The Invisible Ripoff

10

March 25, 2009 by Gsmith

A great article from Mother Jones [link] reveals the hidden cost of big business. In essence, corporate megastores rely on government handouts to replace the wealth which they steal from their workers.

the nation’s biggest employers of unskilled labor often leave workers having to feed from the public trough. In 2004, a year in which Wal-Mart reported $9.1 billion in profits, the retailer’s California employees collected $86 million in public assistance, according to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley. Other studies have revealed widespread use of publicly funded health care by Wal-Mart employees in numerous states. In 2004, Democratic staffers of the House education and workforce committee calculated that each 200-employee Wal-Mart store costs taxpayers an average of more than $400,000 a year, based on entitlements ranging from energy-assistance grants to Medicaid to food stamps to WIC—the federal program that provides food to low-income women with children.

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “The Invisible Ripoff

  1. J. Madson says:

    gregoire

    here is a great episode of bill moyers from this week that profiles one activist in chicago and his war with Wal-Mart and other groups.

    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/03272009/profile2.html

  2. Grégoire says:

    Thanks so much for posting that! That was an awesome profile. Tindwa is an interesting guy, and I’ve never heard of him. He brought up a really interesting point about Wal-Mart ruining local economies.

    There’s a town called Nelson near where I live. It’s famous for being the location of various film shoots. Steve Martin filmed Roxanne there.

    Our family has been there regularly on summer vacations. It’s on the shore of Kootenay Lake and used to resemble Park City, with artists and interesting little shops and restaurants all the way down Front Street (the main drag). In the mid-90s Wal-Mart built a huge store right outside the city limits. Every year the city died a little bit. This last summer, we wandered around Nelson and realized that there was nothing really left. Even the big supermarket in Nelson closed up, and moved into space it leased right next to Wal-Mart, on Wal-Mart’s property. The average wage in Nelson now is probably pretty close to the minimum wage (around 8 dollars per hour — which equates to making about 5-6 dollars U.S.). The lake, which is right next to the store, was full of garbage this summer and there was a shopping cart in the water. It would have been funny but it was just sad.

    It’s like they strip-mined the entire town. It happened so slowly Exactly what he was talking about.

  3. Joseph says:

    grants? medicaid? foodstamps? WIC? before we blame WalMart, let’s remember who is robbing from Peter to give to Paul? Big Brother continues to be the enabler. and yes, Big Business continues to take advantage.

  4. Forest Simmons says:

    Joseph,

    The Church used to teach that welfare responsibility priority was
    1. indvidual
    2. family and extended family
    3. church
    4. government

    with government last on the list.

    So it was news to me when I was called as bishop of a ward of mostly working class people that on the needs and resources form that the bishop fills out with the members asking for church assistance, community resources like food stamps are supposed to be added in with family resources before figuring out how much the church should contribute.

    It makes sense: church members pay taxes, too.

    A lot of members of the church haven’t caught up with the leaders’ thinking on this topic.

    My father grew up in the coal mining camps of carbon county, Utah, during the great depression. My mother grew up on a farm in Naples (Vernal) Utah at the same time.

    My mother voted against FDR, and my father voted for him.

    Farmers with land felt that government welfare was not needed; just work hard an take care of your family.

    Landless workers are much more vulnerable to the whimsies of the labor market. In our highly productive system one worker can supply the real needs of fifty people. But our economic system is set up so that when the needs of the people with money are met, end of story. So the remaining workers are used to provide for luxuries of the rich before providing for the needs of the remaining people.

    This is what Jack London learned when he spent a few weeks incognito in London trying to make it on the streets. Read his book: The People of the Abyss.
    It will change your life.

  5. Forest Simmons says:

    Joseph,

    The Church used to teach that welfare responsibility priority was
    1. indvidual
    2. family and extended family
    3. church
    4. government

    with government last on the list.

    So it was news to me when I was called as bishop of a ward of mostly working class people that on the needs and resources form that the bishop fills out with the members asking for church assistance, community resources like food stamps are supposed to be added in with family resources before figuring out how much the church should contribute.

    It makes sense: church members pay taxes, too.

    A lot of members of the church haven’t caught up with the leaders’ thinking on this topic.

    My father grew up in the coal mining camps of carbon county, Utah, during the great depression. My mother grew up on a farm in Naples (Vernal) Utah at the same time.

    My mother voted against FDR, and my father voted for him.

    Farmers with land felt that government welfare was not needed; just work hard an take care of your family.

    Landless workers are much more vulnerable to the whimsies of the labor market. In our highly productive system one worker can supply the real needs of fifty people. But our economic system is set up so that when the needs of the people with money are met, end of story. So the remaining workers are used to provide for luxuries of the rich before providing for the needs of the remaining people.

    This is what Jack London learned when he spent a few weeks incognito in London trying to make it on the streets. Read his book: The People of the Abyss.
    It will change your life.

  6. Joseph says:

    sweet. will read.

    i’ve learned that for every “yay” in church history there has been a “nay”, thus much is left up to my personal feelings towards a principle after much study and prayer. I’m still trying to rationalize jumping in line, but it is VERY tempting, espesh with those $8000 tax credit for first time home buyers on the line…

  7. Grégoire says:

    Dear Joseph,

    Robbery is a very fair word to use. Ever play Monopoly? It was invented by an out-of-work socialist to teach kids about how the world works. Under the rules of the game of Capital, one guy ends up owning everything while everyone else on the board gets turned into the street to starve.

    Most of the dollars you spend contain the stolen wealth. Some of the pennies were stolen from colonies (external – like Iraq, or internal – like Appalachia or California’s central valley). Some of the wealth was stolen from those kids who slaved away making your clothes overseas, etc.

    I’m all for doing away the welfare system entirely, and just restructuring society according to Karl Marx’ idea: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need…

    This is what Jack London learned when he spent a few weeks incognito in London trying to make it on the streets. Read his book: The People of the Abyss.

    So nice to meet another Jack London fan.

    The Iron Heel is good too. 😉

  8. Joseph says:

    Ok. ALthough I’m not sure about Marx’s maxim. Did he imply the use of force? Because to me paternalism is a no-brainer. That’s my interpretation of the War in Heaven.

    Keep it up with the book references. I really do go read the books and digest all this advice I get. I promise not to close my mind to anything.

  9. Grégoire says:

    Hey Joseph,

    You know what I think? Guys like you and guys like me don’t really disagree on as much as we think. We just see the world and define the social, economic and political artifacts in different ways.

    Are you an American? If so, you should be glad. For about years I lived in Canada full time. No such thing in Canada as subsidies for farmers, pell grants, food stamps, etc. In Canada, poor people tend to stay poor.

    Such things don’t exist in Mexico or most of the rest of latin america either.

    Americans in the past had to suffer and bleed for these entitlement programs for many years. It’s not stealing… your grandparents paid for it. Other peoples in other places don’t have these opportunities to break out of the cycle of poverty.

    ALthough I’m not sure about Marx’s maxim. Did he imply the use of force? Because to me paternalism is a no-brainer.

    Marx wrote about force and called it domination. Gramsci wrote about a new form of force called hegemony. The difference is subtle, but it’s there.

    In Marx’s day, if workers protested for better conditions, business and government sent the police and army into the street to murder people until they went back to work like good little sheep. That’s domination.

    Today, the state uses a different form of force. They get the media and the churches and schools to limit what the citizens are supposed to think about. That’s hegemony.

    Both are ‘force’, but they take different forms to the same end.

    That’s my interpretation of the War in Heaven.

    If you read the first book of Acts in the New Testament, you see Jesus’ disciples talking about abolishing private property.

    I’m completely secular but I have many, many friends who are people of faith, who see socialism as not opposed to Christianity, Judaism, or etc. In fact, many religious communities (like the Mennonites) live collectively and have communism as part of their faith itself.

  10. Forest Simmons says:

    Joseph,

    if I read you right, you have nothing against the maxim, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” After all, it is found throughout the standard works in various forms. For example in Mosiah 18:27

    “And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given.”

    What bothers you is what bothers me: taxes are not voluntary, but charity is supposed to be voluntary.

    I pay taxes with mixed feelings. I’m glad for the part that helps people in need and the part that goes for valuable community purposes. I’m sad about the part that encourages the war profiteers and other beneficiaries in the military/pharmaceutical/industrial/congressional combination/complex.

    Most conservatives (like Ron Paul) agree that some form of taxes are justified for the purpose of the national defense against real threats. I believe that throughout written history the biggest actual aggression (not merely threat) has been in the form of economic bullying.

    The rich rob the poor.

    2 Ne. 28: 13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.

    The community needs to make common provision against this economic aggression. Labor unions are a band-aid attempt at solving this problem, but they are about all we have in our present telestial world. At best (when not corrupted and co-opted by big money themselves)they have been severely emasculated by laws bought and paid for by the rich corporations that need a “flexible labor market” to maximize their power and gain.

    When I have more time I’ll write more about the need for some provision (besides the relatively few good “jobs” that occur naturally under capitalism) for keeping the wolf outside the door for the vast majority of people, especially in a society that requires relatively few workers to actually supply the basic needs of the people.

    What kind of jobs are the rest of the people supposed to have? Does capitalism have a natural incentive for paying people to do these jobs?

    If the market determines which of these jobs are funded, then the more bucks you, have the more your opinion matters. We could call that “buck-ocracy” as opposed to democracy, where the decision power is proportional to the number of people backing an idea, not the number of bucks behind it.

    Walmart is able to exploit workers because they can treat their welfare as an “externality,” the same way a coal giant can treat the damage to the environment in their strip mining operations.

    If we must have capitalism, there have to be regulations that make it impossible for corporations to dump these externalities onto the public. But as long as the fines for violation and the necessary bribes for emasculating legislation are less costly than the savings from exploiting the externalities, it won’t happen. And as long as we live under the rules of the Monopoly Game, those bribes will keep those fines low.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 258 other followers

Categories

Archives

%d bloggers like this: