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Saturday, December 10, 2016

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: $24 if you are single, $49 if you are a couple, and $99 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 four 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.

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