24 November 2013

Walmart, Poverty, and the Square Root of Pie in America

Yes, Walmart is probably owned and operated by Satan. And if not evil, certainly they are morally wrong for not paying their employees a livable wage. If claims that up to 80 percent of their employees receive food stamps are true, that means that over 1.1 million of them are on government assistance. (Which, for some reason, draws a Hell of a lot more outrage than the fact that approximately 900 fucking thousand veterans and military families rely on the same assistance.) On an unrelated note, if I hear one more “I work so welfare recipients don’t have to” statement, I’m going to fucking murder someone.

Lately there have been calls to raise the federal minimum wage. One government suggestion to raise minimum wage to $10 per hour over the next three years is fucking laughable at best and demonstrates how utterly out of touch the entire government is with the reality of life in America, regardless of political parties. I’m certainly no economic expert over here, but there are just a few deeper considerations regarding poverty:

Poverty Thresholds Don’t Mean A Damn Thing
First of all, the current minimum wage of $7.25 allows a full time worker to earn several hundred dollars over the official annual poverty guidelines of $11,139. That would be sufficient if the official poverty guidelines meant a goddamn thing.

For example, Harlingen, Texas offers a cost of living 18 percent below the national average. However, a single worker would still need to earn at least $16,171 to cover basic necessities each year. That’s over $5,000 above the official poverty threshold. Just let me emphasize here that that is the cheapest cost of living in the nation, based on consumer price index reports.

Currently the official poverty thresholds are determined, presumably, using an outdated form of 1960’s witchcraft, based loosely on the idea that the average consumer spends one-third of his income on food. So the cost of food, multiplied by unicorn, added to the cost of coffee divided by the square root of pie is somehow manipulated to illustrate poverty level earnings. 

Since the original determination, the thresholds have been adjusted annually based on data from the consumer price index reports. The minimum wage is then determined by a completely unrelated formula. Meaning that someone says, “Hey, let’s raise the minimum wage to $X.”

That’s not to say the government is entirely unaware of the issue. A study released in September 2012 reveals a more accurate idea of the actual poverty threshold. For example, the official threshold of $23,283 for a family of four, when adjusted to include all costs of living, such as rent, mortgage, personal care, etc. was raised to $25,789 for homeowners with a mortgage and $25,101 for renters. 

Keep in mind that an entire one-fourth of this nation’s households have an income of $25,411 or below.

 Walmart Will Continue to Make Record Profits
Of course there is also the issue concerning the national average. Even using the supplemental, experimental poverty thresholds above, there aren’t a Hell of a lot of places a family of four can actually live based on that income.

I’ve heard the argument that minimum wage was never meant to be a livable wage. In theory it was a starting point for entry level jobs that people would advance from. Of course, that was back when this country actually manufactured and produced shit. So, I’d have to say that argument is moot.

And of course, that’s why Walmart and similar corporations are going to continue to win, because for as much as we may be outraged and protest, we certainly aren’t going to boycott. With an entire fucking quarter of the nation’s households making $25,411 or less, the sad truth is that a whole bunch of Americans can’t afford to boycott Walmart. 

Ironically, the exploitation of the working poor is part of the reason Walmart is able to offer its famous low prices that the working poor need to live and feed their families. Protests and boycotts are fine and well, but moral support for any cause tends to wane when there are hungry children involved. 


  1. Raising the minimum wage only makes businesses lay off those they can't afford and leads to more unemployment.

    The best solution is to lower taxes, reign in the Fed and never allow them to inflate the dollar. Add harsh penalties to lobbying and you remove government employees from the carrot of crony politics. Walmart spends millions in the effort to change laws, so they can have an advantage.

    The minimum wage is another effort by the government to control through law. Like every effort by the government, the effort has led to conditions worse than when the entire mess was started.

  2. I worked a bunch of minimum wage jobs back in the day.

    When I say "back in the day" I mean when it was barely over $3/hour.

    Wanna know something? Minimum wage sucks ass. I humped like a madman, trying to find any skill set that would get me out of that minimum wage racket.
    Eventually I got out of it. Ended up working a string of jobs that paid much better, but only because I fought tooth and nail to get them.

    I like the idea that minimum wage jobs don't quite pay enough to get by. I would hate to think that anyone would be happy just chugging along making the absolute minimum required by law.

  3. That doesn't mean I think the guys running WalMart are bunch of fucking saints.

  4. I actually have a fairly neutral opinion on the whole minimum wage thing. It's just that focusing on the whole Walmart thing and the minimum wage thing doesn't do anything to address the rising poverty issues. Not that I am offering any solutions. lol

  5. Australian minimum wage is over 16.00. Per hour and they are doing fine