11/21/2005 06:05 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Wal-Mart Economy Means Inequality

If you look at the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list for 2003, 5 Walton inheritors are tied for 4th place, each worth $20.5B (total Walton bling = $102.5).
If you go to Wikipedia, to the World Bank's 2004 list of Gross Domestic Product for 184 nations, and add up the 7 countries of Central America, their combined GDP totals $88.4B.
That's what Chinese low-wage products, lack of health care coverage, and part-time workers can do for a struggling Arkansas family. Then have your politician friends take away that nasty estate tax, eliminate most of the corporate tax, and lower the top tax rates for the very wealthy--and voila! The Walton family takes 5 of the top 8 spots in the rich rankings.
Where are the "trust-busters" when you need them?

According to Chuck Collins & Felice Yeskel, co-authors of Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity, "Wal-Mart's Walton family now has 771,287 times more than the median U.S. household."
Collins & Yeskel make some other points relevant to our new Wal-Mart economy:
*"The United States is now the third most unequal industrialized society after Russia and Mexico."
*"Just since 2001, when our economy hit bottom, the ranks of our nation's poor have grown by 4 million, and the number of people without health insurance has swelled by 10 percent to over 45 million."
*"Income inequality is now near all-time highs, with over 50 percent of 2004 total income going to the top fifth of households, and the biggest gains going to the top 5 percent and 1 percent."
*"The average CEO now takes home a paycheck 431 times that of their average worker."
*"At the pinnacle of U.S. wealth, 2004 saw a dramatic increase in the number of billionaires. According to Forbes magazine, there are now 374 of them."

That's why we need a hike in the minimum wage--and national health care--and fair taxes--and strong unions--and protection of Social Security & Medicare & Medicaid--and portable, funded pensions--and investment in public goods that serve all of us.
Because a democracy cannot sustain itself in the face of rising inequality.
A Wal-Mart economy is antithetical to a healthy democracy, just as Rockefeller's oil trusts and Carnegie's steel trusts were.
If you want to do more to rein in Wal-Mart, go here.

Oh, yeah, one more thing--Wal-Mart in recent years has started giving out a lot of money, almost all of it to Republicans. I wonder why...