In 1968, when General Motors was a widely emulated icon of American business, many of its workers were lifetime employees. On average, they earned about $29,000 a year in today's dollars, a solidly middle-class income at the time. They also had generous health and retirement benefits.
Since then, America has grown much richer, but American workers have become far less secure.
Today, Wal-Mart is America's largest corporation. Like G.M. in its prime, it has become a widely emulated business icon. But there the resemblance ends.
The average full-time Wal-Mart employee is paid only about $17,000 a year. The company's health care plan covers fewer than half of its workers.
I'm not trying either to romanticize the General Motors of yore or to portray Wal-Mart as the root of all evil. GM was , and Wal-Mart is, a product of its time. And there's no easy way to reverse the changes.
What should be clear, however, is that the public safety net F.D.R. and L.B.J. created is more important than ever, now that workers in the world's richest nation can no longer count on the private sector to provide them with economic security.
When they reach 65, most Wal-Mart employees will rely heavily on Social Security - if the privatizers don't kill it. And many Wal-Mart employees already rely on Medicaid to pay for health care, especially for their children.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Krugman: Always Low Wages Always
NY Times Columnist Paul Krugman writes about Wal-Mart is his column today:
Posted by Neighborhood Retail Alliance at 6:08 PM