The Hightower Report

Wal-Mart gets indignant; and Cheney gets churlish


Wal-Mart's Numbers Game

I've been chastised by Wal-Mart! Imagine my distress.

The largest corporation in the world apparently was stung by one of my recent commentaries. I had pointed out that Wal-Mart, which touts itself as a model of "free-market" success, actually has built its market muscle in large part by milking us taxpayers, having squeezed more than a billion dollars in subsidies from state and local governments, giving it a competitive advantage to clobber local businesses.

In response, Sarah Clark, director of corporate communications at WallyWorld, fired off a missive to media outlets that carried my Wal-Mart commentary. She asserted that it was "full of inaccuracies." Was the key figure of $1 billion in taxpayer giveaways to Wal-Mart inaccurate? No, she didn't dispute it.

Rather, Wal-Mart's chief PR flack tried to change the subject, offering numbers purporting to show that the company is a generous corporate citizen. "In the past ten years," Ms. Clark informs us indignantly," Wal-Mart has paid $4 billion in property taxes alone." But, wait – it owed those taxes! This was not a "contribution," but a debt. Other businesses pay property taxes, too, yet they don't get a billion bucks in special subsidies.

Then Ms. Clark notes that her company "generated $52 billion in sales taxes." But, wait again – that's not Wal-Mart's money. It's money that local consumers paid to finance public services. This money is also the result of sales that the monopolistic giant took from local businesses. Wal-Mart doesn't expand a community's buying power – it just redistributes purchases from other stores to itself.

But Ms. Clark presses on, claiming that "Wal-Mart has remitted $192 million" in wage taxes. Once more, however, this money is not a voluntary contribution from a good-hearted company – it's taken out of the employees' wages, as required by law.

To see the full report and related material about how Wal-Mart does indeed milk taxpayers, go to www.goodjobsfirst.org.


A Mandate for a Mugging?

Here's today's multiple-choice political quiz: Dick Cheney is 1) loopy, 2) churlish, 3) thuggish, 4) dangerous, or 5) all of the above?

Choose the combo. We saw all of these uglies come out in Cheney the day after the election. John Kerry had barely finished his concession speech when Dick seized the national microphone to growl that the Bushites had not only taken the victory, but also won "a mandate," so get ready, world, here they come.

A mandate? They barely got 51% of the vote, meaning 49% of the people voted to toss them out on their duffs! A 2% margin is to "mandate" what near beer is to beer.

Also, both pre-election polls and exit polls showed clearly, a big chunk of people voting for George W. are actually strongly opposed to his agenda. So, why did they choose him? Some were simply voting against Kerry, some said they were voting against gays, and some were vaguely voting for Bush's "moral values." But a majority of voters said they definitely oppose such specifics as Bush's tax cuts for the rich, his handling of the economy, and his war of lies in Iraq.

Despite the public's real desires on national policies, however, the Bush Gang is gearing up to ram through an extremist agenda supported only by their ideological cohorts and corporate benefactors. Among his priorities: 1) granting trillions of dollars in permanent tax giveaways to the rich, 2) replacing the progressive income tax with a totally regressive national sales tax, 3) launching the privatization of our Social Security, 4) expanding the USA PATRIOT Act; 5) and extending Bush's Iraqi war into Iran.

The Bushites have no mandate for this mugging. To get information and help fight their power grab, call Campaign for America's Future: 202/955-5665.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Wal-Mart, Sarah Clark, taxes, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Campaign for America's Future

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