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Walmart’s Low Prices Bear a High Cost for America

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For untold millions, Walmart is not simply a place to shop, but the place. Considering that the quintessential big-box retailer claims to, and often does, offer just about every conventional item necessary for the family at an affordable price, this should be none too surprising. However, at what cost does this convenience come, and in the grander scheme of things, is what Walmart has to offer really convenience at all? The company’s ownership would most definitely say so, as would throngs of eager consumers. Many economists, social scientists, and former employees, though, have a strikingly different opinion. While one can choose to believe whichever side of the argument he or she likes best, where do the facts lie?

First and foremost, it should be known that every single American taxpayer is essentially footing the bill for Walmart’s mere existence. According to Reuters, this is because, as a study published last year by the City University of New York’s Hunter College Center for Community Planning showed, company employees receive inadequate health insurance coverage and in turn are left with few other options than to apply for public assistance. Beyond providing a lack of medical benefits, Walmart’s presence in most regions, says the study, “Depresses area wages….pushes out more retail jobs than it creates, and results in more retail vacancies.”

Across New York City, especially in the borough of Brooklyn, a groundswell of activism has resulted in widespread hostility toward any Walmarts breaking ground. Such a pressing issue has accomplished a rare feat: putting businesses, public officeholders and private citizens on the same side of an argument.

Speaking to Reuters, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has referred to the opening of a Walmart as being a “Trojan horse.” He went on to say that though Walmart is, “Appealing to a lot of families who are hurting….it turns into a big problem in the long term because of the net elimination of jobs.” Mark Tanis, the proprietor of a local shopping center, is more blunt, “[Walmart] would be a disaster. It would have a detrimental impact on our area.” Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo questioned the validity of their concerns, claiming that the establishment of Walmarts around New York City would bring economic revival and better opportunities for grocery shopping. The Walmart corporate apparatus believes that the Center for Community Planning report which lent credence to many New Yorkers’ fears is based upon “randomly selected statements from….flawed studies.”

In addition to its economic controversies, many harbor ill will toward Walmart for another reason: its company policies pertaining to treatment of employees. According to BusinessWeek senior writer Anthony Bianco in his 2007 book Wal-Mart: The Bully of Bentonville: How the High Cost of Everyday Low Prices is Hurting America, the superstore pays its workers an average hourly wage of $9.68, well below the national retail worker’s average of $12.28. Starting wages are even lower.

With all of these problems brought into the equation, one might wonder how Walmart’s competitors stack up in comparison. Jim Stinson, a writer for northwest Indiana’s Post-Tribune, set out to find the answer during the summer of 2006. He discovered that Walmarts in his vicinity actually paid less than most others from coast to coast do, compensating floor workers at roughly $7 per hour. Target, a decidedly higher end retailing giant, had a starting salary of $7.50. Menards, a midwestern home improvement chain, paid $8.50, a noticeable increase from either Walmart or Target. All of them pay their workers better than Staples, the nationwide big box office supply powerhouse, where the average wage is a paltry $6.05 for new employees. But all four are topped by Costco, perhaps America’s most prominent string of discount warehouses. Costco’s base hourly salary rings in at a respectable $10 an hour.

Local politicians also look past big box retailers’ financial figures at other important factors such as hiring policy and whether the jobs offered were full or part time. Both of these were key to public officeholders fearing that new stores designed for a one-stop-shopping experience might drive out older community oriented businesses owned and patronized by their constituents.

Dan Klein, as mayor of Crown Point, asked a poignant question, “What value do [big box stores] bring to a community?” Klein went on to say, “When it starts to affect quality of life and community, I don’t agree with it.” His counterpart in the neighboring town of Chesterton and a majority of the town council apparently asked themselves a similar question, concluding that the social price tag of big box retailers simply is not worth the time or effort. They rejected plans for big box development and, as of Stinson’s article’s publication, had few regrets.

This still leaves the question of how Walmart compares to its opposite numbers in terms of labor selection and benefits. The stark reality is that a broad share of persons seeking jobs at big box chains tend to be young, undereducated, and struggling financially. Most big box employers tend to hire as many part time workers as possible in order to their overhead at a minimum. Walmart is by far the worst offender, by some accounts the most aggressive, but has no shortage of competitors at its heels.

Target does not offer health insurance to most of its part timers, and full time Target employees must pay stiff premiums for it. Costco employees, on the other hand, pay very low premiums, and as a result, its worker turnover is low. The policy was set by Sol Price, the founder of Price Club, (which was merged into Costco) a pioneer of the big box discount warehouse concept, and a lifelong advocate of left-leaning economics. Target’s and Menards’ policies are closer to Walmart’s, resulting in lower profit margins, always a concern for shareholders.

It would be very difficult for me to say that Walmart is a uniformly terrible institution. It provides scores of men and women with the very thing that they need most: a job. However, it would be equally difficult for me to say that it has been anything remotely resembling positive for the American economy as a whole. There has never been another business entity like it, and it’s doubtful that another competitor capable of giving it a run for its money will appear. Walmart is simply too big and too powerful to be toppled; it is the poster child for capitalism without true competition. No government quota or anti-monopoly law could possibly halt the remarkable progress Walmart has made over the last several decades. It has become not just a shopping center, but a cultural icon. This is a fact for the better or the worse, and in my opinion, most definitely the latter.

Assuredly, we can count on seeing those low prices at high expense for years to come.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • We really need to make considerable investments in the electronic infrastructure so that workers can utilize the internet as an income producing source. We are not there yet although the technology is becoming more affordable with every passing day.

    With regard to health care, we are still in the disease management mode rather than the health and wellness mode. This country simply will not take the required steps to get rid of junk food in order to create a cheaper health care system for all.

  • MomShopsElsewhere

    Please stop shopping at this monster. Continue to spread the word about how dangerous it is to allow it to ruin America.

  • Mark

    I worked for WalMart for a period of time a long time ago. In fact, it’s been 10 years since I left the company. Not so long ago I was back in the store I had worked at and was talking to one of the few employees that was still there from my time there. She tells me that WalMart is pushing to make everyone they can part time and is finding any way to push out full time people — only so they don’t have to provide benefits. She tells they fired a number of full time people in the weeks prior finding any reason they could to fire them.

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least. The company does not care at all about the people who work for them. Instead it’s focus is on the bottom dollar and the bottom dollar only. The company doesn’t seem the people who work for them as people — they see them as replaceable.

    Everyone needs to do themselves a favor and NOT shop at WalMart.

  • Reuters and the liberal denagrate agrat corporation with pure unadulterated lies and garbage. God bless WalMart they have done FAR more good for America than the unprincipled demagogic unions are doing now.

  • MittRomney

    Smoke weed everyday

  • ghostbuddy

    So walmart can provide identical services in a region with fewer employees, and thats seen as a bad thing? By that logic the agricultural revolution or any revolution in society for that matter was a bad thing , because the increased efficiency (temporarily) displaced workers. The only thing more despicable than the belief that employers have an unavoidable responsibility to pay for their employees healthcare, is the belief that workers should depend on their boss to provide them with healthcare. Thats the ironic part, you talk about workers rights but your suggesting bosses have more power over their employees. If you want you fight the

  • Brian Macker

    Stop voting for idiot politicians that make taxpayers pay for other people’s problems and you’ve solved the issue. It’s not Walmart’s fault the government likes to redistribute income.

  • Robert

    Communities have every right to control what type of stores they have locally — they can keep out Walmart and the “big box” stores.

    Of course, the result will be people will leave the local area and go to the Walmart in the next town, taking revenue out of the local economy and injecting it into a neighboring one.

    Also, understand that there is a far greater number of shoppers than employees — making all these shoppers pay an extra 10 bucks per trip is far more harmful to the local economy.

    Efficiency can be hard to deal with — people had issues with the Agricultural Revolution — people had problems with the Industrial Revolution … both where considered dehumanizing at some level (and rightfully so)…

    Yet, the dumbest thing we could possibly do as a country already falling behind on the world stage is to try to encourage inefficiency and waste.

  • Edward

    Local governments should make any store over 50,000sqft and over 100 employees have medical facilities including a doctor and nurse, and open to the public if they haven’t provided medical insurance for their employees.

  • ghostbuddy


    If you want to fight for wider access to healthcare services go after the patent system , and the 19th century education system that is responsible for a healthcare professional bottleneck. I can get access to more university lectures, textbooks, and far more interactive educational material on the internet for free than I could ever find in an actual university. Why can’t I jump through some hoops to prove I know what I know, inorder to get accredited? The question shouldn’t be why does Walmart pay its employees so little, but why do employees continue to work for walmart despite low wages ? A lack of alternative jobs, rising tuition costs, barriers to entry preventing them from starting their own buisness, etc. Those are the real problems, solve those and you’ll stop wages from depreciating. If jobs are scarce and the unemployed are abundant, worker bargining power decreases, and wages decline. This Walmart witch hunt has to stop, at its worst it is a clear, visible, symptom of a far larger problem. At its best it is one of the most economically efficient retailers in the world, that gives its customers a huge consumer surplus.

  • Jack W


    Your education problems aside, a big part of the problem with Wal-Mart is the market in which they operate. A few regulations, like the kind that helped America move away from a robber baron economy into a more middle class based one, could be implemented to level the playing field without hurting Wal-Mart’s bottom line too much. The Walton family has multiple billionaires all of whom are adding to their outrageous personal net worth year after year on the backs of those at the bottom of their chain who they rely on but endlessly squeeze.

    We can’t “punish success” with taxes, so why should the successful be allowed to punish their workers by holding their rights hostage, closing stores at the mention of unions, better wages, healthcare, etc?

    Labor rights need to make a strong comeback in this country or we are doomed to a repeat of 1920-30’s style recession, where people truly are starving/grifting/conning and we have bread lines and riots.

    It’s great to be successful, but when you hoard wealth to the point of obscenity while denying wages/healthcare/benefits just because you can, well, you become an easy target. Just read the article, CostCo *does* the things WalMart can and should do, it’s not some unreachable goal for them. The Walton family is just disgustingly unfair with their policies, and people are starting to notice. Nemesis has taken flight and cast his shadow over anti-egalitarian capitalism.

  • Jack W

    *her shadow.

  • I shop at Wal-Mart as seldom as possible because, no matter how low the prices are, I always come away feeling as if I need to take a shower.

    The people who shop there can be a source of amusement, but the people who work there often seem miserable. I can see why, but I don’t need a shopping experience like that.


    And the majority of their items are made in China…not America…just remember, you get what you pay for!!!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    Me too. I deliberately choose to shop at Lowe’s and Fred Meyers and the Navy Exchange even though I know I’m going to pay more and even though the first two are not much better…but I avoid Wal-Mart whenever I can.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And it’s interesting that this article has brought quite a few whose names I don’t recognize. Good to see!

  • Zen Munster

    Sorry but seriously, this is what capitalism is. You asked for it and you got it. You can’t cry about Walmart screwing other businesses because they offer the same products for cheaper.

    And the argument that they are not good employers is also hollow. If people don’t like them and the benefits they provide, then don’t to work for them. It’s simple, this isn’t bonded labor; just quit and go work for some other retail chain. You can’t cry about there not being other jobs because then you should be happy that you have a job to begin with. It’s all about supply and demand.

    Free market forces and competitive advantage will decide who comes out on top and who is the government to say otherwise? Since when did America become a socialist country?

  • Ronald

    I shop at Wal-Mart as often as possible.

    I also have worked for Wal-Mart between real jobs and have had a wonderful experience. Also, without union interference I was able to negotiate my pay as there was very few skilled people in my position. If you are wondering I worked in the Automotive Center.

    Also, This article bring almost no proof of any of its claims. It makes 1 reference to a study done by City University of New York’s Hunter College Center for Community Planning. A group who after looking at the website seems to be extremely biased just based on a few articles in the “Recent news” section.

    Clearly, the problem isn’t Wal-Mart its the government. You remove government from the equation and you will find that healthcare cost being burdened on taxpayers isn’t the result of Wal-Marts corporate policy.

  • J Henry

    Just look at the employees dental condition and tell me you feel good shopping there

  • Igor

    I shop about every other month at Walmart but I actually buy almost nothing. Most people buy a lot of their food, but I buy almost nothing. Frankly, I can’t even understand how people can make meals out of the Walmart products since they are all packaged, frozen, dryed, preserved and otherwise perverted. Walmart has NO basic appeal to me since I prepare fresh foods at home. Usually I take some of their trail mix, which is about as good as anyone elses, and a box of saltines, which will last a month.

    There are two excellent neighborhood hardware stores nearby which always have what I want, and even a slightly elevated price doesn’t matter.

    Who needs walmart?

  • Dana Everson

    As a truck driver who has delivered to many a Walmart Distribution Center, I find you article a little lacking in fact and information. There are a lot more employees than just those that work in the stores. From warehouse people to their own fleet of trucks, Walmart employs many full time employees and the ones that I talked to at the Distribution centers are full time with good benefits and compensation. There has been and always will be young people that need a job. There are also the under educated that are not equipped to work anywhere except at the “big box” stores or fast food joints. Good benefits and pay are based on the job. They are not a right, they are earned. To condemn Walmart or any of the other big box stores for low wages and poor or non existent benefits is asinine. I don’t think anyone is holding a gun to anyone’s head and making them take the job.If you don’t like the pay, find another job. Stop trying to justify the entitlement mentality of the left wing that thinks every employer has to pay a union scale wage with a cadillac benefit package. If you don’t like entry level wages, get educated, get a better job, take responsibility for your own life and quit looking for someone else to take care of you.

  • D. Senate

    I don’t know why the author of this article doesn’t go to his local Walmart and hire one of it’s employees full or part time, for a year, on whatever terms are mutually agreeable.

    The author of this article may thereby start a revolution, a real competition for who will pay present Walmart employees the most for their work.

    Then “first and foremost” because of this author’s encouragement by example Walmart will no longer be able to rely on taxpayers for it’s existence.

    I look forward to the author’s possible follow up article, don’t you?
    Posted by D.Senate

  • D. Senate, I didn’t realize that in order to be critical of a corporation in this country one had to become its competitor.

    Is this like when someone says it’s thanks to the military that you have the freedom to criticize the war in Afghanistan, so you should shut up?

    Next time we hear you bemoaning the poor form of a football team, can we expect you to buy out the contract of one of its players and start your own team?

  • Rob

    They can fall. The same was said about woolworths.

  • D. Senate

    Dr. Dreadful:
    I’m sorry it’s also easy not to realize I was suggesting it’s lack of competitive demand for workers that is the primary economic principle responsible for the worker misery you alluded to in your comment above (#13).

    It’s also easy not to realize you don’t have to become a Cosco or even a retailer to compete for Walmart’s employees.

    You just need to come up with something to help workers create more value by worker contribution . . . and then follow up on your approach.

    But hey, now you’ve got me Dreadful of Walmart.

    At least I’m still working on the FreedomIncomeTax.

  • … but those prices! They’re soooo good!

  • Clavos

    Who needs walmart? you ask. And yet at the beginning of your comment you admit you shop there at least every other month. Which is it, Igor?

    I’ve never purchased so much as a stick of gun at a Wal-Mart; I don’t shop there, and in my lifetime I’ve been to a Wal-Mart fewer times than I have fingers, always only accompanying a friend.

    Like Doc, I feel I have to take a bath after visiting one of those stores; in honor of its customer base, it should be renamed Creep-Mart.

  • C&T

    Irresponsible journalism is the only way to describe this article. Beyond the factual errors (National avg consumer retail wage is NOT over $12.00 go look at Dept of Labor SIC data.) almost every company is tax subsidised to some degree. Aldi, Home Depot, Lowes, Kroger, Safeway, ALL have employees using public assistance.

    The author complains about job losses. That is the indirect consequence of productivity. Only union shills are against worker productivity gains. It hurts their dues collection plans.

    Wal-Mart wages and benefits are better than most retailers. There is no legal, moral, ethical, financial, or economic reason for Wal-Mart to pay higher wages.

  • S.T.M

    I must admit to having shopped at Wal-Mart while I was in the US. At the time, a pair of Levi’s in Australia cost about 90 bucks … yes, that’s US dollars. Also, I believe the ones you got in Oz were made in HK back in the 80s and 90s. So I went to Wal-Mart and picked up the real deal for, from memory, about 30 or so dollars a pair. They also had lots of different leg and waist sizes, so you got a good fit, whereas the ones I got in Oz had two leg sizes. regular and long. When I had a 30-inch waist, that was fine, but if there was any deviation ABOVE that, you could never get ’em exact.

    I did go in to the jeans section of Wal-Mart, bought the jeans, and got out of there quick along with a few Hanes T-shirts. Hanes weren’t sold in Oz at the time, and the Aussie equivalent, Bonds, which were also a slightly different style, weren’t as good IMO.

    So, yeah, Wal Mart was good back then for buying American-made stuff. I’m sure the Levi’s and the Hanes are now made in China. Which if true, is pretty sad …

  • What has worker productivity got to do with Walmart’s retail employees. As to the shitload of merchandise they offer, it’s of such piss-poor quality one would have to be ashamed of themselves to be an employee on the assembly line which manufactures such garbage.

    I’d rather to without than avail myself of a Walmart product, but the typical American consumer never had any class.

  • Clavos

    Interesting typo in my #27:

    “stick of gun should, of course, be “stick of gum.”

    [Paging Dr. Freud]

  • zingzing

    stm: “I’m sure the Levi’s and the Hanes are now made in China. Which if true, is pretty sad …”

    well, i dunno about levi’s, but hanes is actually headquartered (and manufactures) in good ol’ winston-salem, nc. home of hanes underwear and rjr cigarettes. so you can laze about and smoke your fuckin’ cigarettes in your fuckin’ underwear on the cheap.

  • jamminsue

    Joseph, Right on! I wrote a piece on Wal-Mart awhile back, and found some intersting stuff.

    This is not the only big box that does this, but its the one which many like to bash, and one reason its easy is because its records ae easily accessible.

    Compare Wal-Mart to Seattle-based Costco, which also is well-documented to see how a big box can be successful and still be good to its employees, suppliers and community.

    I’m not suggesting Costco is perfect, but it’s a long ways from the rapacious Wal-Mart.

  • jamminsue

    Zen, what planet do you live on? I do not mean to be ride, but really? Wal-Mart is, in some towns, the one only a few retail employers, it empoys more people thatn any other company in the US, I think except the Post Office, and where do you think all those people would find work?

  • Katinohio56

    We live in a small town in the Midwest – the closest bookstore is now over 50 miles away. The selection of goods in the Walmart stores is quite minimal. So sad. Shop locally and keep your local businesses in business!

  • Nope

    The problem is that there are not really any middle class jobs anymore. They’re all either entry level or 30+ years experience, which results in people like myself (graduated college in 05) having to work an entry level job because that is the only type available that they are qualified for (as they don’t have the experience required for the higher end jobs). So you wind up with people either really overqualified or really underqualified. This is why our economy is in the toilet. We have decided that we need to make the poor poorer and the rich richer and eliminate the middle class entirely. Well the middle class is who drives the economy and that’s why it’s failing.

  • Nope

    And minimum wage needs to be double what it is now. That’s another reason our economy is in the crapper.

  • Johnny Briggs

    When Mom & Pop start selling Mac and cheese for $0.58 I’ll shop there.

  • how good can the mac and cheese be at 58 cents?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dana –

    If you don’t like entry level wages, get educated, get a better job, take responsibility for your own life and quit looking for someone else to take care of you.

    Try doing so when you’re doing two jobs trying to feed, clothe, and shelter a family…and it’s not just Wal-Mart, either – 41% of all teachers in Texas now have to moonlight to make ends meet…so if you think teachers aren’t doing a good job, maybe that’s one reason why.

  • Igor

    How the heck can so many unemployed people do these things?

    “If you don’t like entry level wages, get educated, get a better job,…”

    Nowadays you need some feed money to get an education, even at a community school. Assuming you’ve got someplace to live and some food money.

    And how do you get a ‘better job’ in this environment?

    My friend Jimmy, about 40, unemployed for a year, living with his mom (and driving her car to interviews, since he parked his truck months ago to save money) has investigated ‘education’ because he thinks maybe he can dig up $4000 among his extended family to go to school if it’s promising, but now there are ‘schools’ going broke with worthless coursework around here. Leaving their erstwhile students high and dry, with their money gone and no credentials.

    Of course, our determined enemies of regulation have prevented proper certification of these schools that are popping up all over. And none of the crooks go to jail.

  • Kristian

    I disagree with most of the article. I will tackle one issue in this post.

    You talk a lot about how little the wages are at Walmart (and its competitors) and how they don’t pay out benefits. Specifically, you state that “a broad share of persons seeking job at big box chains tend to be young, undereducated, and struggling financially.”

    Yes, there are plenty of underskilled and undereducated people out there (myself included to some extent). What’s the best way for them to learn practical skills and start their ascent? By getting a job!

    If it’s only worth $5 to pay a teenager to flip burgers or checkout people at Walmart, then that’s all it’s worth! If you put the minimum wage at $10, then that just means that the employer can only hire one person instead of two, or hire someone with a skill level closer to $10/hr. Why do you think poor minority unemployment is so high? Precisely because most of them are young, undereducated, and struggling financially. Rather than languish among the unemployed or barely-employed for the rest of their lives, why don’t they get a cruddy starting job and then have an opportunity to work their way up?

    I recommend reading Thomas Sowell on this issue. He articulates it very clearly.

  • S.T.M

    The minimum wage in the US is a disgrace.

    It’s $US14 an hour in Australia, with more people in work (less unemployment, Kristian). That is also topped up by penalty pay rates for evening/night and weekend/public holiday shifts, so a minimum wage worker working on a Sunday evening, say, can earn $US30 an hour.

    And most of the companies in Oz paying these wages aren’t going broke. The opposite, in fact.

    The country is doing pretty well too compared to where the US is right now. IMO, that kind of kills any argument in relation to this because there’s cause and effect here that impacts quite dramatically in terms of living standards, where to draw the line between good profits and taking advantage of a workforce, and the functioning of society in general – in particular the closing of the huge gap in the US between haves and have-nots.

    I agree … get a cruddy job and start at the bottom and work your way up, but at $5 stinking an hour, what’s the point. What the f.ck can you do on that. Barely feed yourself, I’d think, let alone pay rent and bills and run a car (if you can afford to get one that doesn’t look like it’s just come from the finish line of a smash-up derby).

    This is what’s sending America down the chute. It’s the gross inequality. Somewhere in there, between the $5 an hour and the mulyibillionaires paying next to no tax, there’s a happy medium that can be shared by everyone.

    People getting paid a living wage tend to be loyal employees, they work harder, produce more and they see a future for themselves. Anyone spending a year on $5 an hour is likely to be none of those.

    Unfortunately, Americans who’ve never been to other western civilised social democracies can only draw on their own skewed view of how all this works because they don’t have the benefit of seeing the opposite working well somewhere else.

    No wonder in the socially depressed parts on the US (which these days is an awful lot of the US, sadly), people get caught in the spiral of poverty, crime, and substance abuse. At $5 an hour, how would anyone see any way out?

    Choose between $5 an hour flipping burgers and living in abject poverty, and $500 an hour selling crack, or stealing cars? What other choice would there be, apart from joining the military.

    The other sad part about that is that there would be people who might go down the wrong path of crime and welfare who would be willing to live as law-abiding citizens, tax-paying citizens if they could nail a wage, even a decent minimum wage, that would at least put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

    Contrast that with the boys’ club of CEOs earning multimillion corporate packages, running companies that on most days run themselves, many of whom were the ones who drove the US and global economies into the ground in the first place.

    Something stinks, and it doesn’t take much to fix it. A bit less money at the top would hire a few more people at the bottom, or at least pay them a decent wages.

    And the more money people at the bottom of the tier have to spend, the more jobs are created because spending power is increased across the board.

    Sometimes I wonder whether some Americans forget that they actually live in a country, not in an economy.

  • Hi Stan, Good to see you back around the place.

    You make several good points but there is an even bigger point to be made around the appalling low wages paid by businesses like Walmart, McDonald’s and Starbucks.

    As this Business Insider article makes clear, it isn’t the loss of manufacturing jobs but the loss of well paying jobs that is the problem. It is also not the case that these businesses need to pay low wages either.

    The article is well worth reading but here is just one brief extract: “Walmart, McDonald’s, and Starbucks employ about 3 million people (not all Americans). They also collectively generate about $35 billion of operating profit per year. If the companies took, say, half of that operating profit and paid their employees an extra $5,000 apiece, it would make a big difference to the employees and the economy. The companies would still make boatloads of money, and the employees’ compensation would finally be above the poverty line”.

    As an add on question, do their wage policies actually make these businesses anti-American?

  • STM

    Yes, Rosey, I’d say they do. The wages paid in America in some service industries are truly a disgrace. The minimum wage in the US is even more of a disgrace. I know it can differ from state to state, but I understand it doesn’t get above about $8 an hour. I have heard stories of wait staff being paid a paltry $4 an hour and depending on tips, which in the current circumstances aren’t always forthcoming.

    It’s OK to pay kids a low wage I reckon, although it at least should give them something half decent for their efforts, but adults should be getting something they can actually live on.

    You can understand why the Howard government got voted out in this country when they took away the courts’ powers to decide on wages and gave all the power back to employers.

    Their catchcry: “You can trust them1”

    Yes, of course you can. Just look at what happens in the US when there is no regulatory minmim threshold for wages.

    I realise a lot of Americans think everyone else looks to them as the beacon on the hill when it comes to this stuff, but in fact we don’t … we’re more likely to be looking at how wrong they often get it and act accordingly – by doing the opposite, which is usually the right thing.

  • Igor

    #43-STM is SO right when he points out how ignorant Americans are of other countries.

    “Unfortunately, Americans who’ve never been to other western civilised social democracies can only draw on their own skewed view of how all this works because they don’t have the benefit of seeing the opposite working well somewhere else.”

    Foreigners see ALL the American entertainment and news information regularly and have a much more cosmopolitan view of affairs. By contrast, Americans live in a cocoon of ignorance. While Americans watch the latest stupid glossy episode of “CSI” the world is slipping by them.

    But ignorance is re-enforced and enlightenment is suppressed by the MSM, as if with one voice, or one hand.

    Even here in the relatively enlightened SF area I note with alarm that the college TV station, KCSM, is being sold, and it was the bulwark of foreign news and especially entertainment, with “Montalbano”, “Wallender”, etc. Heck, you could even get the top movie from Iceland, sometimes.

    KCSM has a hard time raising the $1million or so annual budget. Which is chump change for a commercial station, but a lot for a Community College like College of San Mateo.

  • Bay Area denizens can always pay to upgrade their satellite or cable packages, Igor. Plenty of enlightening, outward-looking channels out there.

    Then again, why would anyone want to watch TV programs showing examples of things that work well in other countries, when wrestling alligators bare-handed, stuffing dead pets and raiding abandoned storage units is CLEARLY the path to success?

  • Igor

    DD: I’m not aware of a cable channel that carries WorldView Megahertz, or even Classic Arts Showcase.

    And I resent being forced into pay TV. If there is to be pay TV and Free TV then I insist that ALL commercial TV be taken off the broadcast channels and all commercial TV be confined to Cable or Satellite.

    Every time I’ve taken a look at cable and satellite I’ve been greatly disappointed.

    About 25 years ago some municipalities launched community cable systems that had a lot of promise but they were sued out of existence by greedy cable companies anxious to protect their monopolies.

    Fortunately, the internet is content-neutral (unless the SOBs get their censorship laws passed). And most of what I like is below the radar commercially (nobody seems to care if I BT a 1938 print of “La Femme du Boulanger”) so I guess that with the help of MVGroup and other public services I’ll be OK.

    All I’m missing is some of the casual serendipity of non-commercial broadcast TV.

  • I agree, Igor: it is pretty galling that I pay for cable and still have to put up with commercials.

  • S.T.M

    The real deal for America would be to up wages at the bottom tier of the wage structure, which results in more spending power everywhere. That in turn creates jobs. If you have enough money to buy lunch at your local diner instead of taking a cheese sandwich to work, you create work at the diner. The diner employs five more people on a reasonable wage. Two of them go out and buy new cars (and let’s hope they’re American-made), creating more work for auto industry workers, local mechanics, tyre manufacturers and fitters, etc etc etc.

    Now, combine that with a tax rate that forces corporations and the wealthly to pay their fair share of taxes, and you have the beginnings of a recovery. I know I sound like a broken record on this one aspect, but America needs to get back to what it is very good at: making or producing or growing stuff that is of such good wuality, everyone else around the world wants it. To do that, you need the dollar at reasonable level so that people whose currencies are worth less can afford. “King Dollar” didn’t benefit US manufacturing and farming, it only benefited the shysters on Wall St. “King Dollar” actually led to the demise of US jobs. I wonder when people who are smashing various political administrations in the US over taxes and job-creation ideas while bemoaning the fall in the value of the dollar actually have any real idea where to start when it comes to getting the US back on its feet.

    1) Pay higher wages and increase spending power for Americans generally across all tiers of the wage structure except at the very top where million-dollar pay cuts wouldn’t matter one iota, and have businesses take a small cut in profits so they can prosper in the long run.

    2) Keep the value of the dollar down to a realistic level (the Aussie dollar is currently very high and is killing jobs in this country, even though the currency traders in New York and London are lining their pockets). Keeping the value of the US dollar at a realistic level enables American goods to be sold at realistic prices on export markets. Loss of US export markets was one of its biggest job killers in the past three decades. Those crying in the US about the sinking dollar should bear in mind that if they buy US-produced goods, it won’t have much of an effect day to day, but it will create more jobs for Americans. One day, people might look back and see the slight fall in the US dollar as one of the triumphs of the Obama administration (and god knows he needs one triumph)

    3) Make all Americans pay taxes that are equal. And yes, the more you earn, the more you pay. It makes no sense that a person earning $50,000 a year ends up paying more tax by percentage than, say, a CEO taking home a $10 million corporate pay packet.

    4) Introduce prudential regulation to stop the banking sector and Wall Street cowboys engaging in the kind of practices that brought the US and global economies to the brink of collapse.

    5) Allow the courts instead of employers to have the final say on wages and working conditions for workers, not employers. Prosecute employers who don’t toe the line. To Americans who say this is socialism, I say: greed is not capitalism. Healthy profits can co-exist with decent wages and workers’ rights. It has the effect of making for a better, happpier, more productive workforce and increases the standard of living across the board. Some measure of genuine egalitarianism doesn’t mean loss of personal freedoms or national identity. It actually has the opposite effect.