Walmart: Capitalist Icon

Walmart: Capitalist Icon by Peter Burrows 5/5/15

I have Facebook-friended a very liberal friend of mine and it’s been a real education. It seems as though she and I live in different worlds.  Our opinions differ, sometimes 180 degrees, on welfare, national defense, unions, property rights, government spending, education, and all sorts of things.

Perhaps nothing symbolizes our differences more than Walmart, the retail giant liberals love to hate.  She recently shared a post that purported to show how Walmart is scamming America by, first, paying low wages which forces their employees to get food stamps.  Second, Walmart then exploits tax loopholes to avoid paying billions in taxes that support food stamps which are, third, redeemed at Walmart to the tune of an estimated $13 billion a year, from which Walmart reaps “billions in profit –.”

The responses to this posting were very gratifying to those of us who think most liberals are a bunch of emoters who don’t have any brains.  “F— Walmart” responded one.  He went on to add, “I hope the board of directors all get cancer terminal cancer (sic).”  Another: “Close all of them!” Others: “I detest Walmart” – “Add it to my list why I hate Walmart.” – “Walmart just plain SUCKS on SO many levels!” – “Yet another reason why I NEVER enter a Walmart store!”

A couple of quick observations.  First, if there are tax loopholes for Walmart to “exploit,” whose fault is that? Is Walmart doing anything illegal? By the way, Walmart’s tax rate was 32% in fiscal year 2015, amounting to $8 billion in taxes.  Second, Walmart’s after-tax profit margin was 3.37%, which when applied to the estimated $13 billion in food stamps allegedly spent at Walmart, amounts to only $438 million of profits, a tidy sum but not quite the “billions in profit’ the article claims.

More fundamental problems with the article and its responders have to do with their mistaken vision of how the world works.  As someone who has in the last ten years both worked FOR Walmart in a part-time job and now works AT Walmart in a part-time job for one of their vendors (Hallmark), I think I can bring a little reality into their world

First, let me say I didn’t like working for Walmart, and it wasn’t so much the low pay as it was the constant schedule changes that are a fact of life for any 24-7 retailer. Having said that, a young person just starting out who is hard working, conscientious and willing to work a flexible schedule will find Walmart offering better paying opportunities very quickly.

In fact, working for Walmart can be a great career for those with no better, or more pleasant, careers to pursue.  I see the beggars on the highway at the Walmart exit and I have to wonder: Is that what my liberal friends would prefer young people to do?

Still, the retail business is tough, and Walmart is always pushing to get more production out of its workforce. This has led to some veteran employees leaving for better paying or less stressful jobs. One assistant department manager recently approached me about working for Hallmark, but was aghast that her starting pay would be only about $9 per hour.  Since Walmart was paying her $18 an hour, there was no way she’d make that move.

This illustrates a couple of real-world facts the moronic Walmart haters apparently can’t grasp. One, not all the employees at Walmart are low-paid food stamp recipients.  Two, and most importantly, WALMART DOES NOT FORCE ANYONE TO WORK FOR THEM.  Walmart’s employees are free to get better jobs if and when the opportunities arise, something they do all the time. On the other hand, you can bet your bottom dollar that many of Walmart’s critics would use plenty of force to shut down Walmart if they could.

Of course, many of us think any job is better than no job, but that opinion is not shared by “progressives” who think Walmart el al should pay a “living wage.”  Such people are free to invest their own money and to tap into the vast array of progressive billionaires for the capital to start a chain to compete with Walmart, one that would pay what they think is a living wage.  But that would take work. That would mean DOING something, putting a little skin in the game.  Much easier to take the highly visible “I care” moral high ground and simply not shop at Walmart, which only hurts the very employees they are concerned about, or pass living wage laws, which also hurt those very same employees.

Walmart’s critics frequently say that Walmart “creates poverty” with its low paying jobs, but a just released BLS study shows that almost one in five families has NO job holder.  Seems to me that “no job” is more of a poverty creator than a Walmart job, many of which pay pretty well.

In fact, Walmart alleviates poverty.  Years ago, the little Wisconsin town I lived in had the opportunity for a Walmart store but the city leaders turned it down, thinking it would be ecologically damaging and only spread poverty with its supposedly low paying jobs. So I did a little survey comparing the grocery prices at the two local supermarkets vs. those in a Walmart store some thirty miles away.  I didn’t price produce or meat, and I didn’t count anything on sale at Walmart. The result: My basket of goods cost between 14 and 15 percent less at Walmart.

That’s how capitalism works, folks. Competition drives down prices, the customers benefit and the owners of the successful enterprises sometimes get rich.

Question for all those busybody morons who think they are occupying the moral high ground by being Walmart critics:  What have you ever done to help poor people that is even a millionth of the benefit poor people get by buying their groceries at Walmart?

Back to the lady who inquired about working for Hallmark.  Her husband also has a job, and while I don’t know what it pays, I suspect they are doing pretty well.   A two-job family may not fit the Cosmic vision of how the world should work to the Walmart haters, but who made them God?

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