About 16,000 Walmart employees, who were granted a whopping minimum-wage increase to $10 an hour by Walmart in 2015 (try living on that income for a month), learned from Big Daddy today that they are being thrown out of work. (See story and list of stores here.)
I emphasize here all the time that my blood runs capitalist, even though I find plenty to criticize and dislike about it. As brutal as it can be, I’ll take it over the paternalistic socialism I witness in Belize every day, even though the country claims (pretty much pretends) to be capitalistic.*
As much as I admire Bernie Sanders for his rare kind of integrity and seriousness at a time when precious few American leaders have either trait, I could never vote for a socialist who thinks a 90 percent tax rate in this day and age wouldn’t be unreasonable. Americans couldn’t vote for him either.
But I don’t doubt that the Senator feels pain in his good heart for people like the Walmart employees who routinely went to work today, only to learn that they won’t be going to work tomorrow.
Prosperous, insecure Americans today are high on more and bigger tax cuts but low on empathy for the poor–increasingly incapable, it seems, of imagining a walk in another person’s shoes.
I cringe every time I hear some poor-bashing hypocrite in Congress, who thumps his 20-pound Bible at every turn, suggest that people in low-income neighborhoods where jobs are scarce need only get off their hindquarters and move to some place where jobs are plentiful.
If you share that attitude, tell some struggling Walmart employee who has found himself suddenly jobless today that he or she needs only to pull up stakes and move out of the town or city neighborhood that’s been home forever. That assumes that he or she has a big savings account from a job that pays a whopping $10 an hour. It’s not only unrealistic, it’s insulting, adding a huge insult to someone facing a huge, unexpected life crisis.
Tell it to an ex-Walmart employee who was so thankful for Walmart in a town or neighborhood where it was about the only employer in town for 10, 20, 30 or more years of his or her life.
One of the Walmarts closing is in Bryan, Texas, 20 miles from where I grew up. Being the budget shopper that I am, I was in that very Walmart (one of the corporation’s smaller “Market stores) in October when I was staying at my daughter’s home in College Station, the bigger and more prosperous of the twin cities comprising Bryan-College Station. Lo and behold, I happened to cross paths with a Walmart worker from my hometown whom I hadn’t seen in a coon’s age, as we used to say in the hometown. We had an all-too-quick conversation and were genuinely happy to reconnect, however briefly, after all these years.
I asked him if he’s on Facebook. “I wish I could be,” he said. “I don’t have time to do anything but work, go home and take care of my family and come back to work.” He mentioned that he also has his aging parents to care for.
It’s not as if he was ever a best friend of mine, mind you. But, naturally, he instantly came to mind this morning when I read the news about Walmart.
I feel for him today, and being a praying man I’m praying for him and all the 16,000 fellow Americans from Walmart world suddenly unemployed. God help them and God help us all to be something akin to what a Christian nation or even just a compassionate nation of empathetic people would look like, think like, talk like, act like, pray like.
*(As an aside: the doctors that Castro boasts about exporting to countries like Belize on a rotation basis are so poorly paid by Castro that they feel like they are living large when they live here. The ones here in San Ignacio live in a spacious house together 100 yards from my house. Fine people, these Cubans. Too bad they can’t talk, much, to this curious old reporter out of fear.)