Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wal-Mart Gets Rich Off Government Subsidies

By Manifesto Joe

Bashing welfare is a very easy thing to do, and with some reason. I just saw my hometown not long ago, and it looked like a scene from The Last Picture Show. Storefronts that used to thrive were boarded up. Half the town, probably more, is on government assistance of some sort. Agriculture is moribund because of Texas' drought, and there's no industry nearby to speak of. The tax base pretty much consists of the substandard school district, which is heavily subsidized by the federal government, and the local supermarket, which gets much of its money through the food stamp program. Welfare programs appear to have created a town full of dependents.

Couldn't these people work? That's the natural thing to ask. If the city fathers lure in an industry, they would likely have to do it through huge tax abatements, and that wouldn't add much to their tax base.

And then, one can always commute to one of the nearby towns and work at the Wal-Mart store.

Problem is, that probably wouldn't get you entirely off government assistance. Because the pay at Wal-Mart is so shitty -- an average hourly wage of $8.81, I've read -- Wal-Mart "associates" often have to stay on food stamps to be able to feed their families. The company doesn't offer benefits to many of its "associates," so that means the employees have to stay on government health programs like Medicaid and CHIP. Meanwhile, as we the taxpayers pick up the tab for all this, the company rakes in profits for some of the richest people on Earth.

It's an indirect government subsidy, but a subsidy nonetheless. You and I are paying for stuff that any "decent" corporation would offer employees enough money and benefits to afford. From what I've read, the annual subsidies are usually at least $900,000 per store, and they can run as high as $2 million. Here's a link to an article on the subject.

I briefly mentioned tax abatements earlier in this post. This is another way that corporate entities get subsidies, with these coming generally at the local level, in the realm of property taxes. It's the ordinary shmoes in American communities -- including some of the ones who take jobs with these cheap blackmailers -- who end up paying more in property taxes because of the abatements. And if the city and/or county fathers don't put out, they are essentially told, "We'll just take all these jobs someplace where they will."

Yet another problem all this creates is the disincentive to work. With wages so low, and with one often having to commute to a neighboring town to find a peon's job, why work? Why not just sit at home and collect entitlements, when "work" isn't likely to provide a path to a better life?

Yep, it's very easy to cuss people on welfare -- as long as they're the poor ones. It becomes more difficult when it's some of the richest people on the planet who happen to be sucking on the government tits. When poor people do it, it's evidence of moral degeneracy. When the rich do it, it's called "smart business."

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


SteinMan said...

>>Why not just sit at home and
>>collect entitlements

You know, I'm not sure I agree with this idea that there are all these able-bodied people sitting at home, collecting welfare.
Thanks to the likes of Limbaugh, a lot of Americans believe that there is this generous social safety net to take care of the poor.
But the fact is, the U.S. social safety net was always very skimpy. And after 30 years of Reagan/Clinton/Bush, what is left of a "safety net" is virtually gone.
Under Clinton, for example, the welfare system was slashed even more than under Reagan. As a result, the max that anyone can collect in welfare over the course of a lifetime is 18 months. So the idea that there are all these life-long lazy poor people leeching off the government is a myth.
True, there are a few other meager entitlements out there. But even here, there's less than meets the eye. Section 8 housing is a good example. Rush would have us believe that Section 8 users are all lazy blacks. But in reality, qualifying for Section 8 is very hard. Most people living in Section 8 are the elderly, disabled vets, the handicapped, etc.
Are we going to just throw those people out on the street? (Actually, yes, we will eventually).
Anyone who thinks there is some kind of European style generous social welfare net in America is dreaming.
If there was a generous social safety net in this country, then why is it that there are millions of homeless people in today's America? And why is hunger on the rise?
I recently returned from a trip to Berlin. In one month, I saw exactly zero homeless people. By contrast, here in L.A., there are so many homeless that parts of the city look like "Blade Runner" these days.
BTW, to anyone reading this: please spare us the "But the Germans had Hitler."
That was a long time ago. Modern day Germany has as much in common with that era as today's U.S. has in common with the slave era. I think it's unfair to blame today's Germans for the crimes of their fathers and grandfathers.
Yes, America is going broke. But it's because of things like the $3 trillion Iraq War, not because we're generous with social programs.

Manifesto Joe said...

All good points. There are places -- I've seen them -- where people are, like, third-generation welfare recipients. But it's not like it's a cushy life. It's very close to the margins, and there's always a bureaucrat who's threatening to cut your benefits off. And of course, the U.S. likely spends more for weapons than the rest of the world combined. Many priorities are misplaced.

SteinMan said...

>>third-generation welfare recipients.

I'd be curious to know: what type of "welfare" are these people getting? Since Clinton, the max anyone can receive welfare is only 18 months over a lifetime (and that's only if they qualify).
Also, jobless benefits last around one year (in many states, it's far less). And that's only if you qualify.
I have a friend, Jerry, who lived in poverty after he was seriously wounded while serving in Iraq. When he returned to the U.S., he was fired from his job and became homeless. I gave him a helping hand from time to time, although things were tight for me. Last month, he put a bullet in his head. He was tired of the ongoing nightmares he had (as well as tired of going hungry).
He applied for assistance, but was told, in so many words, to fuck off, every time.
You say you've seen all these people living comfortable all their lives on welfare. But that's not what I've seen, over the years.
I was there when they rejected Jerry's application for assistance. I was the one who drove him to the office.

Old Scout said...

Intuitively I know there are social costs of enterprise. Some of these are local tax abatements or sales tax 'holidays' granted to the employer. Others are: traffic signals, parking lots and drives dedicated as 'city streets', police patrols, special fire-fighting equipment, building code variances, new streets to organize and funnel traffic into parking lots, relocation of water and sewer lines, special rates for use of government services like permits and targeted education in local schools. I've never seen a comprehensive table of these services or activities. I'm not even sure there is a comprehensive study of this phenomenon or a Master's Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation published examining this issue. There may be peer-reviewed articles is private journals like "The Economist' (Econo-missed?), but I lack the connections to get the reprint from a mutually amicable source.
Keep up the fire!

Manifesto Joe said...

There are people who know how to work the system better than others. Workers' comp is much abused. There are people -- my wife has underachieving relatives among them -- who sustain mysterious back injuries at jobs, then go on workers' comp for long periods.

"You say you've seen all these people living comfortable all their lives on welfare. But that's not what I've seen, over the years."

When did I say that? Please RE-READ my previous comment.

Manifesto Joe said...

BTW, preceding comment was meant for SteinMan. I understand where you're coming from, but don't put words in my mouth. READ what I actually wrote.

James Buchanan said...

There are people who know how to work a system. Just call them by the appropriate name. Koch, Limbaugh, Malkin, and any congressman, and Senator. Unfortunately I also believe in karma. May karma get them.
About the welfare system, I needed it when I was young, to survive between jobs in the early 60's. We need that type of welfare now. That helped us over the the dry period, between the Vietnam war and the next adventure. And I don't judge anyone on how much money they have, or don't have. But should we denigrate those who thru their own fault got hired into a company that decides to move overseas, to feather their pocket? If those people, were treated as well as the germans are, and have been. We would have skipped all the BS of the last few years. The people would have kept up the storefronts, they could afford to buy the foods that were better for them, and would we be better off?

Anonymous said...

Double standards make me puke. We used to have a place for all these people on government subsidies, it was called the manufacturing sector. Too bad "Free" Trade and automation killed that cash cow that kept the Federal tax coffers full once upon a time.

I'm glad I'm a union tradesperson, just took a pay cut to become an electrical apprentice because millwrighting wasn't working me enough. I'm glad I live in Michigan. Despite all the jokes heaped upon us, we still have a large industrial base providing livable jobs. Too bad all our college kids can't leave quickly enough still, caused a bit of a brain drain. Keep it coming Joe...


Jack Jodell said...

Wal-Mart are the piggiest of all the pigs. Their lying TV ads about minorities working their way to success and receiving quarterly store bonuses are disgusting lies for all but a tiny few. Wal-Mart is a malignant growth that consumes and destroys other shops as well as the communities they are in. Like all malignancies, they shoyld be cut out and destroyed too.