It's Time to Do Something When a Corporation Like WalMart Won't Pay a Living Wage: Or Else We All Pay
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Last week, thousands of fast food workers from across the country walked off their jobs to demand a living wage of $15 an hour. Ever since, the Republican talking point machine has been running on all cylinders.
According to pundits on the right, giving fast food workers or any other workers, for that matter, a $7 or $8 bump to their hourly wages would cut so much into the bottom lines of “job-creators” that business owners would have to either pass the cost of a living-wage onto consumers or simply stop hiring new workers altogether.
But lost among all the noise on the right is one very, very important point: getting tax preferences and limitations on liability to do business in the United States is a privilege, not a right. It’s a privilege that we as a society offer to budding entrepreneurs and big business alike in exchange for goods, services, and jobs.
Look at it this way: when someone opens up a business, they’re entitled to all sorts of special tax breaks that most people can’t get. They can write off fancy meals; they can write off nights stayed at five-star hotels; they can write off airfare to anywhere in the world they do business, or even might do business; and they can even write off any legal expenses they incur when they get busted for breaking the law. Drug dealers who push pot can’t write off their lawyer’s fees, but drug dealers at Big Pharma, even when they lie and break the law in ways that kill people, can - all because they’re incorporated.
All these breaks come in exchange for the company receiving these benefits giving society something back in return. Besides a useful service like selling meals or a good product like a well-made car, the single most important thing a business owner can give back to society is a well-paying job with benefits.
A job that pays a living wage isn’t just good for the workers who get to take home a livable paycheck, it’s good for other business owners and the economy as a whole. Businesses need people with a reasonable income to buy their goods. When workers are paid so little that they can barely afford to eat, they can’t spend additional money and as a result, the entire economy suffers. This is economics 101.
That implicit contract between society and the business owner used to be common knowledge in this country and, until the Reagan Revolution, was kept intact by businesses. Now, however, corporate America has thrown it out the window.
Walmart is the most egregious example. The nation’s largest employer is one big corporate welfare scheme for the company’s executives and the billionaire Walton family.
Walmart makes nearly $35,000 in profit every minute and, as of 2012, its average annual sales stood at $405 billion dollars.
According to Mother Jones, the six Waltons, whose money comes from Walmart, control an estimated $115 billion dollar fortune. In total, that’s more than a staggering 42% of Americans combined.
And where did they get all that money? They took it out of the business instead of paying their workers a living wage.
Thus, at the same time that Walmart executives are raking in the millions and the Walton family’s fortune is ballooning, Walmart employees struggle to get by.
The average Walmart employee makes about $9 per hour, and would have to work over 7 million years at that rate to accumulate as much wealth as the Waltons have. To make matters worse, only some of the company’s employees qualify for its very minimal health insurance plan.