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Wal-Mart: The Ultimate Corporate Welfare Queen

A new project intended to expose Wal-Mart's massive tax-payer subsidies goes right to the heart of conservatives' Big Lie about embracing free markets.
 
 
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Wal-mart Subsidy Watch is new website that came online today to track the millions in corporate welfare that the notorious chain store sucks up each year -- subsidies that help the store that's done so much to downgrade what it means to be an American worker continue to reap healthy profits while keeping its everyday low prices low.

Phillip Mattera, of Good Jobs First and the Corporate Research Project (and an occasional AlterNet contributor) is one of the new site's organizers, and he sent over a press release giving the lowdown on the new project …

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is often accused of growing at the expense of smaller retailers, continues to benefit enormously from state and local government economic development subsidies, including 39 deals worth more than $200 million in just the past three years. This according to Good Jobs First, a non-profit research group which today issued an update of its landmark 2004 report Shopping for Subsidies , which found more than $1 billion in subsidies for Wal-Mart facilities.

Details of the 39 new deals, combined with more than 240 deals from the 2004 report, are available on a new searchable website called Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch ( www.walmartsubsidywatch.org ). The original 2004 Shopping for Subsidies report and other Good Jobs First material can be found at www.goodjobsfirst.org .

The new website also contains a summary of disclosures made by about two dozen states on the number of Wal-Mart workers (or their dependents) who have enrolled in taxpayer-funded healthcare programs such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

"What we said in 2004 still holds true today: Wal-Mart presents itself as an entrepreneurial success story, yet it routinely gets big tax breaks, free land, cash grants and other forms of taxpayer assistance," said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First.

This kind of project is important because it cuts to the heart of conservative's main economic fraud: that they favor "free markets." Economist Dean Baker laid out the importance of challenging that notion in an interview last year. "What the conservatives have done," Baker told me, "is they've rigged the deck. They've made sure that certain people come out ahead, that income flows upward, and that other people are put at a disadvantage -- and these things are built into the rules of the system. And then what they want to do -- in talking about 'free markets' -- is they want to kick back and say, 'No, no, no; those are the rules, and we can't talk about them.' They don't want to talk about how the deck is rigged; they want us to fight over the small scraps."

It's hard to imagine a more obvious example of that than huge Wal-mart racking up the subsidies while rolling over mom-and-pop businesses in communities across the country.

So go take a look at how much lucre Wal-mart's sucking out of your local taxes -- you can search by city and state. And e-mail the results to that ditto-heard neighbor who's always getting on your last nerve bitching about how the gum'mint shouldn't intervene in "free" markets. Put in the subject line: "Apparently, free markets aren't free!"

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.

 
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