Timothy Egan, the liberal New York Times reporter turned ultra-liberal columnist, flashed hostility to Wal-Mart (and capitalism in general), as well as a broad ignorance of economics in his latest Sunday Review column, "Corporate Daddy."
For some time now, Republicans in Congress have given up the pretense of doing anything to improve the lot of most Americans. Raising the minimum wage? They won’t even allow a vote to happen. Cleaner air for all? They may partially shut down the government in a coming fight on behalf of major polluters. Add to that the continuing obstruction of student loan relief efforts, and numerous attempts to defund health care, and you have a party actively working to make life miserable for millions.
Egan's revulsion for Wal-Mart forced him to give grudging praise to another corporate behemoth, Starbucks.
So, our nation turns to Starbucks. And Walmart. In the present moment, both of those global corporate monoliths are poised to do more to affect the huge chasm between the rich and everybody else than anything that’s likely to come out of John Boehner’s House of Representatives.
As long as the Supreme Court says that corporations are citizens, they may as well act like them. Starbucks is trying to be dutiful -- in its own prickly, often self-righteous, spin-heavy -- while Walmart is a net drain on taxpayers, forcing employees into public assistance with its poverty-wage structure.
Tim Worstall demolished the underlying liberal study that accused Wal-Mart of being a "net drain on taxpayers" in a column for Forbes, pointing out that most of those costs "are subsidies to the workers and thus are, in fact, costs to WalMart...Benefits that you get out of work are not benefits to potential employers. They are costs to them, for they raise your reservation wage." Worstall also pointed to studies showing Wal-Mart has lowered shopping bills for Americans by some $250 billion a year, among the societal benefits of Wal-Mart (besides providing jobs in the first place) that Egan completely ignored.
Instead Egan wailed that America isn't Europe:
It’s a sad day when we have to look to corporations for education, health care and basic ways to boost the middle class. Most advanced nations do those things for their people. We used to -- witness the G.I. Bill, which helped millions of returning soldiers get a lift to a better life. But you go to war against the income gap with the system you have, and ours is currently broken. By default, we have no choice but to lean on our corporate overlords.
Walmart, the nation’s top private employer and the world’s largest public corporation, is a big part of the problem -- and could be a big part of the solution. Their humiliating wages force thousands of employees to look to food stamps, Medicaid and other forms of welfare. A sign appearing at a Walmart in Ohio last year, asking people to donate food so that the company’s employees “could enjoy Thanksgiving,” was a perfect symbol of what’s wrong with the nation’s most despised retailer. Working at Walmart may not make you poor, but it certainly keeps you poor -- at the expense of the rest of us.
Later Egan insisted Wal-Mart follow the Starbucks way: "Why not follow the Starbucks model and offer free tuition to all employees?" before blasting the GOP once again:
Sadly, this is the future. Congress could raise the minimum wage, make college more affordable, or even make it universally accessible for all qualified applicants. At the very least, it could reduce the student loan burden. These obvious remedies are anathema to Republicans.
Of course, raising the minimum wage serves to lock out those who don't already have jobs by making it more expensive for them to be hired. And generous government financial aid to students enables colleges to raise tuitions -- which partly explains why college costs continue to outstrip inflation. But Egan isn't interested in such cold-hearted economic truths. He's eagerly awaiting the collapse, or at least the crippling, of capitalism.
In the conservative view, the free market can take care of everything. But what you’re hearing from bottom-line capitalists is that the system is in deep trouble. “Labor and capital have to share in the rewards of a productive economy, and for the last 25 years labor has gotten the short end of the stick,” said Bill Gross, the founder of the investment firm PIMCO, in a recent interview with Yahoo. Eventually, he said, “it will be destabilizing.”
One corporate titan says the American dream is shattered. Another captain of big money says we’re reaching a breaking point. When the 1 percenters start talking this way, you know we’re in trouble.