Saturday Open Thread [6.7.14]

Filed in Open Thread by on June 7, 2014

Another gorgeous Saturday! Here is a cartoon just for FBH, which pretty much summarizes his approach to anything Obama:

We missed talking about the Walmart strikes planned for multiple US cities on Wednesday to protest low wages as well as working conditions. This included “Walmart Moms” who point out that they work full time and still don’t get above the poverty level.

This week, a study by thinktank Demos detailed how 1.3 million women working in retail live on or near the poverty line. It said that if the major retailers in the US raised wages to the equivalent of $25,000 for full-time work, it could lift almost half a million women out of poverty or near-poverty.

“Walmart moms” walked off their jobs to take part in protests outside their stores in a number of cities including Orlando and Chicago, joining those who have already staged strikes earlier this week in Dallas, Pittsburgh, southern California and the Bay area.

Strikes were expected to take place in 20 cities on Wednesday. The protesters, who include current Walmart workers as well as members of the allegiance Our Walmart, are demanding annual wages of at least $25,000, more full-time openings and an end to retaliation against workers who speak out against their conditions.

And how about this?

A report published on Wednesday raised a separate issue over Walmart and tax, in terms of a loophole the study said had given the company a tax break of $104m, enough to cover the cost of free lunches for 33,000 schoolchildren.

In its report, the Institute for Policy Studies and lobby group Americans for Tax Fairness calculated that between 2009 and 2014, the top eight Walmart executives took home more than $298m in “performance pay” that was fully tax deductible.

The performance pay tax break was made possible by a 1993 change in the tax code meant to discourage excessive executive compensation. The rule capped the amount corporations could deduct from their income taxes for executive pay at no more than $1m per executive. But the law exempted stock options and other so-called “performance pay” from the cap.

“When Walmart gets a $104m tax break for giving its executives outrageous pay packages, [and] the rest of us pick up the tab,” said Frank Clemente, executive director at Americans for Tax Fairness. “With this tax loophole, the bigger the executive bonuses, the less Walmart pays in taxes. This is truly one of the most perverse loopholes of all time.”

Robert Reich takes to the newspaper pages to talk about this protest (and others upcoming) as Freedom Summer II. I hope he is right:

Today, as then, a group of Americans is denied the dignity of decent wages and working conditions. Today, just as then, powerful forces are threatening and intimidating vulnerable people for exercising their legal rights. Today, just like 50 years ago, people who have been treated as voiceless and disposable are standing up and demanding change.

Although Wal-Mart is no Bull Connor, it’s the poster child for keeping low-wage workers down. America’s largest employer, with 1.4 million workers, refuses to provide most of them with an income they can live on. The vast majority earns under $25,000 a year, with an average hourly wage of about $8.80.

You and I and other taxpayers shell out for these workers’ Medicaid and food stamps because they and their families can’t stay afloat on what Wal-Mart pays. (I’ve often thought Wal-Mart and other big employers should have to pay a tax equal to the public assistance their workers receive because the companies don’t pay them enough to stay out of poverty.)

30 years later, and who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters gets a theatrical re-release on its’ 30th Anniversary:

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  1. bamboozer says:

    These are the conditions that spur the creation of unions, the reaction to attempts to organize will make them stronger still. Having learned nothing and forgotten everything about the past today’s high and mighty will attempt to crush and persecute unions, demonizing them in the small minds of fools as they go. But this time around I suspect it will be different, and the fact that the government is subsidizing the Walmarts and McDonalds of this world will be hard to explain away.

  2. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    If the pay sucks, then quit and find another job. It really is that simple.

    Oh wait, you can’t find another job! Is it because you’re unskilled at anything else. Obviously Walmart’s fault for not paying overpaying your unqualified self.

    This whole discussion is, at its core, another attempt to avoid personal responsibility, i.e., Walmart is bad because they won’t over pay unskilled labor, gladly having few marketable skills, more money than they are worth. Improve yourself. Be worth more in the job market. Show up with a high school degree, make lousy money and complain you’re worth a better wage. Go test the market. Quit the demon Walmart. See what the rest of the employing world pays you. You’re worth what you bring to the table. If it ain’t shit, then don’t expect to get paid more that that.

  3. Tom Kline says:

    “Personally Responsibility” is a term not comprehended by the left.

  4. cassandra_m says:

    Personal Responsibility is a term not comprehended by Walmart. Because they get to make a great deal of money from underpaying their workers — workers who get getting Medicaid and food stamp benefits. Paying workers fairly — meaning that Walmart doesn’t the benefit of subsidized low wages would not only get a fair number of people out of poverty, it would reduce the amount of money taxpayers have to subsidize the poverty. Walmart isn’t alone in this, but they make the most money. One of you “personal responsibility” types needs to provide an convincing argument as to why I should be subsidizing the business model of Walmart. Because until they take some responsibility for ensuring that their employees are not living off of my dime, the worst offender in the “personal responsibility” sweepstakes here is Walmart.

    It doesn’t strike me that sheer contempt for working people doesn’t count as “personal responsibility” either.

  5. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    Got it. Walmart doesn’t pay shit. No medical benefits. No retirement. If all of it is so f’ing intolerable, then get another job.

    Maybe when Walmart can’t find new employees willing to take their shit pay, they’ll pay more. Otherwise every day you stay at Walmart, they a make money.

    Don’t complain. Get another job. Earn more money. If you can’t get more money, don’t, don’t blame the demon Walmart.

  6. Liberal Elite says:

    ATiAM: “…then get another job.”

    It’s Walmart (aka Mall-Wart) who should get a another job. They are the biggest welfare queens of all. They are basically taking from the taxpayer what they should go out and earn….

    This is typical of all rent seeking industry. The only reason big corporations can get away with this sort of crap is that there are too many voters like you who haven’t a clue.

    Why is there so much regulatory capture in the US? Because you don’t care.
    Why is there an oil depletion allowance? Because you don’t care.
    Why is there so much corporate pork? Because you don’t care.
    Republicans are really great at not caring.

  7. pandora says:

    I don’t understand why the finger pointing only goes one way. And if everyone did get another, better paying job then a lot of businesses would go out of business. Not every job requires a college degree or advanced training.

    Minimum wage jobs will always exist, it’s the nature of the job and it won’t matter if every employee has a college degree (ask a barista :-) ). What matters is paying a living wage. Should a person working full time be able to support themselves? I think so.

    And it is interesting how calling out the employees is never accompanied by calling out the biggest welfare recipients – those companies whose business model is based on taxpayers subsidizing their employees. So much for the free market.

  8. cassandra_m says:

    Don’t complain. Get another job. Earn more money. If you can’t get more money, don’t, don’t blame the demon Walmart.

    Speaking of *no* intellectual content whatsoever.

    And ignoring the information I asked for.

  9. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    If you stand in a pile of shit and refuse to get out, then tell me how that’s anyone else’s fault.

    No fan of Walmart. But what they pay, others willingly accept as wages. Walmart’s model, whatever it is, stops working when people stop working for them.

    Absolutely right that I don’t criticize Walmart. No need too. The solution to the problem is in the complete control of the workers. No need to wait for Washington, Dover or Walmart to fix it. Just quit, get another job.

  10. cassandra_m says:

    Another great example of no intellectual content whatsoever.

    And another great example of not paying any attention to what the person talking to you is saying, just so you can keep repeating your own narrative. That apparently people in low wage jobs are at fault for that and that they are beneath contempt.

  11. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    Two insults – nothing constructive. Well played.

    If they want better wages and benefits, then Walmart employees have two options:

    1. Get another job. Completely in their control to do so.

    2. Wait for congress, Walmart or the good tooth fairy to change minimum wage, or throttle executive compensation, or re-jigger the tax code. I like Reich’s proposal but when do you see that being implemented as law?

    Really what do you think is going to happen first? We’re talking about a congress that can’t get meaningful legislation off the table, that fights insanely to repeal that which is already law, and on the whole is far more interested in their own re-election.

    Not saying that tax law shouldn’t be changed. Not saying that Walmart employees should live in poverty. But when you have recourse that lies entirely within your grasp, take it.

    When Walmart can’t find enough employees to take the lousy wages what do you think will happen? Whatever it is, I’ll bet it happens well before congress does anything.

  12. puck says:

    If they want better wages and benefits, then Walmart employees have two options:

    1. Get another job. Completely in their control to do so.

    2. Wait for congress, Walmart or the good tooth fairy to change minimum wage, or throttle executive compensation, or re-jigger the tax code.

    If it were in the workers’ control to get another job, there would be no unemployment.

    There is another option: keep the job, organize and fight for leverage. That is how our grandfathers built American prosperity.

  13. Liberal Elite says:

    @p “There is another option: keep the job, organize and fight for leverage. That is how our grandfathers built American prosperity.”

    Exactly right. It wasn’t the 1% that brought prosperity to America. It was the workers and the unions.

  14. Tom McKenney says:

    Why do the Waltons, the richest family in America, demand tax breaks to compete unfairly with local businesses? Where is the outrage when states pay to attract businesses? If you truly believed in a market economy, you would be completely angered.

  15. cassandra_m says:

    And here you are, not even paying attention. Again. One of the big points of my post is to object to the subsidies that Walmart gets (both in tax breaks and for employee salaries) — in large part because this is a corporation that simply doesn’t need those subsidies. The get these subsidies because leaders of governments all over the US tout the “good jobs” that these stores will bring. It isn’t a “good job” if taxpayers have to pay for Medicaid and food stamps for those workers.

  16. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    Always willing to presume. Always hap slap down.

    You quoted a “study” as a leg for your point that Walmart benefits from government subsidies, tax credits and is otherwise demonic. The Policy Studies article, http://www.americansfortaxfairness.org/files/Walmart-on-Tax-Day-Americans-for-Tax-Fairness-1.pdf , was a hack job.

    The writing and conclusions in that study were no better than a drunk’s ramblings. As an example, concluding that Walmart actually GETS a subsidiary because it pays shit and it’s employees therefore need government benefits to survive is inane. If your willing to let those benefits count as a subsidiary to Walmart, then you why not include the cost of the roads those same employees use to get to work, or the postal service cost to deliver those benefits.

    Don’t rely on shit to make a point. Do expect expect to be taken seriously when you do.

    Some of the other points in the post were empty headed. To wit: Walmart doesn’t pay tax for stock option given in lieu of wages. Hundreds of millions of lost tax money. The horror. Problem is this. Even if Walmart paid cash instead of stock to those overpaid owners, Walmart would pay tax it. Just like wages, stocks as compensation is taxable only to the recipient. (Before some one goes off howling at the moon at this conclusion, I will concede, that there are circumstances under which Walmart might pay tax on that transaction)

    Setting that aside, the initial post seems to suggest that if Walmart wasn’t allowed to use stocks as executive compensation, then Walmart employees would benefit because so, so much more money would available to pay them. The quid pro quid being that no stock compensation means better wages for Walmart employees. If that’s the point of the initial post, there’s nothing to gain in discussing it further. This is La La land logic. Most tend to ignore it.

    Robert Reich was quoted. His point is noble and there is merit but as labor secretary he did little of what he now advocates. There is a reason for that: congress. Walmart does nothing that congress hasn’t authorized. Reich did nothing because congress was, and still is, an impediment. Hence, when you and others advocate that Walmart is shit, which it is, you ignore that the company was empowered by congress. Waiting for congress to rectify the situation is senseless. Blaming Walmart for doing what government allows them to do is likewise senseless.

    Stop working for Walmart. Stop buying from Walmart.

    To the point of your insult. Ignored much of what was initially written because it was junk science.

  17. cassandra_m says:

    Well that was alot of hot air to demonstrate that you haven’t even read this document.

    Food and medical support to Walmart workers is built into their business model. A model that lets them get away with paying nothing, because Uncle Sam will take care of them. It is — by definition — a subsidy. Roads are paid for by taxes or user fees (tolls) and are available for everyone to use. Food stamps are only available to people who can’t afford to adequately feed their families. The Postal Service also runs on user fees, with some support from the General Fund because Congress won’t let them dig themselves out of their hole. But if you have a stamp, your letter gets to where it needs to.

    The point of the post (and the studies behind it) is that Walmart gets way more in taxpayer support than a profitable corporation should. And those subsidies could be used for more pressing needs.

    But don’t let a little close reading get in the way of your contempt for poor people. Let them eat cake and all that.

    And junk science? So there’s *another* thing you are clueless about.

  18. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    Another smack down simply because I disagree.

    So these subsidiaries – they are Walmart subsidiaries only as long as someone is a Walmart employee. The minute that employee quits, then no more Walmart subsidiary. What if the employee gets another job, low wages again, is the new employer getting a subsidiary? Or is it only a subsidiary when Walmart is the employer.

    So because roads are paid for with taxes and user fees, they shouldn’t be counted as part of the Walmart subsidiary? Aren’t food stamps paid for with taxes? If there was appoint there I missed it.

    Walmart is a reflection of capitalism’s ground dragging belly. It’s made worse by a political process that panders to that smelly belly. Demonizing Walmart, without recognizing the other systemic enablers, is a pointless exercise.

    Quit Walmart. Or as Puck and Liberal Elite argue (thanks for picking up an option I didn’t consider) organize and fight back. If, however, congress is your knight in shining armor, good back to bed time stories.

  19. cassandra_m says:

    No, that smack down was because you aren’t in this conversation, you are trying to smack *me* down. Once you let go of that, you might find this easier.

    And you’ll find this *really* easy when you school yourself on the difference between “subsidies” (clue: what I was talking about) and “subsidiaries”.

    Sheesh. Go sit at the kid’s table already.

  20. pandora says:

    ATIAM, you are trolling Cassandra – and not just on this thread. I’d guess the reason you’re doing this is because of my post. How long do you plan on keeping up this behavior?

    That said, if this is simply your “style” of blogging, perhaps you could refrain from calling out other people’s blogging style. Just saying.

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