The media this week carried stories of how the “poor” heirs of Sam Walton had fallen from Forbes magazine’s list of the 10 richest people in the world. Only Rob Walton, with a personal wealth of $18.3 billion was still in the top 10 richest people on the globe. Wal-Mart is a company which has perhaps the greatest range in incomes from the top to the bottom of any company in America. To look at Rob Walton’s wealth from a worker’s perspective, the average Wal-Mart worker earning $9.68 an hour and working 34 hours a week, would have to work 1,065,193 years to earn what Rob Walton has in the bank. Put another way, it would take 22,664 Wal-Mart workers employed from the time they were 18 until retirement age of 65 to make what one Walton has in personal wealth (assuming they got no raises).
Whenever people tell me that the anti-Wal-Mart movement is elitist because we don’t value the importance of buying cheap underwear and Lion King wrapping paper for poor people, I point out that the real elite class in America today is symbolized by the Walton family, that made billions from millions of low-income shoppers. It is estimated that 20% of Wal-Mart shoppers have no bank accounts. Rob Walton, and his mother and siblings, make up for those poor people many times over. Jim Walton not only has a bank account, he is President of the Arvest banking empire. One has to wonder how many more years it will take for Wal-Mart workers to realize that the company they helped to build into a cash cow for the Waltons could easily afford to give them all a big raise and never even be noticed at the top by the Waltons. If each of the Waltons gave up merely 10% of their wealth, they could create a $10 billion employee fund from which to raise the salaries of Wal-Mart workers without raising the prices of their products. Instead of all the money getting stuck at the top, it would trickle down to the masses that made the Waltons super rich. How can this wealthy family have so many people working plantation wages for them, while their coffers are so full, they will make another generation of Waltons fabulously wealthy before any of their workers benefit from this wealth? As the writer Balzac put it simply: “Behind every great fortune is a crime.”