MIAMI – Almost all of us here in the United States buy at Walmart, even though we know that the store chain is destroying this country’s market. The reason: we can’t avoid buying wherever the goods are cheapest.
Forty-eight percent of the shares of this multinational company is in the hands of one family – the Waltons – which is wealthier than the 48 million poorest families in the United States. So, capitalism suits that dynasty just fine. And, according to the standards of capitalism, the giant’s success is legitimate.
But things are not so simple, and everything indicates that Walmart cheats the system that allows it to grow.
The company pays its employees so poorly that their salaries don’t last the month. Eighty percent of the employees receive food coupons because they go hungry and their wages are not enough to live on.
We know that the coupons for the poor subsidize U.S. agriculture to a great degree. After all, that money comes from the taxpayers, so the government used part of our taxes to give some aid to the underpaid workers. In the end, the subsidized party is Walmart.
If the poor employees try to organize to claim their rights, they confront one of the most powerful union busters in the United States, because the giant is an expert in domestic campaigns against every labor union.
Walmart not only combats any union organization by its employees but also refuses to pay overtime or medical insurance. To make matters worse, it is the Number One recipient of food stamps, so it is subsidized in every way, while apparently offering us cheaper goods.
However we look at them, the relations between Walmart and the government don’t seem to be based on socialism at all, but evidently we’re not looking at a company that’s free and respectful of the market. Rather, we’re in the presence of a monopolist monster created by a corporate state.
Because Walmart pays so poorly, most of its employees subscribe to Medicaid (*) and receive food stamps, which they spend mostly in the stores where they work. As an average, each store receives about $420,000 of our taxes every year as an indirect form of subsidy, thanks to the capitalist formula that privatizes the benefits and collectivizes the costs.
So, in effect, Walmart doesn’t sell its goods so cheaply. What happens is that it’s indirectly swindling society by passing on to the taxpayer all health-care costs and insufficient wages.
(*) Medicaid, a program of medical care for the poorest, benefits about 58 million people in the United States.