Bernie Sanders Is Ayn Rand’s Worst Nightmare: He’s Changing How We View Socialism — and Exposing Free Market Parasites

Conservatives have long wielded ‘socialism’ as a pejorative — but Sanders owns it and is transforming politics.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Conor Lynch

Emphasis Mine

Since Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., launched his campaign for president this spring, he has gone from being a fringe candidate of the left to a serious challenger of Hillary Clinton, who has long been considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. When Sanders started gaining traction at the beginning of the summer, most shrugged him off as the new Ralph Nader, or even the Ron Paul of the left, an insurgent who would attract a dedicated but slim following.

Today, these comparisons are looking less accurate, and Sanders is no longer a fringe candidate. Last week, the Sanders campaign released its fundraising results for the third quarter of 2015, and not only did it nearly match Clinton’s third quarter results in cash, but broke the fundraising record in small donations. Indeed, the Sanders campaign has reached one million individual donations faster than both of President Obama’s historic campaigns (in 2008, Obama didn’t reach one million until February).

As one would expect, as Sanders has surged, the American right (and center) have gone from ignoring him to attacking him, and the barbs have been predictable indeed. The most common sound something like this: “Socialism has already been tried and it failed,” “There is no free stuff,” “He wants to steal from the job-creators.” Of course, these are familiar attacks that have long wielded against the Democrats, but with a man who does not shun the “socialist” label, they have become even sharper.

First things first: The word “socialism” has become so freely used by the right that it has all but lost the meaning that it once possessed. Since even before the Cold War, the word socialism has been a pejorative in America. When people on the right say, “Socialism has already been tried,” they are by and large thinking of 20th-century communism in the East, i.e., a totalitarian state with a centrally planned economy. If this were the sole definition of socialism, then these anti-socialists would be entirely correct. When considering 20th century communism, it is clear that centrally planned economies without markets do not work in the long run (and black markets become an inevitable feature). At this point in history, markets are necessary for human innovation and wealth creation. But as the economist (and communist, according to Bill O’Reilly) Robert Reich points out his his new book “Saving Capitalism,” the free market vs. government debate is mostly pointless. In order to have a functioning market, there need to be rules, and for rules of the market there needs to be government; the real debate should be whether those rules are working for everyone or just the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

The point is, “socialism” does not necessarily mean centrally planned economies, as most on the right believe. The original definition of socialism was something like this: the collective ownership of the means of production and distribution. In this sense, worker-owned businesses (i.e. worker co-ops) are very “socialistic,” and Sanders has appropriately put forth a plan to increase worker ownership. The word socialism can also mean “Social Democracy” — this is what best describes Bernie Sanders’s philosophy — which involves a market economy with socialistic programs. The most common example of this sort of economic system can be found in the Scandinavian countries, which have hardly “failed.” Indeed, Scandinavian countries have all been previously ranked among the highest in the world when it comes to “ease of doing business,” “global innovation,” and “prosperity.”

The second-most common claim on the right came from the sagging Rand Paul last month, when he said that “Bernie Sanders is offering you free stuff…but guess what, there is no free lunch.” This kind of assumption is not new, and can be traced back to Ronald Reagan and those infamous “welfare queens,”sad dog-whistle that haunts us to this day. Of course, it’s not about “free stuff,” but fairness. Indeed, when some facts are introduced, this assumption is revealed as a myth that has long been used by the right wing to divide the middle class (particularly along racial lines). Rand Paul seems to be entirely ignorant (willfully, I’m sure) that it is not lazy unemployed people that strain Americas welfare system, but working class people who are not being paid livable wages by corporations. Indeed, this was exactly what was found in a recent study at the University of Berkley California. The Wall Street Journal reports:

“The study found that 56% of federal and state dollars spent between 2009 and 2011 on welfare programs — including Medicaid, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Creditflowed to working families and individuals with jobs. In some industries, about half the workforce relies on welfare.”

One of the most notorious of these corporations that doesn’t have to pay its workers living wages and is more or less receiving corporate welfare is McDonald’s. Indeed, if we are keeping with these right wing terms, McDonald’s is one enormous welfare queen. It has previously been estimated that fast-food workers, who are on average 29 years old, receive around $7 billion in public assistance, and McDonald’s even has a resource line (McResource) that assists workers in signing up for assistance programs (so it doesn’t have to pay livable wages). This is also true for other massive corporations like Walmart, which is notoriously low-paying and last year made nearly $16 billion in profit. It is always easier to go after the working class poor than massive corporations who make billions in profit and spend millions on lobbying.

Socialism is not about “free stuff,” but cracking down on these corporations that exploit their workers and then rely on the government to make sure they don’t starve. It is not about being lazy and slacking off, but about demanding a fair share and getting paid decently for one’s labor — it is yet another right wing fallacy that people get paid what they’re worth, and that only lazy people are poor. Socialism is about working people, not slackers. It is about fighting capitalist realities like the fact that the top 25 hedge fund managers in America make more money than all of the 157,800 kindergarten teachers combined. Are investors who produce no value really worth that much more than teachers?

Needless to say, the myths and attacks on Sanders and “socialism” will only grow more intense in the months to come. Republican politicians tend to agree with Ayn Rand when it comes to working people, i.e. that they are parasites (although they’d never say such a thing out loud). The Sanders campaign is changing how American people view “socialism,” and hopefully, he is also exposing the GOP as the anti-working class party that it truly is.

Conor Lynch is a writer and journalist living in New York City. His work has appeared on Salon, The Hill, AlterNet, and openDemocracy. Follow him onTwitter.


Walmart On Welfare

Source: National Memo

Author: David Cay Johnston

Emphasis Mine

Next time you drive past a Walmart, think about how much in taxes you pay to subsidize the nation’s largest private employer, owned by the nation’s richest family.

Your cost this year:  $247 if you are single, $494 if you are a couple, and $987 if you are a couple with two kids.

And you pay whether or not you shop at Walmart or its Sam’s Clubs.

Put another way, if you are single and a minimum-wage earner, the first 39 minutes you are on the job each week just goes to provide welfare for Walmart and the Waltons.

For a family of four, the cost of welfare for Walmart and the Waltons probably comes to more than your weekly take-home pay, based on government data on incomes.

American taxpayer money explains almost a third of Walmart’s worldwide pretax profits last year. But that understates the scale of taxpayer assistance to the retailer, which made 29 percent of its sales overseas last year.

Figure about 44 percent of Walmart’s domestic pretax profits were contributed by local, state and federal taxpayers directly and indirectly, based on company disclosure statements.

These figures on welfare for Walmart and the Waltons were calculated from a report released today by Americans for Tax Fairness, part of a broad coalition of union, civil rights and other organizations trying to shame the Walton family into paying wages that if not good, are at least enough to make sure Walmart employees do not qualify for food stamps.

So far the Waltons have shown themselves to be shameless and utterly unapologetic for foisting any of their costs onto taxpayers instead of earning their way in the marketplace.

This is in a way not surprising. The best-known heir of the retailing innovator Sam Walton, his daughter Alice, 64, has a long history of drunk-driving accidents, including killing a woman hit by her vehicle.

While repeat drunk drivers are routinely prosecuted in most jurisdictions, often as a matter of policy, and upon conviction get the time behind bars their conduct deserves, to date no law enforcement agency has seen fit to prosecute Alice Walton. Instead she basks in the glow of encomiums for the philanthropy enabled by the fortune her father built and boosted by the steady flow of money taxpayers are forced to give her, her relatives and other Walmart investors.

Compared to this taxpayer largesse, Walton philanthropy is small change.

The Walton Family Foundation ranks 22nd in America with $2.2 billion in assets, which may seem large. But Walmart and the Waltons have already extracted that much from the taxpayers this year. In fact they hit about $2.2 billion of taxpayer subsidies on Saturday, April 12, based on the Americans for Tax Fairness report.

The $7.8 billion a year annual cost estimate in the new report is based on a study last year by the House Education and the Workforce Committee Democratic staff. It showed that each Walmart in Wisconsin costs taxpayers between $905,000 and $1.75 million in welfare costs.

Americans for Tax Fairness extrapolated to all the Walmarts in America based on that study and then took into account other costs taxpayers are forced to bear to subsidize the company and, thus, its controlling owners, the Waltons.

The study estimates that if the subsidy costs were divided equally among the company’s 1.4 million American workers, the cost would be $4,415 per Walmart employee.

Welfare for Walmart workers, the Americans for Tax Fairness report says, costs $6.2 billion, making it by far the bulk of the costs taxpayers must bear.

The study estimates that only $70 million is for the use of tax dollars to build Walmart stores, distribution centers and other property provided by the largesse of the taxpayers. That number is small because Walmart has pretty much built out across America.

To date Walmart has probably received $1.5 billion from taxpayers to build and equip stores, distribution centers and other buildings, according to Phil Mattera, research director at Good Jobs First, which on a budget of about $1 million annually has for years dragged out of local, state and federal officials details of how much welfare Walmart gets.

The discounted rates at which dividends are taxed, a policy first put forth by then-President George W. Bush in 2003, save the Walton heirs $607 million in taxes annually, the Americans for Tax Fairness report calculated from company disclosure reports.

One aspect of the report should be regarded with caution.

Americans for Tax Fairness says Walmart saves $1 billion each year by taking advantage of an almost universally used method to deduct the value of new equipment quickly rather than slowly. It is called accelerated depreciation.

That lowers taxes in the early years after an investment is made, but it means higher taxes in later years.  The proper way to measure this is how much less the future taxes are worth because they are delayed between one and 20-plus years. A more realistic figure is probably $100 million, a tenth of what the report says.

Despite this, I used the report’s estimate of accelerated depreciation costing $1 billion annually in calculating how much it costs you to subsidize Walmart and the Waltons.

That caveat presented, the core issue here is why does Walmart need welfare? Indeed, why has welfare become almost universal among large American companies, some of which derive all of their profits from stealth subsidies?

Walmart is far from alone among big corporations that do not depend on what they can earn in the marketplace, but instead extract your tax dollars to juice their profits.

Every big company I know of (except one) not only takes from the taxpayers, but has its hands out for all the welfare it can collect in the form of tax dollars paying for new buildings, exemptions from taxes, discounted electricity, free job training and all sorts of regulatory rules that thwart competition and artificially inflate prices. From Alcoa and Boeing on through the alphabet, America’s big companies – and a lot of foreign-owned companies – are on the dole.

The one exception is Gander Mountain, a chain of retail stores that sells sporting goods, especially for hunting and fishing. It refuses all welfare and once sent a check for $1 million to a municipal agency after being alerted to a hidden subsidy.

Imagine how much more money you would have in your pocket if the Waltons stood on their own proverbial two feet, pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, and gave back all the welfare they have taken year after year after year.

Then ask yourself why you voted for any politician in either party who has not introduced legislation and regulations to stop this and recover that money – with interest.

Emphasis Mine


If Wallmart paid a living wage, how much would prices go up?

Walmart employees consume billions in food stamps each year, but raising their wages to a point where they wouldn’t need them anymore would only increase prices by about 1.4 percent

Source: Think Progress, via Portside

Author: Bryce Covert

Walmart prices would go up by mere pennies if it were to pay all of its workers enough to live above the poverty line, according to an analysis by Marketplace and Slate.

In a video, they explain that Walmart employees consume billions in food stamps each year, but raising their wages to a point where they wouldn’t need them anymore would only increase prices by about 1.4 percent:

A single mother working at Walmart is eligible for food stamps if she makes less than $20,449 a year. Industry analysts put the average wage for cashiers at $8.81, or for someone who works typical retail hours of 30 a week, 50 weeks a year, $13,215 a year. Raising that single mom’s wages to $13.63 an hour, however, would push her to a point where she no longer qualifies for food stamps. Doing that for all of its employees would cost the company $4.8 billion a year. Yet if it passed the entire cost on to consumers, it would raise prices by 1.4 percent, making a $0.68 box of macaroni and cheese cost just a penny more.

The video also notes that doing this would save the country millions in spending on food stamps. It notes that in Ohio, for example, as many as 15 percent of Walmart employees use food stamps, meaning that all workers consume about $300 million each year. That sum would no longer have to be spent if its workers simply made more. Including food stamps, Walmart workers at single store consumer around $1 million in public benefits each year.

Researchers have come to similar conclusions. Ken Jacobs, chair of the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley, estimated that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would add $200 million to the company’s labor costs. If it passed the entire cost on to consumers, it would increase the price of a $16 item by a penny.

It’s also worth noting that the company could very well decide not to pass the cost on to its shoppers. Jacobs estimates that while some of it might be passed through in higher prices, it’s probably not going to be 100 percent. That’s at least in part because a higher wage means more money for its workers to spend in its own stores, which would increase its sales. The company even told Bloomberg it was considering supporting a minimum wage hike because it would give its customers additional income, although it warned it hasn’t made any decisions on its support. A $10.10 minimum wage would mean $31 billion more in earnings for nearly 17 million people across the country.< /p>

It could also raise wages for its workers with the $7.6 billion it currently spends on buying back shares of its own stock and ensure they all make over $25,000 a year, a level demanded by workers who have repeatedly gone on strike. It gets little value out of the stock buybacks.

Emphasis Mine


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



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


Walmart sues activist for standing up for exploited workers

Source: People’s world

Author: Stewart Acuff

“The world’s largest and most oppressive corporation in the world, Walmart, has sued Gene Lantz, a retired union activist, for standing up for the victims of Walmart, some of the most oppressed workers in the world.

Lantz, the United Food and Commercial WorkersOUR Walmart, and Jobs With Justice have been sued by Walmart for civil trespassing for crossing their parking lots.

We’ve noted in this space before how thin-skinned and controlling the world’s largest global corporations can be. Walmart and others who drive global poverty and the economic race to the bottom can spend huge resources trying to control people in a free society for crossing a parking lot they don’t even own.

I’ve known Gene Lantz for about 20 years through Jobs With Justice. He is a very committed human rights and workers rights activist. His human rights activism goes back to 1967. His workers rights activism goes back to 1984 when he organized fellow workers who had been fired for standing up for a good union contract.

Gene hosts a Saturday morning radio show called Workers Beat at 9 am central on Dallas radio KNON, which is podcast and broadcast on YouTube.

He says that the Walmart lawsuit is part of their “game” to make themselves look like victims – a rich bit of irony since they may have created more economic victims than any other force in the world today. Gene says he doesn’t know if the lawsuit will work.

Walmart is the lowest of the low in corporate exploitation. Their heavy-handed intimidation won’t work on him.

Gene was greeted as a hero by fellow union members, and Jobs With Justice did an action within a week of the filing of the lawsuit.

But the stakes in this fight are high for those who work at Walmart. They fired at least 10 workers the same time they filed suit.

Gene has been making videos of public officials supporting Walmart workers and posting on them YouTube. He believes this may be a key tactic in the long strategy to hold Walmart accountable.”

This article was reposted from Stewart Acuff’s blog.


Emphasis Mine