Walmart has been getting some well-deserved bad press lately. Squelching union activity, paying abysmal wages, violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing officials in Mexico and elsewhere, neglecting hazardous conditions in its off-shore manufacturing plants.... the list goes on and on. The fact that the Walmart heirs now possess more wealth than the bottom 40% of all Americans combined only adds fuel to the fire.
So what more opportunistic time for Walmart, with the assistance of the Obama Administration, the New York Times and other media giants, to stage another publicity stunt as part of its endless and futile quest to repair its image -- all the while perpetrating historic income inequality by hoarding an outsized share of a nation's wealth. (The Times was getting a negative earful from its readers, and has quickly removed the story from its homepage.)
First Lady Michelle Obama, who in her past corporate life sat on the board for one of Walmart's main suppliers, and has previously shilled for its efforts to infiltrate so-called "food deserts" in poor neighborhoods, waxed enthusiastic over the latest public relations gimmick:
“We all believe that no one who serves our country should have to fight for a job once they return home,” Mrs. Obama said in the statement. “Wal-Mart is setting a groundbreaking example for the private sector to follow.”
But in the top-rated NYT reader comment, "Horsedung" of North Carolina trenchantly observed, "As a former Marine Corps infantryman I cannot think of a more frightening future back in the US than working in Walmart."
To be fair to the Times, it does briefly manage to quote a labor historian critical of the Walmart campaign to hire military people:
They like military people because they have a sense of hierarchy and a commitment to the organization they are in,” said Professor Lichtenstein, who has been a critic of Wal-Mart’s management practices. “And that’s important to Wal-Mart.” In recent years, Wal-Mart has been the target of lawsuits by women, accusing the company of discrimination in salaries and promotions.The incestuous, neo-fascist, public-private pattern should be all too familiar by now. It repeats itself almost daily.
Step One: Company is exposed by the Fourth Estate as a lawbreaker. Whether it's robo-signing fraud by banks, bribing Mexican officials by Walmart, money-laundering for drug cartels by HSBC, the vast landscape of white collar crime seems endless.
Step Two: Company joins forces with the United States Government to investigate itself.
Step Three: The Department of Justice signals there will be no prosecutions, but that the offending corporation will become a valued partner of the United States Government by taking steps to make the lives of all the little people better.
Along with the rest of felonious corporate America, Walmart will likely not only remain unpunished for its malfeasance, it will actually continue getting rewarded through various tax breaks, unfettered off-shoring of manufacturing and labor, praise from the first lady, and ever-creative forms of corporate welfare.
Walmart, of course, has long been bragging about all the veterans it hires. Visit, if you dare, its "Careers With a Mission" webpage for the low-down of how one brand of regimentation can seamlessly morph into another:
The military instilled in you a sense of pride, honed your leadership skills, and drew on the deep sense of purpose you carry throughout everything you do. Continue making the most of those traits without compromise at Walmart. Our daily operations employ them to the fullest, offering a career experience that will feel like a natural fit for how you think, act and live your life.The site purports to match veterans' skill sets with store positions. For example, if you were engaged in combat operations against peasants in Afghanistan, you'll be just perfect for "managing" wage slaves at Walmart! If you were a psy-ops specialist, disseminating propaganda to win the hearts and minds in occupied territory, Walmart wants you for such marketing campaigns as "We're Hiring 100,000 Veterans!" and "Unions are Un-American!" as well as convincing impoverished people that they can "Live Better!" by shopping at Walmart. If you served in military intelligence, you can either get a gig in store security, or if you're super lucky, become a personal bodyguard for Walmart Board members as they Travel the Globe, bribing corrupt officials.
One misleading TV commercial that ran a year or so ago told the story of a returning female vet who, through the magic of low wages, was able to buy a house and put her kids through college! Another Walmart good-will gesture, again garnering much free publicity through the White House's corporate-operated "Joining Forces" initiative, is to allow its minimum wage workers to transfer to another store if a military spouse gets redeployed. How noble can they get?
And to make the latest propaganda campaign even more effective, there are reports that President Obama is considering appointing the female president of the Walmart Foundation as his new Budget Director to replace Treasury nominee Jack Lew. (h/t Robert S.)
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who directs Walmart's various greedwashing endeavors, already serves on the president's newly-created Global Development Council. This is yet another of those in-house corporate lobbies that comprise the Obama Shadow Government, serving to promote private interests at public expense. The revolving door revolves several times each and every day in the wonderful world of Public-Private Partnerships.
Burwell, before revolving toward Walmart, worked on Obama's transition team as a banking expert, having previously served as deputy budget director in the Clinton Administration and chief of staff to bank-deregulating Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. She later headed up a global agricultural initiative for the Gates Foundation. (Walmart, coincidentally, has long been criticized for its role in putting third world subsistence farmers out of business.) Her first job out of college was a stint at the McKinsey and Co.
And as the sticky threads are wrapped ever more cosily around Walmart and the White House, watch out for falling wages. Watch out for continued anti-union activity by the retail giant as the government looks the other way. Watch out for continued violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as Walmart metasticizes. Watch out for continued sales of weapons and bullets by returning veterans suffering from PTSD as they stand guard behind the Walmart gun display counters. Watch out for continuous corporate welfare for this retail behemoth that not only refuses to supply health insurance for its employees, but actually instructs them in how to efficiently apply for Medicaid and food stamps.
"We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do well while a growing number of Americans barely get by—or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules." -- Barack Obama.
Let's face it, people. That settlement has already been reached. And it is patently unfair to 99% of us. The Great Shrinker has spoken.
*Update, 1/16: The recent Fiscal Cliff Aversion Act extended and enhanced the generous tax breaks for companies which hire veterans. So, factoring in the average $8/hour starting salaries, and the fact that veterans receive government healthcare to begin with, I think it is fair to assume that Walmart's workforce will be more taxpayer-subsidized than ever, assuming of course that it can attract enough former cannon fodder into its big box labor camps.