I posted the above meme on Facebook, which elicited the following response from a dear and longtime friend (in the physical world) of mine:
Dumb bullshit. Walmart workers are responsible for themselves. It is their own decisions that put them on the government dole, not walmart’s. Walmart does not enslave them, they choose to work there at the wage Walmart offers. They are free to seek higher paying employment. Walmart does not cost the tax payer, people who make bad choices do.
My response is as follows…
Walmart workers have no control over dollar inflation which eats away their already meager wages. At least the people that work there actually have jobs, trying to make an honest living. I suppose they could be airline pilots or something, or I know–they could join the military. Oh, but–those people have to get food assistance (or are at least eligible for it) too.
Yes, some airline pilots can conceivably find themselves in a position in which they would be eligible for food stamps, as reported in the Washington Post story “Flying Your Plane, Living on Food Stamps” (Feb. 12, 2014):
“That means if a starter pilot at a regional airline is the breadwinner for a partner and a child, the household would qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, where the cutoff for a three-person household is just over $25,000. At some smaller regional airlines a starting pilot does even worse, earning just $15,000 a year, about equivalent to the federal minimum wage.”
And then there’s the military:
“…620,000 households that include at least one soldier, reservist or guardsman – or 25 percent of the nation’s total active duty and reserve personnel – that are seeking aid from food pantries and other charitable programs across the country, according to a rare inquiry about the food insecurity of troops and veterans conducted by Feeding America, a hunger relief charity, that will be released Monday. Another 2.37 million households including veterans receive assistance from food pantries that are part of Feeding America’s network (this figure doesn’t include households where both a former and current service member reside).
The help is sought for various reasons, experts say: For active duty, pressures include low pay, poor financial planning by junior soldiers, the difficulty for spouses to hold steady jobs amid base transfers and deployments, and the higher costs of living in some states. For veterans, the triggers are the transition to the civilian world, and, for some, living off low disability pay or retirement funds. Both groups were hit by the Great Recession, too.”
That’s the reality of the situation. Yes, theoretically and in a vacuum my friend would be correct. But the playing field is so tilted and rigged that there is no chance for people unless they can get more money at the jobs they already have. Scolding those actually trying to work for a living for not being able to get by on their wages helps no one.
Suggesting such people “go back to school” to “get a skill” likely only leads to another nightmare of debt and declining wages, as pointed out here:
#9 Since 2005, student loan debt burdens have absolutely exploded while salaries for young college graduates have actually declined…
“The problem developing is that earnings and debt aren’t moving in the same direction. From 2005 to 2012, average student loan debt has jumped 35%, adjusting for inflation, while the median salary has actually dropped by 2.2%.”
Another way to look at it is this: there used to be factory/manufacturing jobs in a lot of places across the country, jobs that paid a decent wage and didn’t require college or the much-ballyhooed “skills.” You could always work in one if everything else went to hell. Well, now those are mostly gone (see, for example—“Loss of Manufacturing Jobs Push Americans Closer To Poverty”). But in a sense, they’ve been replaced by Walmart—every town has one, and you don’t need a degree. Indeed, the problem is that everything that was true about the factory/manufacturing jobs that used to exist is true of Walmart, except for the decent wages part. So corporate America strips out all the decent-paying jobs, puts Walmart in their place, and then fosters the attitude that it’s somehow the worker’s fault that he can’t make ends meet. That Walmart doesn’t owe the worker a living. How have we fallen so far, that people scorn workers for, you know—working? And expecting to be fairly compensated for said work?
Not only that, but Walmart has all but killed off the other traditional decent wage/no-college-or-magic-skill-required job, i.e., the mom and pop store. Of course it’s not just Walmart, but also CVS and Walgreens and their ilk. As Gerald Celente once bemoaned on the Alex Jones show, the younger generation will have almost no memory of ever working for themselves, or more to the point, of ever working for anyone but large, oligopolistic corporations. To paraphrase Celente—none of these kids will know that it used to be that you didn’t have to work for CVS to work in a pharmacy, you could own one, and there was one on every corner!
So that is the context in which this debate over wages is being played out and it’s a gross oversimplification to just suggest that someone can go out and get a better-paying job in this day and age, and again, in the particular financialized, corporate state context in which we currently find ourselves. A really good story that illustrates exactly this is “How I Got Rejected From a Job At The Container Store” in which a Harvard-educated, New-York-Times-best-selling author struggles to find work, concluding that:
For years we Americans have been fed the convenient lie: study hard, work hard in your chosen field, work hard at your marriage, save money, organize your flour, salt, and sugar into labeled bins, and you will be in control of your life and your destiny. But control is an illusion during the best of times. Now, in this new gilded age, where profit takes precedence over people, and commerce takes precedence over art; where a CEO earns 331 times the salary of the average worker, and a company going public feels no compunction about ordering massive layoffs to appear lean in the eyes of investors; where a woman still earns only 78 cents to every man’s dollar, and where access to health insurance—though much improved—still carries strange loopholes that leave some of us uncovered for months; where none of us is able to save nearly as much as we should, despite cutting back on everything, including necessities like food and shelter; where affordable childcare, universal daycare, and paid maternity leave are fantasies that only happen in other countries, not ours; where a college education requires our children to take on the kind of massive nooses of debt that will render them too cash-poor to have any future material goods in need of organizing and containing, most of us are just a single job loss, a single medical diagnosis, a single broken marriage removed from a swirling, chaotic, wholly uncontained abyss.
Simply put, the Walmart-ization of America must be reversed. People who work for a living must be compensated at a level that takes inflation and the rest of reality into account. Good for the workers of the Pico Rivera Walmart. Solidarity!
After all, there are Too Many Broke People…