Wal-Mart: Powerhouse for the Poor, Greatest Thing That Ever Happened to Low-Income Americans
For years, people have beaten down the doors to work at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart's more than 1.3 million American employees aren't stupid. The company's wages and fringe benefits -- including health care coverage and retirement benefits -- are comparable to those of other retailers.
Wal-Mart pays as well as Target, according to Chuck Denny, who analyzed the company in an April study for the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The average wage for regular, full-time hourly Wal-Mart associates in Minnesota is $11.30, according to Wal-Mart's website, and employees are eligible for performance-based bonuses.
And forget that tired line about dead-end jobs. Two-thirds of store managers were once hourly workers, according to the company.
Wal-Mart is the world's largest nongovernment employer, because it's the world's most popular retailer. A mind-boggling more than 100 million Americans shop there every week.
But Wal-Mart may also be the most demonized company in our country's history. For years, it has been the target of a sophisticated, orchestrated public relations campaign. That's odd, because the giant retailer has arguably done more for low-income Americans than a shopping cart full of government welfare programs.
Wal-Mart's combination of rock-bottom prices, quality and convenience -- it offers a dizzying array of household staples under one roof -- appeals strongly to shoppers who need to stretch their dollars. Estimates of the average family's annual savings from shopping at Wal-Mart range from $900 to $2,300, depending on the study you consult.
W. Michael Cox, chief economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, summed it up this way speaking to the New York Times: "Wal-Mart is the greatest thing that ever happened to low-income Americans."
Interestingly, the folks who hate Wal-Mart are often the sort who usually make a big deal about how much they care for low-income people. They make a mistake when they turn a blind eye on the achievements of this powerhouse for the poor.
Katherine Kersten in today's Star Tribune.