According to Pat Garofalo at Think Progress, Walmart heirs have a combined wealth equal to the bottom 40% of Americans combined:
“Last year, Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, found that as of 2007, the Walton family — heirs to the Walmart fortune — had a net worth equal to that of the bottom 30 percent of Americans. And due to the effects of the Great Recession that ratio has gotten substantially worse. New Federal Reserve data analyzed by both Allegretto and Josn Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute shows that the Waltons now hold as much wealth as the bottom 40 percent of Americans combined.”
So? Didn’t they ‘earn’ their wealth — should we punish the Walton family for being this wildly successful? As Garofalo points out, the federal government (i.e. the Republican Party / tax laws) have helped to redistribute money towards the Walton fortune as much as anything:
“At the same time that the Waltons have amassed an ever larger fortune, Congress decided to cut the estate tax, a policy for which the Waltons have been pushingfor years. And now that the estate tax cut is in place, conservatives are doing everything they can to ensure it doesn’t go away, allowing the Waltons to amass even larger amounts of wealth.”
And as president, Mitt Romney would like to redistribute even more money to the Waltons by implementing further tax cuts for those in the elite one percent class (himself included).
Further, let’s not forget that the Walton family fortune has been built on the backs of their low-wage employees:
“[Walmart] employees on average take home pay of under $250 a week. The salary for full-time employees (called “associates”) is $6 to $7.50 an hour for 28-40 hours a week, which is typical in the discount retail industry. This pay scale places employees with families below the poverty line, with the majority of employees’ children qualifying for free lunch at school. When closely examined, this amounts to a form of corporate welfare, as the taxpayer subsidizes the low salaries. One-third are part-time employees – limited to less than 28 hours of work per week – and are not eligible for benefits.”
So every taxpayer, in any community where a Walmart is located, has helped to subsidize the Walton family’s employees — and by extension, the Walton family fortune. Instead of expecting them to pay their workers a living wage and provide affordable benefits (remember labor unions?), taxpayers have helped the Waltons pocket a selfishly unequal amount of their profits. Profits, by the way, which are created by selling goods from other countries, like China:
“Despite a well-publicized “Made in the U.S.A.” campaign, 85 percent of the stores’ items are made overseas, often in Third World sweatshops. In fact, only after Wal-Mart’s “Buy American” ad campaign was in full swing did the company become the country’s largest importer of Chinese goods in any industry. By taking its orders abroad, Wal-Mart has forced many U.S. manufacturers out of business.”
The Walton family is a basic story of how many in the elite one percent acquire their fortunes (ingenuity and hard work or by cheating with a lot of help from others including all levels of government). It’s this kind of information, ultimately, that people like Mitt Romney would like to withhold from public scrutiny. One doesn’t willingly reveal how one’s fortune was made, where it came from, who was sacrificed, and how it’s being used now by turning over one’s tax returns to the rabble. That could turn out to be rather distasteful.