cut?”: Republicans Should Listen To Pope Francis’ Economic Message

Usually poverty gets less attention from the media than global warming, which gets very little. Now the problem is on the front pages and trending on Twitter. Two weeks ago, Pope Francis issued a plea for income equality, and it was President Obama’s turn to discuss poverty last week.  Underpaid workers are mounting protests against Wal-Mart and the fast food industry. New Jersey, the District of Columbia and many municipalities have recently increased the minimum wage within their jurisdictions.

Middle-class families are mired in debt because their incomes haven’t increased in the last 20 years while college, energy and health care costs have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, economic royalists are reaping the benefits of trickle-down economics as they harvest the lion’s share of income growth.

The concentration of wealth has become such a problem that wealth is even concentrated among the wealthy. In the recent Forbes list of top earners, 6 of the richest 10 Americans were either Kochs or Waltons. You will find a family portrait of the Waltons beside the word selfish in the dictionary. The Walton family makes billions of dollars every year, but they can’t reach deep enough into their pockets to pay the employees at Wal-Mart a living wage.

Two weeks ago, the pope made a strong statement about the evils of poverty. Pope Francis said “trickle down” economics is a “crude naïve belief in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” Francis wasn’t the first pope to weigh in on poverty. In the shade of economic abuses during the industrial age, Pope Pius VIII called for a “living wage” in his 1891 message “Rerum Novarum,” which roughly translates from Latin into English as “On the New World.” The economic deprivations of our time resemble the abuses of that era. Modern conservatives might note that the abuses of the industrial age led to the progressive populist presidencies of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The policies of those two presidents were the foundation of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Pope Francis’s pronouncement was strong enough to generate an attack from Rush Limbaugh, who described the pontiff’s statement as “Marxist dogma.”  Limbaugh should be more careful about calling people names, because if the pope is a Marxist so is Jesus. I don’t know if Rush ever reads the Bible, but he might want to check out the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of St. Matthew. In the sermon, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”.

I went to Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens, in New York City. Flushing was the home of the famous blue collar fictional TV conservative, Archie Bunker. If Archie had had a talk radio show, he would have been Rush Limbaugh. Many of my schoolmates were from families like Archie’s and had the same conservative beliefs.

One of my teachers was Brother Anthony Pepe. Brother Anthony was not preaching to the choir when he taught that the Gospel of St. Matthew was the gospel of social justice. I don’t know if the good brother had an impact on my conservative classmates, but he made a strong impression on me. Jesus made it pretty clear the only people going to heaven were those who cared for the sick, hungry and infirm.

If tea partiers like Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., want to accuse Jesus of waging class warfare, so be it. The flip side of the Gospel of St. Matthew is Ryan’s path to poverty budget. The Ryan budget would decimate social programs crucial to the lives of middle-class families and the survival of poor families. Ryan says his opposition to abortion is based is based on his Catholic faith but he completely ignores his church’s teaching on poverty. I hope he paid attention to his spiritual leader when he spoke about the dangers of “unfettered capitalism” last month.

By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, December 9, 2013

December 10, 2013 Posted by | Pope Francis, Poverty, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Stash Of Riches”: Walmart Getting Ahead On The Backs Of Others

Having been raised in a small-business family and now running my own small outfit, I always find it heartwarming to see hardworking, enterprising folks get ahead.

So I was really touched when I read that, even in these hard times, one extended family with three generations active in their enterprise is hanging in there and doing well. Christy, Jim, Alice, Robbie, Ann and Nancy are their names — and with good luck and old-fashioned pluck, they have managed to build a fairly sizeable family nest egg. In fact, it totals right at $103 billion for the six of them. Yes, six people, 100-plus billion bucks. That means that these six hold more wealth than the entire bottom 40 percent of American families — a stash of riches greater than the combined wealth of some 127 million Americans.

How touching is that?

The “good luck” that each of them had is that they were either born into or married into the Walton family, which makes them heirs to the Walmart fortune. That’s where the “pluck” comes in, for the world’s biggest retailer plucks its profits from the threadbare pockets of low-wage American workers and impoverished sweatshop workers around the world.

Four of the Walton heirs rank as the 6th, 9th, 10th and 11th richest people in our country, possessing a combined net worth of $95 billion. But bear in mind that “net worth” has no relationship to worthiness — these people did nothing to earn their wealth; they just inherited it. And, as Walmart plucks more from workers, the heirs grow ever luckier. In recent years, while the wealth of the typical family plummeted by 39 percent, the Waltons saw their wealth grow by 22 percent — without having to lift a finger.

How odd then that the one-percenters (on in this case, the 1/100-of-one-percenters) are hailing themselves as our country’s “makers,” while snidely referring to workaday people as “takers.” With the Waltons, it’s the exact opposite.

Indeed, you’d think that the Bentonville billionaires would realize that their fortunes are tied directly to these disparages. Apparently, they’re unaware that America’s economic recovery cannot truly be measured in the performance of the stock market but instead should be gauged by the sock market.

Most economists, pundits and politicos see today’s boom in stocks and say: “See, the recovery is going splendidly!” But they should go to such stores as Kohl’s, Target and even the Waltons’ very own Walmart and find out what’s selling. The answer would be socks. Even in the present back-to-school season (usually the second-biggest buying spree of the year), sales are sluggish at best, with customers foregoing any spending on their kids except for socks, underwear and other essentials.

This is not only an economic indicator but also a measure of the widening inequality in America. The highly ballyhooed “recovery” has been restricted to the few at the top who own nearly all of the stocks, get paychecks of more than $100,000 a year and shop at upscale stores. But meanwhile, the many don’t have any cash to spare beyond necessities. Walmart’s chief financial officer seems puzzled by this reality. There is, as he put it last week, “a general reluctance of customers to spend on discretionary items.”

Golly, sir, why are those ingrates reluctant? Could it be because job growth in our supremely wealthy country has been both lackluster and miserly? Yes — jobs today are typically very low paying, part-time and temporary with no benefits. Mr. Walmart-man should know this, since his retail behemoth is the leading culprit in downsizing American jobs to a poverty level in order to further enrich those at the very top, including Christy, Jim, Alice, Robbie, Ann and Nancy. In recent months, corporate honchos at the Arkansas headquarters have directed Walmart managers not to hire at all or to concentrate on hiring temporary and part-time workers, while cutting the hours of many full-time employees

Since the Great Recession “ended” in 2009, Walmart has slashed 100,000 people from its U.S. workforce, even as it added some 350 stores. In addition, while the giant banked more than $4 billion in profit just in the last three months, the chieftains changed the corporate rules to make it harder and costlier for employees to get Walmart’s meager health care plan.

Yet, executives wonder why customers aren’t buying “discretionary” items. Hello — even your own workers can’t afford to buy anything in the store besides socks.


By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, August 28, 2013

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Corporations, Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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