Gift Horse, My Ass

Late last year, the Brookings Institution released statistics showing Youngstown has the highest concentrated poverty rate among core cities in the United States’ 100 largest metropolitan areas. Given that the Youngstown/Warren area easily qualified for Walmart’s Fighting Hunger Together initiative. The initiative was a charity campaign where  Walmart chose 200 U.S. metro areas in which unemployment rates were the highest. The community that clicked “Like” on Walmart’s Facebook the most was to receive $1 million in grants from the Walmart Foundation. The next 20 communities each would receive $50,000. The Youngstown/Warren area capture the number one spot and the $1 million dollar grant by racking up 98,690 votes. The local TV stations heavily promoted the initiative and many local schools had their students get on the school computers to vote at Walmart’s Facebook page. Trumbull Mobile Meals took home $10,000 of the total prize. The biggest share $715,000, went to Second Harvest Food Bank. Catholic Charities got $275,000. “This kind of money in one shot gives an incredible opportunity to really be creative and do some things that are really needed in this area,” said Nancy Voitus of Catholic Charities.

I have to admit I was not one of the 98,000 votes to “Like” Walmart. I just couldn’t bring myself to go to Walmart’s Facebook site let alone click the “Like” link once I got there. I do understand as Nancy Voitus said that some things are really needed in our area and the money brings an incredible opportunity. I just happen to believe more the part of her quote that says that we need to be more creative. Yes we need to help the poor and hungry but instead of temporarily being satisfied with feeding the poor how about we try to end poverty? The unemployed, children and the homeless are the first people we think about as being hungry. Today, people who earn minimum wage, those who can only find part-time work and the retired are also having a hard time making ends meet. Organizations like the Catholic Church and other churches that jumped on board to promote the $1 million in grants from Walmart are not helping the hungry and poor in the long run. They need to be creative as MS. Voitus said. The Catholic Church doesn’t have to be very creative to help end poverty it has only to look to one of the major themes of its Catholic Social teachings. That would be, the Preferential Option for the poor and vulnerable. The Preferential Option points out that the moral test of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation. We are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor. As for other Christian religions they could help by living the call of the Gospels to work to eliminate poverty, to speak out against injustice, and to promote the common good.

Given the Preferential Option and Gospels background anyone Catholic or any other Christian faith should have realized they were in bed with the Devil when they promoted “Liking” Walmart. Walmart/Sam’s Club doesn’t pay a livable wage, keeps people part-time so they don’t have to offer healthcare, discourages overtime, forced employees to work off the clock without pay, promotes men more than women and denies workers the right to unionize. These company policies make Walmart/Sam’s Club employees the working poor. It also entitles them to be eligible for many forms of public assistance. Because Walmart does not take care of its employees the federal and state governments (read taxpayers) are subsidizing Walmart for its substandard wages and benefits.  With so many of its employees in need of government support some larger Walmart stores actually have welfare offices in the store — for the people who work there. One Congressional study entitled “Everyday Low Wages” estimates that a single Walmart “employing” 200 people would cost taxpayers over $400,000 in added social spending. Walmart costs taxpayers an estimated $1 billion per year subsidizing low wages and benefits.

Conservatives throw around the term, “entitlements” when describing fellow Americans on welfare, getting Social Security or Medicare. Who are biggest welfare cheats that demand their corporate welfare “entitlements” and have communities and legislatures throw all manner of tax breaks and subsidies at them? That would be corporations like, Walmart/Sam’s Club. The $1 million that Walmart gave the Youngstown area was not a donation. It was our own tax dollars coming back to us and a mere drop in the bucket of what they have stolen from taxpayers at that. I don’t even have the time and space to talk about Walmart’s sweatshops, destruction of mom and pop stores, exporting manufacturing jobs, environmental issues etc. Suffice to know that Walmart is on the wrong side of every social justice issue that you can think of. That alone should have any church or honest organization refusing to have anything to do with them.

I know I’m living in a dream world when I believe justice should always prevail. If justice would have prevailed in this Walmart Initiative the Catholic Church, other churches, Trumbull Mobile Meals and Second Harvest Food Bank would have won the money and then given it back. Then they would have made a statement that corporation like Walmart/Sam’s Club are not part of the solution but a major part of the problem of poverty and hunger. Heck, I’d have been ecstatic if our local organizations that got the money would have kept it and said it is just some of the corporate welfare money that our local communities’ taxpayers paid out to the local Walmart and Sam’s Clubs to locate here anyway. I don’t see any hypocrisy in taking the money and still pointing out that Walmart/Sam’s Club are bad fellow citizens. The Supreme Court declared them fellow citizens so it should be pointed out they helped export jobs to China, then filled their shelves with Chinese goods they want us to buy. That makes them a double-crosser and a betrayer in other words a traitor. They should be in court being charged with treason or at least boycotted for being disloyal to this country.

If the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches really believed in the Gospels concerning the poor they would be outside of these big box corporate welfare queens with picket signs demanding jobs that pay a fair wage that includes healthcare for employees. A recent study showed that paying a fair wage would only result in a price hike of around 1 percent for Walmart shoppers. The researchers noted that the increase would be “well below Walmart’s estimated savings to consumers” – in other words, the big-box retailer could continue to offer “low prices” without impoverishing their workers. The study’s authors noted that the 1 percent price hike was the “most extreme estimate, as portions of the raise could be absorbed through other mechanisms, including increased productivity or lower profit margins.”

Let the truth be told Walmart is not a gift horse it is a Trojan Horse.

No franchise big box music here just local homegrown Kenny Greco: Say a Prayer

also Kenny with: All the Words I Can’t Say (check out some of the Youngstown background).

“More and more Americans are asking about the price that we have to pay when Walmart comes into a community, treats workers poorly, violates immigration laws and squashes small businesses.” ~ Anthony Weiner



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2 responses to “Gift Horse, My Ass

  1. Thank You for writing this up, Jim!! This whole fiasco just made me sooo sad…

  2. elecpencil

    Thanks Diana it was sad and I had some mixed emotions to deal with. I think the Occupy Movement should concentrate on Main Street for awhile. That would mean taking on the nearest WalMart and Sam’s Clubs. If the Teabaggers want to scream about socialism we should point out the only socialists are corporations on the dole. They have been socializing the cost and privatizing the profits for quite awhile.

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