Thoughts on WalMart, America’s Ectoparasite
An ectoparasite is an organism which lives on the exterior of a host’s body, completely dependent up the host for nourishment. WalMart (like corn) is such an organism.
WalMart is one of the world’s most profitable companies. It sells household goods at competitively low prices, while at the same time doling out 20% of its massive earnings to stockholders. It is able to do this by 1) offering bottom of the barrel wages for workers 2) outsourcing manufacturing to China, for basement level prices and 3) lobbying to manipulate government programs and the tax code to enable its business model.
As discussions of walkouts and strikes by WalMart workers rages, WalMart’s stock is doing better than ever.
WalMart’s low wages are, of course, part of it’s business model. Customers go to WalMart to buy goods at low prices. WalMart employees are poorly paid and recieve 10% off of purchases at WalMart, meaning that their wages are simply fed back into the company, creating an awful vicious cycle that cripples local economies.
WalMart depresses wages. Opening a single WalMart can depress the average wage in a county by up to 1%. This effect, of course, is additive. According to a U Berkeley study in 2000:
With an average of 50 Wal-Mart stores per state, the average wages for retail workers were 10 percent lower, and their job-based health coverage rate was 5 percentage points less than they would have been without Wal-Mart’s presence.
Wages in 2012 are even lower. If we repeated the study, we might find that the situation now is even worse.
Besides the more than $1 billion in real tax subsidies that support the opening of new WalMart stores, the federal government picks up the tab for benefits in the form of EBT payments and Medicaid.
One oft repeated right wing mantra is that WalMart workers choose to work there. What happens to them is their own fault. As the entry of WalMart devastates the local business community in rural areas, there really aren’t many jobs to “choose” from anymore. I’ve been through plenty of rural towns where the only employer is WalMart.
The opening of a WalMart has also been shown to increase poverty. Increases in poverty are, in the end, merely shifts of capital, which could go to education or small business ventures, from the group of the bottom to the top.
WalMart bleeds communities dry through schemes that minimize its property tax burden:
This first-ever investigation of Wal-Mart’s local property tax records finds that the retail giant systematically seeks to minimize its payment of taxes that support public schools and other vital local government services. Online appendices with lists of stores and distribution centers examined.
The moral of the story is that local businesses can’t compete, potential entrepreneurs lack capital to start businesses and localities are bled dry of resources to support community investment.
After reading this post, I found that I didn’t develop the idea of WalMart as blood sucking parasite very well, but it’s there anyway.
Tags: average wages, business, economy, real-estate, wal mart stores, walmart stores
About Pete LarsonResearcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.
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Added to the strikes, the most recent news about Walmart, a factory in China that manufactured for Walmart. Fire erupted. Doors were locked. How many died? Walmart denies it knew that this factory was subcontracted for Walmart. But it is their duty to know. Then I found an old piece of news from 4 years ago that a Walmart employee was trampled to death on Black Friday. Yet Walmart and other retailers actually encourage this insane frenzy of shopping.
But not with my dollars!