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