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PORTSIDELABOR  November 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDELABOR November 2012, Week 3

Subject:

Pushed Over the Fiscal Cliff by Wal-Mart

From:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 19 Nov 2012 21:37:06 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (158 lines)

Pushed Over the Fiscal Cliff by Wal-Mart 

by Al Norman

November 19, 2012
Huffington Post Business

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/al-norman/pushed-over-the-fiscal-cl_b_2150767.html

Was it Bill Clinton who inserted Wal-Mart on President Obama's
short list for Fiscal Cliff discussions at the White House
recently?

Clinton promotes Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke like the late Sam
Walton used to push Moon Pies. But it's hard to imagine Barack
Obama suffering through a meeting with Duke, who personifies
the 1% corporate power-broker, and whose store managers warned
Wal-Mart "associates" in 2008 that a Senator Obama in the
White House would favor the unions. Ironically, now its Duke
who is in the White House.

After meeting with the President, Wal-Mart's CEO issued a 216-
word statement that was equal parts arrogance and ignorance.
The Walmart Statement on Fiscal Cliff Meeting with President
Obama included the following dictums:

"In many ways, Wal-Mart's customers are at the center of this
debate." Why? Because there are 19 million of them every day?
Discount shoppers represent no social movement or coherent
vision of America---but because they are the only people who
can move Wal-Mart's stock price--they are the focus of
everything Wal-Mart says.

"Walmart Moms tell us their confidence in the economy is
shaped by whether they believe Washington is working for
them." Wal-Mart loves it that political pollsters have created
this demographic that bears the retailer's name. But every
demographic group in the country thinks that more
Congressional gridlock is intolerable, and that the government
is not "working for them." But ask these same people if the
Walton Family is working for them?

Wal-Mart Moms might not be pleased to learn that according to
the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. trade deficit with
China, between 2001 and 2006, eliminated 1.8 million U.S.
jobs---and Wal-Mart's trade deficit with China alone
eliminated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs. Wal-Mart was responsible
for 11% of the growth in the U.S. trade deficit during this
period.

"Our customers are working hard to adapt to the 'new normal,'
but their confidence is still very fragile. They are shopping
for Christmas now and they don't need uncertainty over a tax
increase." In other words, don't ruin the holiday spirit for
our shoppers with all this talk about falling off a Cliff.
Sure, customers are "fragile," because many have had to trade
down a decent-paying job for a Walton Job. A recent study by
the Investigative Reporting Workshop notes that U.S. factory
jobs dropped by 44% from 21 million jobs in 1979, to 11.7
million manufacturing jobs in 2011.

Walton Jobs lock hundreds of thousands of workers at the
poverty level. Wal-Mart needs an underclass of workers who are
financially desperate enough to work part-time for $8.90 an
hour. These people aren't worried about the Fiscal Cliff---
they have already gone over it by working at Wal-Mart.

A 2011 research brief by the Center for Labor Research and
Education at UC Berkeley concluded that "jobs created by Wal-
Mart in metropolitan areas pay less and are less likely to
offer benefits than those they replace...Wal-Mart workers earn
an estimated 12.4% less than retail workers as a whole, and
14.5% less than workers in large retail."

The same report concluded that if Wal-Mart paid its workers
$12 per hour and passed on the entire cost of that wage
increase to customers, the average Wal-Mart shopper would pay
46 cents more per shopping trip. The workers would receive as
much as $6,500 in an average annual pay increase--which they
would no doubt spend in their local economy to pay their rent,
food and utility bills.

Part of the 'new normal' in a Wal-Mart economy is that fewer
people are working, and they are working for less. The
National Bureau of Economic Research found that a Wal-Mart
store opening reduces county-level retail employment by about
150 workers, and each Wal-Mart worker replaces approximately
1.4 retail workers at other merchants.

"We encourage the White House and Congress to work together on
an approach that includes additional revenue, comprehensive
tax reform, and spending cuts, including entitlement reforms,
to get our fiscal house in order while creating economic
growth." Keep in mind that the man writing this was paid $18.1
million by Wal-Mart in 2011, not counting the use of a company
plane---a perk valued at around a $100,000.

What kind of "entitlement reforms" would Wal-Mart want? They
certainly don't want to shrink Medicaid, because in states
that have published data on corporate use of Medicaid, Wal-
Mart consistently places at the very top of private companies
with the most employees and dependents who rely on taxpayer-
supported Medicaid health care. Similarly, cutting Medicare
and forcing elders to pay more out-of-pocket for health care
is going to reduce their discretionary spending at Wal-Mart.

Social Security should not be on Wal-Mart's entitlement reform
list, because it's a Trust Fund. That distinction is likely to
be lost on Mike Duke, who, because of the cap on Social
Security wages subject to the payroll tax, contributes based
on only 2.6% of his $4.18 million in base salary and cash
performance bonus. His $13.1 million in stock awards is not
subject at all to the payroll tax. Duke pays the same FICA tax
as someone earning $110,100. In the first 10 days of the year,
Mike Duke hits the cap on Social Security taxable income---the
rest of his work year is tax free. So any "reforms" on Social
Security should start with people like Mr. Duke (and the much
richer Waltons, whose unearned income is not taxed by Social
Security) paying their fair share to help today's retired
workers.

"Washington needs to find an agreement to avoid the fiscal
cliff." Wal-Mart could help that agreement by changing its
business model from one of rampant exploitation of its workers
and vendors, to one that keeps product sourcing and jobs in
America, offers a liveable wage to its workers, and calls upon
families like the Waltons to pay their fair share in taxes.

If America goes over the Fiscal Cliff, we will find Wal-Mart
waiting or us at the bottom with a check-out register.

[Al Norman has been helping communities fight big box sprawl
for 19 years. He is the founder of Sprawl-Busters. His most
recent book is Occupy Walmart. You can follow him on
Twitter @SprawlBusters.]

[Many thanks to the author for sending this to Portside.]

==========

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PortsideLabor aims to provide material of interest to
people on the left that will help them to interpret the
world and to change it.

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