The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 November 2005

Always low wages

If there's a corporation people love to hate, it's Wal-Mart, which has been blamed for everything from global warming to the heartbreak of psoriasis. One interesting premise has popped up recently: that taxpayers are essentially subsidizing Wal-Mart because so many of its, um, associates are also drawing some form of public assistance. This should also therefore presumably be true of any comparatively low-wage job, but there's no political advantage in dumping on K mart or Burger King.

One argument I hadn't seen before boils down to it's your own fault for working there:

One of the great mantras of the Left is that Walmart workers who are single parents typically earn less than the poverty level. It is said that they can't live on the low wages paid by the evil profiteering Walmart. One has to ask: if you are a single parent, why are you working at Walmart?! Unless you are management, it is a well known fact that you will not make a living wage working in retail, regardless of what store it is. Or are the crusaders on the Left claiming that anyone can be a single parent and make it by working at Target or Kmart, because those companies pay so much more? Retail is a half step above fast food in that anyone working there is typically a student, a part-timer working their second job or full timer working their household's second job, a retiree, or ... a loser.

If you are working any retail job full time or part-time and you are the sole provider for your household, you are a negligent parent. You are not supporting your family because you have not taken the initiative and responsibility to make sure you have adequate training and skills to get a job that will take care of you and your children.

Actually, this is a relatively recent development. For most of the 1960s and 1970s, it was possible, though probably not particularly enjoyable, to support a family of three on the extant minimum wage. I'd hate to have to try to do that today on $5.15 an hour. For that matter, I'd hate to try to do it on the average $9.68 paid by the Beelzebub of Bentonville, about $20,100 a year. (The official poverty figure for 2005 is $15,067.) Still, I don't consider myself especially effective at managing money; I'm sure there are folks out there far more proficient than I at getting maximum value for their dollars. Some of them might even work at Wal-Mart. (Employee discounts, you know.)

The bottom line is that nobody makes anyone work at Walmart, where they know they will not make a "living wage." Nobody makes anyone have children that they know they can't support before they have them. Nobody makes anyone languish in a dead end job while taking public assistance. Nobody makes anyone vote for Democrats who perpetuate the Welfare State that makes you feel like you can take other people's hard-earned cash in the form of taxpayer-provided benefits without any sense of obligation or responsibility.

Are the Republicans trying to abolish the Welfare State? If they are, they're doing a craptastic job of it.

It is of course true that ultimately you have the responsibility for your own earning capacity. And Oklahoma has some of the best vocational training around, if that capacity seems a bit limited for now. The biggest problem, as I see it, is that the working public doesn't have much of a fallback position: many people are, as the saying goes, one paycheck away from disaster. And the problem with health care is that you get it from your employer, meaning you're stuck with whatever dubious package they got whether it meets your needs or not. (God forbid I should have to buy auto insurance at work.) If there were a sensible marketplace for non-group insurance — but no, let's not go there. Too many gatekeepers have too much to lose, and they won't yield. Meanwhile, I generally prefer to shop at Target, which isn't a workers' paradise by any means either, but which so far hasn't aroused a lot of wrath.

Posted at 3:49 PM to Political Science Fiction

Excellent points; however, I tend to believe that Wal-Mart is a convenient scapegoat.

I think that this is part and parcel of the changes going on in the U.S. as a whole -- we've gone from an industrial country to, bascially, a service industry country. It's been my experience that, no matter what job I have taken, I am largely paid as close to minimum wage as possible and kept on half- or part-time hours so as to avoid paying for any benefits (of which I would have very little money to afford, anyway).

Of course, that's probably the best argument for obtaining your college degree as I've ever seen, hey? ;)

Posted by: Margi at 5:07 PM on 20 November 2005

My pet theory is that WalMart has been playing a major, unsung role in keeping inflation at bay, nationally. There's never been a macro force hacking down prices like WalMart, and other retailers (like Target) reap windfall benefits from their efforts.

Re the Republicans: The real denger to WM is from Democrats. They've been rallying techers against WM here in Jersey. The issue is supposed to be something along the lines of fair wages, but what the Dems really are keen to do is get unions into WM so that they can expand their power base.

My Jersey buddy Ken Adams covered this, for anyone interested:

Here, here, and here.

Posted by: Mr. Snitch! at 5:10 PM on 20 November 2005

ah yes... just what we need, more people to defend large corporations from the politically powerless while they conveniently ignores the half trillion we spend every year supporting those corporations and their shareholders.

Posted by: bruce at 7:42 PM on 21 November 2005

... well said Bruce.

Power to the People :)

Posted by: Ron at 8:10 AM on 22 November 2005

What a bunch of woosies why dont they get a life and stop being such pains in the backside

Posted by: spurwing plover at 5:19 PM on 24 November 2005

See the video of Black Friday on the news? People trampling each other to get into WalMart. For all the anti-WalMart yowling from the self-righteous minority (and of course those who just want to put a gun to the corporation's head and extract cash, all in the name of "the people"), that's called voting with your feet.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! at 11:39 PM on 25 November 2005

ah yes, Bruce... just what we need, more people to attack large corporations who will not retaliate, accusing others of sycophancy while they seek sycophantic praise themselves. (The fact is, anyone standing up to for a WalMart knows they will be the subject of wheezing, ad hominem attacks, while anyone attacking such a corporate giant knows they will find vocal cheerleaders while suffering zero retaliation from these companies. How courageous these corporate attackers are!)

Bruce conveniently ignores the millions of unskilled a corporation such as WalMart gainfully employs. (Hence the government support, as anyone who really understands government will attest. If WalMart fails, it's financial ruin for millions of employees - and disaster for government at all levels. Yes the rich get richer. Capitalism.)

Bruce conveniently forgets (putting this in your own terms, Brucey-boy, you like?) that being 'unionized' does not guarantee anything (i.e., GM), and offers no alternative solutions besides 'pay them more'. No, 'pay them more' means FEWER jobs - or a company that goes kaput. 'Bad pay' means get what you need to find another job, or make the best of what you have.

Anyway, WalMart will certainly survive the likes of Bruce. It doesn't need me to defend it, either. However, as someone who has hired people for my own business and seen the substantial difference that can make in someone's life, I do tend to stand up for (any) employer against, well, self-serving yahoos who come and go in this world without leaving a mark on it.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! at 12:05 AM on 26 November 2005