Walmart Is Not the Bargain You Might Think

“People flock to Walmart for perceived bargains and convenience. Here are some facts that might keep them from adding their hard-earned cash to the profits of a company that’s squashing lives and worker rights worldwide.”

Source: Truthout

Author: Maura Stephens

“Next time someone tells you they shop at Walmart because it’s cheap or convenient, share this.

Despite 1,500 protests nationwide against Walmart, the world’s biggest retailerclaimed its most lucrative Black Friday ever in 2013. Our friends and neighbors flock there.

They do – even those who have seen mom-and-pop stores shut down when Walmart moved into town, who miss being able to pick up one or two items and be out of a store in 10 minutes, who personally know Walmart employees relying on food stamps and who have heard how much money the Walton family continues to accumulate.

Walmart is the poster child for how huge corporations have undermined people’s ability to make a living. It does this by sending manufacturing abroad to countries where labor is cheap, at the same time paying its own employees less than a living wage, using other unfair labor practices in numerous locations in the United States, and undercutting locally owned enterprises right out of business. It harms Main Streets and local commerce centers across the country and further drives people to malls.

So why do people go there? When asked this question, Walmart shoppers uniformly respond that “it’s cheap and convenient, and I can’t afford to shop at [other places].”

I’d wager they never saw Robert Greenwald’s chilling 2005 documentary for Brave New FilmsWalmart: The High Cost of Low Price, or read some basic facts about Walmart put together in one place. I think they’d feel differently if shown ways to shop that are just as inexpensive. At least I hope so.

Raking It In

In 2012, the world’s largest retailer registered about $466 billion in sales ($13 billion of which went to shareholders). Since its founding in 1962 by Sam Walton, the megalithic privately held corporation has blanketed the USA with more than 4,100 stores and the world with nearly 11,100. It employs 2.2 million people, about 1.3 million in the United States. It’s the 26th-largest economy in the world, bigger thanthose of Belgium, the Philippines, Venezuela, Sweden, Austria and many other prosperous nations.

In 2010, CEO Michael Duke‘s annual salary of $35 million (excluding perks) earned him more in an hour than a full-time employee makes in an entire year – 1,034 times the average worker’s pay. (A longtime employee from outside the Walton clan, Doug McMillon, was named the new CEO in late November 2013, but his compensation figures have not been released.)

The six heirs of Sam Walton have more money than the bottom 41.5 percent – or 48.8 million families – of all Americans, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data. (And the heirs’ income rose 22 percent during the years 2008-12, while the Forbes 400 lost 19 percent and the rest of us saw our median family wealth drop 38.8 percent.)

So What?

What’s wrong with this? Isn’t it every American’s right to make as much money as possible? If they’re doing a good job, why shouldn’t they be well-compensated?

Let’s say we forget about the family members who were just born into the family of Sam Walton and who inherited the money he’d earned by hard work and crafty planning – the heirs who are expert at shielding their inheritance billions from taxation by taking advantage of (quite legal) tax loopholes set up to benefit billionaires – which Congress apparently won’t even contemplate scrutinizing.

Let’s talk instead only about workers who deserve to be compensated for their hard work – that’s the American dream, after all. Toil and dedication are supposed to pay off with a comfort level that includes a decent home in a safe neighborhood, with reasonably nice furnishings; the ability to put good, healthful food on your family’s table; being able to pay your medical and education bills; having a vehicle or access to public transportation that makes your commute and errand-running simple and convenient; having a little money for entertainment, recreation and retirement savings; and being able to take at least a small vacation annually.

Not too much to expect, is it? Especially if you’re working for the biggest retailer by far on the planet. ( Walmart is huger than the next six retailers combined.)

The median annual salary for a full-time Walmart employee has been estimated at$18,000 to $22,000. In a study commissioned by the (Democratic Party) Committee on Education and the Workforce in 2013 in Wisconsin, Walmart was ranked as the employer with the most workers – 3,216 – on the state’s Medicaid program. Walmart was responsible for 9,207 enrollees, including the children and adult dependents of those workers. Thus the burden of paying for the Walmart employees’ families’ food assistance and medical services falls (estimated at nearly $1 million at one store alone) to their fellow taxpayers.

That’s how Walmart likes it. It’s part of its business model, just as is outsourcing jobs to countries with lower wages.

War on Workers

A CNN Money senior editor calculated in 2013 that Walmart could afford to give all its employees a 50 percent pay raise without hurting its bottom line. But it does not.

Instead, it had 110 or so peaceful protesters (including Santa Claus in Claremont, California) arrested on Black Friday 2013 outside its stores from coast to coast. There were some 1,500 demonstrations altogether, which makes it quite obvious there’s something radically wrong at the house that Sam built. (And the peaceful demonstrators, not the violent brawlers inside, were arrested!)

This all seems pretty unfriendly to the US economy and society – downright unAmerican, in fact.

Black Friday 2012 saw protests by Walmart employees and supporters as well; the movement is growing, as people realize there’s more to fear from slowly starving to death and being squeezed out of affordable housing than from protesting peacefully, even if the latter involves getting arrested.

The employees who were forced to work on Thanksgiving (because “it’s what shoppers want; it’s the retail trend”) had to give up their own time with their friends and families and had no choice in the matter. Do we really need another shopping day that badly?

Shop ‘Til You Drop (Someone)

The entire consumerism culture is personified by Walmart. Remember the employee who was trampled to death a few years ago by shoppers who knocked down the doors on Black Friday to be the first in the store? Apparently #WalMartFights and #BrawlMart were breaking out all over the country this year, too. It’s sickening, and Walmart plays that stuff up.

But many argue in defense of their use of Walmart (which now, thanks to the same kind of strong-arm tactics it uses with suppliers of other goods, has a phenomenal 25 percent share of all US food market sales), that it’s cheap and healthful.

Stacy Mitchell wrote in Grist in December 2011, pointing to a study in Social Science Quarterly that showed that neighborhoods where a Walmart store opens have more poverty and food-stamp usage than communities without a Walmart. This might have something to do with Walmart’s record of putting other employers out of business – and more people out of work.

If that’s not bad enough, another recent study concluded that Walmart makes us fat. “An additional supercenter per 100,000 residents increases … the obesity rate by 2.3 percentage points. … These results imply that the proliferation of Walmart supercenters explains 10.5 percent of the rise in obesity since the late 1980s.”

Walmart employees, restaurant employees and other retail workers are fighting for decent pay across the country, even as politicians in collusion with megacorporations are doing their darnedest to squash the labor movement and convince us that we need big corporations like Walmart, which are “creating jobs” and making the world safe for consumption.

In truth, this is class warfare, pure and simple, and the workers and employees of the big corporations, the ones doing the hardest work, as well as the customers, are considered the lower classes by the ones at the top. About 99 percent of us are in the lower classes.

The moneyed class is starting to get worried as it sees more of the “lesser” people starting to realize how bad things are – and who’s to blame. Corporations are now acting out more against the people, which is a sign of their fear of the strength of organized resistance.

A Few Big Problems

But we still need to understand more widely that shopping at Walmart and other huge retail corporations is spending money toward our own economic downward spiral. (If the minimum hourly wage had advanced with the cost of living and productivity from its high-water mark of 1968, it would have been $21.72 in 2012, according to a March 2012 study by John Schmitt for the Center for Economic Policy and Research. How close is your salary to that number?)

Walmart workers – just like fast-food workers, retail staff, hospitality workers, adjunct faculty members, journalists, nurses, teachers, firefighters, factory workers, domestic workers, administrative assistants, middle managers and everyone else who is working for ever-shrinking paychecks – don’t want a government or corporate handout.

They simply want to be paid a decent, livable wage for their honest labor. They’d like to be able to expect to leave their kids as much as or more than they were left by their parents, even though their parents were able to leave them less than the previous generation did. But the next generations are not only going to be left less economically, they’re going to be fighting for their very survival.

If the working classes don’t realize we all need to stand up for one another, starting with our shopping choices, we are hopeless.

Walmart and fast food chains, with their low prices, convenience and addictive high-fat, high-sugar content, are really just a part of a much bigger picture – one that includes the looming “trade agreement” called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, something that makes job-exporting NAFTA look benign.  Walmart is one of the huge corporations pushing the TPP hard, because it would then be able to move more of its factories into countries like Vietnam, where the minimum hourly wage is 36 cents. (The TPP is another whole ball of wax, to which we should be paying close attentionbecause it will affect our lives directly and unremittingly.)

Not Our Responsibility

But back to talking about Vietnam, which isn’t that far from Bangladesh in that it’s another of the poor countries with low wages where people assemble many of the goods sold in US stores like Walmart.

One hundred twelve Bangladeshi workers were killed in a November 2012 fire, caused by negligence, as they were sewing garments to be sold primarily in  Walmart and Sears. We learned after this tragedy that those two giant corporations had earlierrefused to fund safety improvements at any of the more than 4,000 factories in which Bangladeshis labored to make goods for US markets – and in which more than 700 garment workers had died since 2005.

Even after the tragic fire, Walmart and Gap and other big brands refused to sign a new safety plan introduced by unions. They claimed it was “not financially feasible.” Yet, as the Atlantic reported, Scott Nova at the DC-based Worker Rights Consortium calculated that sufficient safety retrofits and new systems would add 8 cents to the cost of a garment, or .00004 (four one-thousandths of a percent) of a retailer’s total corporate revenue.

Just five months after the fire, Bangladesh was hit by an even more unspeakable disaster when the eight-story Rana Plaza collapsed, killing at least 1,129 and harming more than 2,000, some of whom lost limbs and suffered other extreme injuries. (None of the victims had yet been compensated six months after the May 2013 catastrophe;Walmart claimed it was not liable because at the time of the collapse it was no longer using any of the five garment factories that operated out of the building’s third to eighth floors.)

It is clear that Bangladeshis’ deaths – and lives – don’t mean much to US commerce (transcript, May 5, 2013, about two-thirds of the way down the page.[i] It’s just a cost of doing business[ii], and the bad public relations last only days before “consumers,” as we are considered by Walmart and other retailers, forget all about these human tragedies and go back to our bargain hunting.

Maybe It Is Our Responsibility

But maybe we’ll realize those bargains come with too steep a price. What price, for example, might we put on the life of the pregnant mother of two who was in the process of stitching the trim on that $14 scarf for Walmart when she was partially crushed by bricks in the Rana Plaza building (and would finally, mercifully, die 17 hours later)[iii]?

Maybe we’ll begin understanding the connections between the conditions suffered by those slogging away in factories halfway around the world; the outrageous salaries of CEOs who work sometimes fewer hours than we do, even including two-hour lunches; the gutting of labor laws; the spikes in health care and education costs (have you looked at college tuition numbers lately?); the easing of regulations intended to protect the environment and people from corporate harm; the court decisions on behalf of negligent corporations; and our own lack of upward mobility and hope.

Maybe we’ll see that shopping at Walmart isn’t the affordable, convenient delight we’d thought it.

Many Americans are starting to understand firsthand what it feels like to be dehumanized. We are losing our jobs, having to switch careers, finding ourselves in a credit bind, and maybe losing our homes to foreclosure – or at least we know some middle-class people who have experienced such tough circumstances. It does not sit well.

Walmart is sued several times a day, sometimes in class action lawsuits, sometimes forallegations of employee rights violations, sometimes for injuries sustained by customers or employees in its stores or parking lots. And in November 2012, it allegedly fired 117 workers because they threatened to join Black Friday protests. That case is with the National Labor Relations Board, which may sue.

But to get back to that worry over affordability: It’s all well and good to say we might make a statement with our wallets, but practical matters prevail. We need to pinch pennies in these economic times – when few workers have any chance of upward mobility.

Yet there are numerous ways of shopping conveniently and supporting local farmers and businesses that are as affordable as shopping at megamonsters like Walmart (which may have started off pretty decent in the Sam Walton days, when he went out of his way to hire older workers, people with disabilities and veterans).

Here are a few ideas to get you started and that don’t demand a drastically changed lifestyle (well, except maybe for number 5).

1. Community-supported agriculture means you can buy a share in a farm to have fresh vegetables every week during the growing season.

2. Cooperative extensions and other community groups teach how to can, freeze and dry food for the months when things aren’t growing.

3. You can grow herbs and salad leaves, including the increasingly popular microgreens, indoors on a windowsill and add vitamins to your family’s diet.

4. If your family eats meat, it is much more economical to arrange with a farmerto buy one-quarter or one-half a pig or bull or lamb, or so many chickens or ducks or turkeys, or split an order with a neighbor.

5. Switch to a vegetarian diet, and you will really save money (and almost certainly feel better).

6. Buy dry goods such as beans, rice, cereal, grains, flour, sugar, nuts and dried fruits in bulk.

7. Use cloth napkins instead of paper and reusable blotters instead of paper towels

8. Switch to a menstrual cup and cloth pads instead of tampons and disposable pads.

9. Challenge yourself to buy only goods made in the United States, and check the labels on everything.

10. Go to or start a swap meet, where people bring clothing or items they no longer want and pick up your discards.

11. Do a seedswapor plant swap or plant-pots swap to get your flower and vegetable garden started, or boost your indoor garden. Start an indoor garden per number 3.

12. Try to wean yourself off plastic of every kind.

13. When things break that shouldn’t, mail them back to the manufacturer COD (collect on delivery, so they pay), with a letter saying you are not satisfied with their shoddy products.

14. There are scores more ideas. Visit your cooperative extension site for ways to save. There are plenty of websites and blogs devoted to stopping consumerism and becoming more self-reliant.

You will feel better about yourself and your habits – but if none of that is enough, here’s the coup de grace.

The most common defense given by colleagues and friends about their decision to continue shopping at Walmart is, hands down, price. They say they can’t afford to shop elsewhere, and that Walmart is a one-stop shop where they can save time as well as money.

Sticker Shock

But Walmart is not cheaper for fresh food. I understood that it undercut other stores on packaged foods such as cereals and canned goods, but most fresh vegetables and dairy foods cost more there.

Plus, in an online spot check on December 2, 2013, I found, to my complete surprise, that my local food store Wegmans had considerably better prices on almost all of the brand items I tried. Walmart either didn’t have preferred sizes or did not supply in-store prices on its website; one would have to order by the case online or go to the store to find out how much things cost. Generally I would not buy brand-name goods – I frequently buy in bulk – and I’d be saving even more by buying the Wegmans (“Food You Feel Good About”) brand or brandless options.

Goya black beans, 29-ounce can

Walmart: $2.47/can when bought in a case of 12 online

Wegmans: $1.99 per can

Bumblebee solid white albacore tuna, 5-ounce can 

Walmart: $2.33/can when bought in a case of 24 online

Wegmans: $1.59 per can

DeCecco Fettucini Pasta, 16-ounce box

Walmart: $4.55/box when bought in case of 10

Wegmans (Penne, Angel Hair, Spaghettini or Orrechiette only): $2

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk, 64 ounces

Walmart: 32-ounce case of 12, $3.15 (x 2) – $6.30 for 64 ounces

Wegmans: $2.99

Planters Dry Roasted Party Size Peanuts With Sea Salt, 34.5 ounces

Walmart: $5.98

Wegmans: $6.99

Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise, 30-ounce jar

Walmart: (not available)

Wegmans: $3.99

Quaker Oats, Quick, 18 ounces

Walmart: $2.48

Wegmans: $2.59

Kashi Autumn Wheat Cereal, 16.3 ounces

Walmart: $3.68

Wegmans: $3.69

So that last great argument about Walmart being more affordable is dead in the water. Could a caring, sensible person continue to shop there, knowing all that we now know?

Sign the petition to Walmart to pay its workers a living wage before December 31, 2013.

Here’s one useful and brief article from a conservative financial publication that succinctly lists the factors whereby Walmart costs Americans jobs.

Here’s a great list of resources on Walmart and its impact on the US economy.

Read more here.

Emphasis Mine



New poll: Americans optimistic about Obamacare, overwhelmingly oppose GOP position

Source: The Jed Report, via Daily Kos

Author: staff

(N.B. The term ‘Obamacare’ is a conservative term for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) used by it’s GOP conservative critics.  As the ACA succeeds, will these critics still want their arch enemy’s name on it?  It might also be noted that as the law addresses health care insurance, not health care itself, ‘health care law’ may be a bad frame.)

CNN has a very interesting new poll that not only debunks the notion that Americans have already decided Obamacare is a failure, but also reveals that Americans overwhelmingly oppose the GOP’s conservative critique of the health care law.

According to the poll (pdf), which surveyed American adults between Nov. 18-20 with a margin of error of ±3.5 points:

  1. Most Americans believe Obamacare’s current problems will be solved. 54 percent say they believe current problems will be fixed, compared with 43 percent who say they won’t be.
  2. Most Americans believe it’s too early to judge whether Obamacare is a success or failure. A total of 53 percent think it is too early to say whether Obamacare is a success or failure. A total of 39 percent think it’s a failure and 8 percent already think it is a success.
  3. Most Americans do not support conservative critiques of Obamacare. According to the poll, 41 percent of Americans think Obamacare is too liberal, slightly more than 40 percent who support Obamacare. But 14 percent think it’s not liberal enough.

As you might expect, the poll’s crosstabs show that most Republicans are certain Obamacare can’t be fixed and has already failed, but outside of the GOP universe, people aren’t merely open to Obamacare, they are optimistic about its prospects and want it to work.

Obviously, it doesn’t matter how open or optimistic the public is if the Obama administration can’t ultimately deliver on the promise of Obamacare, but if they do, most Americans are on their side. Republicans have bet everything on failure. If they lose that bet, it will be an absolute political nightmare for them—and it should be.”



Emphasis Mine



Understanding the fourth Thursday in November: Church & State, Separate!

When all else fails, we can rock and roll!
When all else fails, we can always rock and roll!

Rather than separation of church and state in England in the 1600’s, it was illegal to be part of any church other than the Church of England.  A group of dissenters moved from England to the Netherlands – where church and state were separate – and then back to England.  Their leadership decided to establish a colony in North America, where they would be free not only to practice their own religion but eventually, free to persecute those whose religions differed!  They sailed for North America (in the ship Mayflower), and established a town. The colonists – known to us as pilgrims – “A pilgrim is a person who goes on a long journey often with a religious or moral purpose, and especially to a foreign land.”    – see  – experienced – despite their piety – a difficult first year, and only about half of them survived.  They were aided in practical matters  – such as obtaining sufficient food – not by supernatural intervention, but rather by the local aborigines (who did not have a help desk in India)!   The colonists made a mutual protection treaty with these Native Peoples, and invited them to a feast in 1621 to celebrate their first harvest – and this feast is the basis of our national holiday.  (Based on the way the descendants and successors of the Pilgrims reciprocated the kindness extended by our Native People, eventually driving them off of their lands and into refugee camps known as ‘reservations’, it is unlikely that Native Americans share the same warm, fuzzy feelings about this day…)

(N.B.: It is of interest to note that at that time when the pilgrims were struggling for survival, to the South – in present day Virginia, – a colony had been established which by 1619 already had an elected legislature, which brings to question the value of “I have relatives who came over on the Mayflower“.   American humorist Will Rogers – who had some Native American Ancestry – once responded to a lady who most pompously and arrogantly stated: “My ancestors came over on the Mayflower” with: “My ancestors were there to greet them!”)

Enjoy the holiday, endure the insipid deportment of some in attendance, keep in mind the need for Church State Separation, share with those less fortunate, and reflect on our national guilt.

Poverty Is America’s #1 Education Problem

Teachers’ unions are not the reason America’s schools are in trouble.

Source: AlterNet

Author: David Sirota

N.B.: As usual, when one sees ‘unions are to blame’, one can guess the source, and in education, unions are Not to blame!

“Google the phrase “education crisis” and you’ll be hit with a glut of articles, blog posts and think tank reports claiming the entire American school system is facing an emergency. Much of this agitprop additionally asserts that teachers unions are the primary cause of the alleged problem. Not surprisingly, the fabulists pushing these narratives are often backed by anti-public school conservatives and anti-union plutocrats. But a little-noticed study released last week provides yet more confirmation that neither the “education crisis” meme or the “evil teachers union” narrative is accurate.

Before looking at that study, consider some of the ways we already know that the dominant storyline about education is, indeed, baseless propaganda.

As I’ve reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system’s problems are not universal — the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do.

Similarly, we know that many of the high-performing public schools in America’s wealthy locales are unionized. We also know that one of the best school systems in the world — Finland’s — is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing.

So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation.

Cross-referencing education data, researchers found that that a majority of all public school students in one third of America’s states now come from low-income families.

How much does this have to do with educational outcomes? A lot. Social science research over the last few decades has shown that two thirds of student achievement is a product of out-of-school factors — and among the most powerful of those is economic status. That’s hardly shocking: Kids who experience destitution and all the problems that come with it have enough trouble just surviving, much less succeeding in school.

All of this leads to an obvious conclusion: If America was serious about fixing the troubled parts of its education system, then we would be having a fundamentally different conversation.

We wouldn’t be talking about budget austerity — we would be talking about raising public revenues to fund special tutoring, child care, basic health programs and other so-called wraparound services at low-income schools.

We wouldn’t only be looking to make sure that schools in high-poverty districts finally receive the same amount of public money as schools in wealthy neighborhoods — we would make sure high-poverty districts actually receive more funds than rich districts because combating poverty is such a resource-intensive endeavor.

More broadly, we wouldn’t be discussing cuts to social safety net programs — we would instead be working to expand those programs and, further, to challenge both parties’ anti-tax, anti-regulation, pro-austerity agenda that has increased poverty and economic inequality.

In short, if we were serious about education, then our education discussion wouldn’t be focused on demonizing teachers and coming up with radical schemes to undermine traditional public schools. It would instead be focused on mounting a new war on poverty and thus directly addressing the biggest education problem of all.”

David Sirota is the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover,” “The Uprising” and “Back to Our Future.” Email him at, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at

Emphasis Mine


Why the Hate-Filled, Retrograde Politics of the Tea Party Are Here to Stay

The Tea Party is not a movement, it’s a geographical region: the Old South.


Author: CJ Wehleman

N.B.: To triumph over the Tea Party, we must win the message war!

“After last Tuesday’s creaming in the Virginia governor’s race, and with Tea Party negatives creeping toward 75 percent, the political punditry class has divided itself into one of two camps: those celebrating the demise of the Tea Party versus those forecasting its inevitable end. Who’s right? They’re both wrong, because it’s not a movement. It’s a geographical region, and if history has taught us anything, southern folk are a pugnacious bunch.

Despite political feel-good rhetoric, there are two Americas. Not just ideologically, but geographically. That’s what still makes this country unique among other Western democracies. America is two distinct nations with a distinguishable border that runs the breadth of the country from the Mason-Dixon line across the southern border of Pennsylvania, finishing in some Baptist church somewhere in rural Texas.

The Tea Party is overwhelmingly Southern. Michael Lind, author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States, writes, “The facts show that the Tea Party in Congress is merely the familiar old neo-Confederate Southern right under a new label.” If you include Texas as a member of the Old South (banning tampons from the state house earns the Lone Star state that honor), nearly 80 percent of the Tea Party’s support comes from the former Confederate states. So, stop calling it a movement.

The Republican Party is not only the party of plutocrats and oligarchs; it’s also the party of the South. The party’s leaders are predominantly southern. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky. House Speaker John Boehner is from Cincinnati, Ohio, but Cincinnati is as close to the South as a northern city can be, given the city’s airport is actually in Kentucky. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is from Virginia. ‘

And then there are the likely 2016 presidential hopefuls. With the exception of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the pathologically homophobic Rick Santorum, the rest of them are as southern as Colonel Sanders. Rand Paul is from Kentucky. Bobby Jindal is from Louisiana. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are from Florida.

While movements and ideas may die, a land mass does not, and while that southern land mass is occupied by a people who are willing to destroy the country in order to get their way, and while the GOP remains dependent on its “Southern strategy,” the South’s fixation on everything related to controlling race, sex, religious practice, abortion laws, and dismantling the federal government will remain the revolutionary fervor of not only the Tea Party but also the GOP.

The trend lines in America are moving against the South thanks to increasing urbanization, the “browning of America,” and the declining place for religion in American life. These are great challenges to the South’s way of life, and southerners don’t like it. So don’t expect one governor’s race in an off-year election to read as an obituary for the Tea Party. As much as the media and the GOP establishment would like you to believe Chris Christie, a moderate only by Tea Party standards, to be the presumptive nominee, the neo-Confederates are more likely to pick a gay atheist from San Francisco.

The GOP’s most agitated and mobilized voting bloc is its predominantly southern evangelical base. In their minds, they’ve experimented with non-Southern “moderates” in the form of John McCain and Mitt Romney, and they got trounced. The base gets its cues from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, all of whom are juicing the base for a “severely conservative” 2016 candidate. Thus a northern governor who supports climate change, evolution, immigration and gun control will likely be sacrificed on the altar of southern radicalism—a fate realized by one former northern mayor in 2008, Rudy Giuliani.

The South, and by association the GOP, sees America increasingly through the prism of race. It’s central to their worldview. In 2012, 92% of the Republican vote came from white people who, within the next three decades, will no longer be in the majority. Despite losing the gubernatorial race, Ken Cuccinelli received more than 70% of the white vote. White southern voters view entitlements and immigration reform as liberal programs to buy votes. They believe food stamps and healthcare are an effort to take money from hard-working white people, and in turn, redistribute it to lazy black people. When Reagan spoke about a “welfare queen,” he didn’t need to mention her race. White southern voters had already painted a picture in their own minds.

In his seminal Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, Chuck Thompson writes:

The unified southern resistance to every initiative from any “liberal” administration has deep historic roots. The persistent defiance of every Democratic attempt to deal intelligently with national problems—be they recession, debt, or childhood obesity—has nothing to with political ideology, taxes, healthcare, or acceptable degrees of federal authority. It has everything to do with nullification, disruption, zealotry, and division. It’s part of a time-sharpened effort to debilitate nearly every northern-led government by injecting it with the Seven Deadly Sins of Southern Politics: demagogic dishonesty, religious fanaticism, willful obstructionism, disregard for own self-interest, corporate supplication, disproportionate influence, and military adventurism.

The next Republican Party presidential nominee will need to speak to these white southern fears and attitudes. Given that Civil War hostilities ended more than 150 years ago, and given the GOP is now backed by unprecedented levels of campaign finance thanks to Citizens United, don’t fool yourself into thinking the Tea Party strain of Republicanism is going away anytime soon. It’s more likely they’ve only just arrived.

CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America and God Hates You, Hate Him BackFollow him on Twitter @cjwerleman.

Emphasis Mine:



America’s Greatest Shame: Child Poverty Rises and Food Stamps Cut While Billionaires Boom

Source: Alternet

Author: Les Leopold

There are 16.4 million American children living in poverty. That’s nearly one quarter (22.6%) of all of our children. More alarming is that the percentage of poor children has climbed by 4.5 percent since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. And poor means poor. For a family of three with one child under 18, the poverty line is $18,400.

Meanwhile, the stock market is booming. Banks, hedge funds andprivate equity firms are making tens of billions of dollars again, while the luxury housing and goods markets are skyrocketing.

Most amazing of all is the fact that 95 percent of the so-called “recovery” has gone to the top 1 percent who have seen their incomes rise by 34%. For the 99 percent there’s been an undeclared wage freeze: the average wage has climbed by only 0.4 percent.

To add to the misery, Washington has decided that the best way to tackle childhood poverty is to have poor kids eat less. Both parties already have agreed to cut billions from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps). Starting this November 1, payments are scheduled to drop from $668 a month to $632 for more than 47 million lower-income people — 1 in 7 Americans, most of them children. (Three incredible graphs that visualize the issues in this story are at the bottom of this article.)

And more cuts are coming. The Tea Party House passed a bill to cut food stamps by $4 billion a year, while the Senate calls for $400 million in cuts. How humane! And since it will be part of the omnibus Farm Bill, President Obama will sign it. (I wonder how our former community organizer will explain this to the poor children he once tried to help in Chicago.)

But that’s just the start. More austerity is coming in the form of cuts to Social Security as well as a host of other social programs. When times get tough, you’ve got to suck it up and take more from the poor.

Rewarding Billionaires Who Increase Poverty?

It gets even more revolting when we realize that the financial billionaires who are profiting so handsomely from the recovery are the very same who took down the economy in the first place. They were the ones who created and pedaled the toxic securities that puffed up and then burst the housing bubble. Those financial plutocrats caused 8 million workers to lose their jobs in a matter of months. Those bankers, hedge fund honchos and fund managers are directly responsible for the rise in child poverty rates. Washington bailed out those billionaires and is now asking the poor and the middle class to pay for the ensuing deficits with further cuts in social programs at every level of government.

Why do we put up with such injustices?

Washington Is in Wall Street’s Pocket

Before we entirely succumb to financial amnesia, let’s recall how we got here. Since the late 1970s, the financial sector has been on a crusade to remove any and all financial regulations. The goal was to undo all the controls put in place during the Great Depression that so effectively curtailed financial speculation and outright gambling. Once deregulated Wall Street engineered a Ponzi-like housing bubble that netted it astronomical sums. By the time it burst in 2007, 40% of all corporate profits flowed into the financial sector. Wall Street wages grew by leaps and bounds.

As the crash hit, all the largest Wall Street firms, not just Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, were in serious trouble. Had AIG gone under, so would nearly every major bank and investment house, along with thousands of hedge funds that depended on AIG to ensure its toxic bets. So Wall Street’s Washington cadre engineered a $13 trillion bailout consisting of cash, no interest loans and a program by which the Federal Reserve would buy up Wall Street’s toxic waste at par value. To produce a financial recovery, the Fed also drove down bond interest rates which in turn drove money into the stock market, sending it to new heights.

Here’s the best of all. After getting $480 billion in bailout cash, the top financiers in the country paid themselves more than $150 billion in bonus money for a job well done. Is this a great country or what?

What didn’t happen is this: Mortgages were not written down in mass to assist underwater home owners and those who suffered from predatory loans. No lasting jobs programs were created to put the unemployed back to work. No lasting penalties were paid by the individuals who took down the economy. And there was no serious effort at all to cap financial wages and bonuses in the name of justice.

All in all, you could not have designed a more perfect program to enrich the rich and do absolutely nothing for the 99 percent — and as a result, sink ever more children into poverty.

Waiting for the Recovery That Will Never Come

We are constantly told that the recovery is just around the corner. Liberals say we need more stimulus. Conservatives call for more austerity and cuts in regulations. But all agree that sooner or later more growth will benefit the 99 percent. Unfortunately, it’s not happening and it won’t happen. Here’s why.

First of all, they assume that trickledown actually works, that there is something mechanical within our heavily financialized economy that will bring renewed prosperity to the 99 percent. They look back at previous recessions and recoveries and continue to believe that slumps are followed by renewed growth and income gains for all.

But as financialization has spread throughout the economy, new mechanisms are in place that siphon off wealth into financial gains for the very few. Productive enterprises are turned into financial enterprises that are loaded up with debt and then carved and slaughtered so that wealth can be extracted for hedge funds and private equity firms. In our brave new financialized economy renewed growth turns into renewed incomes primarily for the investment class. The stock market will rise but jobs and incomes won’t. The traditional capitalist slump-recovery process died more than a decade ago. Adam Smith’s invisible hand no longer produces shared prosperity — instead it picks our pockets.

Waiting for the Political Pendulum to Swing

Second, we are told how America is essentially a moderate country — how there’s a kind of invisible political pendulum that swings from the extremes back to the sensible center. When the left or the Tea Party gets too wild, the center supposedly pulls them back and common sense economics prevails. But this consoling media meme obscures the fact that our politics are moving ever more rightward. Moderate Democrats and Republicans today are to the right of Eisenhower, Nixon and even Herbert Hoover. They have already agreed to cut the very entitlements that are needed to help alleviate poverty. In fact, they have agreed it’s quite OK for America to have 442 billionaires and also have 22.6% of its children living in poverty. The sensible center now sees its role as forging a “compromise” on how much to cut food stamps and other supports for the poor.

Obviously, both political parties lose little sleep worrying about economic injustices. Even most Democrats no longer have a serious game plan to eradicate poverty. That’s considered to be 1960s stuff that doesn’t make sense in a world where politicians have to make peace with at least some players in the billionaire class in order to survive. As for the poor, alas, they will always be with us.

America Leads the World

Not a day goes by without hearing about “American exceptionalism.” We are told by our leaders and pundits that we are the best, the greatest, the mightiest and the most democratic of all nations. It is our mission in life to uphold justice and freedom around the world. But as this chart shows, when it comes to child poverty, we are just about dead last.

Why is that? Because in wealthy nations, children live in poverty if and only if that nation allows it. Our nation, the richest in history, has more than enough wealth to go from the bottom of this list to the top, right next to Finland, if only we decided to act justly.

A Simple Proposal to end Child Poverty

America has 442 billionaires with an average net worth of $4.2 billion eachaccording to Forbes. That means collectively these 442 Americans have nearly $1.9 trillion in wealth.

During the current “recovery,” these 442 billions saw their wealth rise on average by over 12 percent per year. What would happened if those billionaires received only 6 percent a year and the other 6 percent were taxed away in order to pull all of our children out of poverty?

That would provide sufficient revenue so that each child now living in poverty would receive an extra $7,000 per year which would pull nearly all of their families above the poverty line. The 442 billionaires would not suffer. No one in their families would go hungry. No luxury goods or services would be out of reach. No cooks, maids, chauffeurs or pilots would have to be let go. The 442 billionaires would feel no pain at all — not even an itch. As a result of this painless tax, America would eradicate childhood poverty overnight.

Dream on?

Of course, our simple proposal sounds insane in a world where austerity reigns supreme and where billionaires are immune from such redistributive proposals. But I wonder who is sane and who isn’t. It seems utterly psychotic to live in a society that chooses to spread poverty to its young. It also seems psychotic to claim that cuts in food stamps are good for the poor while at the same time saying that it’s quite OK for billionaires to pile up unearned, tax-sheltered income. The fact that we’re putting up with all this should be driving us all insane.

Sooner or later, the millions of Americans who still have souls that ache for justice will take democracy into their own hands. I don’t know how it will happen or when, but one day we will eradicate needless poverty and reclaim our nation from those who are robbing it blind.

3 Incredible Charts

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute in New York, and author of How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America’s Wealth (J. Wiley and Sons, 2013).

Emphasis Mine



29 Uncomfortable Truths About Soaring Poverty In America

Source: the internet post

Author: krystalklear

“Did you know that the number of Americans on welfare is higher than the number of Americans that have full-time jobs?  Did you know that 1.2 million public school students in the U.S. are currently homeless?  Anyone that uses the term “economic recovery” to describe what is happening in the United States today is being deeply insulting to the nearly 150 million Americans that are considered to be either “poor” or “low income” at this point.  Yes, things are great in New York City, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, but almost everywhere else economic conditions continue to steadily get worse.

The gap between the wealthy and the poor is at a level that America has never seen before, and this is beginning to create a “Robin Hood mentality” that could cause a tremendous amount of social chaos in the years ahead.  Anger at the “haves” in America continues to rise at a very alarming pace, and the “have nots” are becoming increasingly desperate.  At some point all of this anger is going to boil over, and you won’t want to be anywhere around major population centers when that happens.

Despite unprecedented borrowing by the federal government in recent years, and despite unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve, poverty in the United States keeps getting worse with each passing year. The following are 29 incredible facts which prove that poverty in America is absolutely exploding…

1. What can you say about a nation that has more people getting handouts from the federal government than working full-time?  According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people receiving means-tested welfare benefits is greater than the number of full-time workers in the United States.

2. New numbers have just been released, and they show that the number of public school students in this country that are homeless is at an all-time record high.  It is hard to believe, but right now 1.2 million students that attend public schools in America are homeless.  That number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

3. When I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone was from a middle class home.  But now that has all changed.  One recent study discovered that nearly halfof all public students in the United States come from low income homes.

4. How can anyone deny that we are a socialist nation when half the people are getting money from the federal government each month?  According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program.

5. Signs of increasing poverty are even showing up in the wealthiest areas of the nation.  According to the New York Post, New York subways are being “overrun with homeless“.

6. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one out of every sixAmericans is now living in poverty.  The number of Americans living in poverty is now at a level not seen since the 1960s.

7. The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States is at an all-time record high The wealthy may not consider this to be much of a problem, but those at the other end of the spectrum are very aware of this.

8. The “working poor” is one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population.  At this point, approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

9. According to numbers provided by Wal-Mart, more than half of their hourly workers make less than $25,000 a year.

10. A recent Businessweek article mentioned a study that discovered that 300 employees at one Wal-Mart in Wisconsin receive a combined total of nearly a million dollars a year in public assistance…

“A decent wage is their demand—a livable wage, of all things,” said Representative George Miller (D-Calif.). The problem with companies like Wal-Mart is their “unwillingness, not their inability, to pay that wage,” he said. “They hand off the difference to taxpayers.” Miller was referring to a congressional report (PDF) released in May that calculated how much Walmart workers rely on public assistance. The study found that the 300 employees at one Supercenter in Wisconsin required some $900,000 worth of public assistance a year.

11. The stock market may be doing great (for the moment), but incomes for average Americans continue to decline.  In fact, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.

12. The quality of the jobs in America has been steadily dropping for years.  At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

13. According to a Gallup poll that was recently released, 20.0% of all Americans did not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed at some point over the past year.  That is just under the record of 20.4% that was set back in November 2008.

14. Young adults are particularly feeling the sting of poverty these days.  American families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

15. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, one out of every five households in the United States is on food stamps.  Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.

16. The number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.

17. According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

18. We are told that we live in the “wealthiest nation” on the planet, and yet more than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.

19. The average food stamp benefit breaks down to approximatel$4 per person per day.

20. It is being projected that approximately 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps before they reach the age of 18.

21. Today, approximately 17 million children in the United States are facing food insecurity.  In other words, that means that “one in four children in the country is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life.”

22. It may be hard to believe, but approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are currently living in homes that are considered to be either “low income” or impoverished.

23. The number of children living on $2.00 a day or less in the United States has grown to 2.8 million.  That number has increased by 130 percent since 1996.

24. In Miami, 45 percent of all children are living in poverty.

25. In Cleveland, more than 50 percent of all children are living in poverty.

26. According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

27. According to a Feeding America hunger study, more than 37 million Americansare now being served by food pantries and soup kitchens.

28. The U.S. government has spent an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.

29. It has been reported that 4 out of every 5 adults in the United States “struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives”.

These poverty numbers keep getting worse year after year no matter what our politicians do.

So is there anyone out there that would still like to argue that we are in an “economic recovery”?

And as I mentioned above, the “have nots” are becoming increasingly angry at the “haves”.  For example, just check out the following excerpt from a recent New York Post article

The maniac who butchered a Brooklyn mom and her four young kidsconfessed that he did it because he was jealous of their way of life, a police source told The Post on Sunday.

The family had too much. Their income (and) lifestyle was better than his,” the source said.

The bloody suspect was caught holding the kitchen knife he used during the Saturday night rampage inside the Sunset Park apartment where he had been staying with the victims, the source added.

Sadly, this was not an isolated incident.  All over the western world, a “Robin Hood mentality” is growing.  This is something that I am so concerned about that I made it a big part of my new book.  At this point, even wealthy Hollywood-types such as actor Russell Brand are calling for a socialist-style “revolution” and a “massive redistribution of wealth“.

Perhaps Brand does not understand that what he is calling for would mean redistributing most of his own wealth away from him.

When the next major wave of the economic collapse strikes, I fear that all of this anger and frustration that are growing among the poor will boil over in some very frightening ways.  I believe that we will see a huge spike in crime and that we will eventually see communities all over America looted and burning.

But I am not the only one that is thinking along these lines.  A new National Geographic Channel movie entitled “American Blackout” attempts to portray the social chaos that could erupt in the event of an extended national power failure

American Blackout, National Geographic Channel’s two-hour, edge-of-your-seat movie event imagines the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyberattack — told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones. You’ll learn what it means to be absolutely powerless.

You can view a clip of the film that was made available by NatGeo for community right here.

What would you do if something like that happened to you?

How would you handle desperate, hungry people at your fence asking for food?

And what if those people were armed and were not “asking nicely” for your food?

Don’t ignore what is happening in America right now.  It is setting the stage for some very chaotic times.”

Emphasis Mine