The Insidiuous Underbelly of WallyWorld

“Welcome to Wal-Mart,” a quaint voice pipes from an aged woman standing just inside the motion-sensor doors. This elderly woman, surely meeting the age requirement necessary to qualify for Medicare yet standing, greeting, smiles and ushers you forward into, Wally World. Oh the spectacle that is Wally World. A true microcosm of the wealth inequality, cultural capital disparity, and “say one thing and do another” lip service prevalent in the United States, Wally World is at the top of a very large s*!#-list of culprits responsible for the perpetuation and promulgation of such inequalities and injustices. On the other hand, what you cannot observe is the massive exploitation of its overseas factory laborers as well as the laborers used through companies bound in contract with Wal-Mart.

“There is an integral, intentional (emphasis added), and multifaceted relationship between Wal-Mart and poverty,” writes Jane L. Collins in her critique of Wal-Mart entitled “The Age of Wal-Mart” (99). It seems neoliberal economic policies that began in the 70s and continue today are incorporated in the origins of Wal-Mart’s rise to prominence and greatly responsible for its continued economic dominance over its would-be competitors. One could even argue that these neoliberal economic policies and tactics are visible characteristics of Wal-Mart’s business model and the methodology involved in the creation and implementation of such a drastic economic move away from the previous bargaining relationship between workers and owners of capital, “Fordism”. Alas, these neoliberal policies according to William K. Tabb, author of After Neoliberalism, “has not brought more rapid economic growth, reduced poverty, or made economies more stable. In fact, over the years of neoliberal hegemony, growth has slowed, poverty has increased, and economic and financial crises have been epidemic” (http://www.monthlyreview.org/0603tabb.htm). Some cynics would argue that the years of neoliberal hegemony have done exactly what they were designed to do, aggregate wealth and power into fewer hands.

As I think of Wal-Mart and its immoral business methods I cannot but think of the stink coming from Washington that is the healthcare debate. How is Wal-Mart and healthcare related you ask? Take in account the average Wal-Mart “associate” makes between $12,000 and $14,000 a year, well below the federal poverty line of $19,157 (Collins, 104). Now consider Wal-Mart’s employees participating in programs such as food stamps, free lunches, and subsidized housing cost the state of California $54 million in 2004(Collins, 105). California taxpayers, in 2004, spent $32 million alone on medi-cal expenses for employees of Wal-Mart(Collins, 105). It seems like Wal-Mart has a sweet deal in having the government and us taxpayers subsidize its moral obligation to provide its employees affordable health insurance. If the proposed legislation in either house of Congress is passed other companies, itching to follow suit, WILL. In legislating that health insurance be mandatory and fineable for non-compliance as well as creating a government option Congress would be empowering large corporations to “cut frivolous expenditures” (I.e. health insurance). How could this happen? The burden for an expenditure such as group health insurance would be lifted from the employer and placed squarely on the shoulders of each citizen. Again, neoliberal and neo-conservative ideologies are prevalent within the workings of these bills; laws designed to aide “capital” and abandon everything and everyone else.

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~ by jrparrott on March 31, 2010.

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