Bernie Sanders Tells Walmart To ‘Get Off Welfare’ [Video]

Bernie Sanders is making the Walmart corporation “feel the Bern” over its pay practices which in his view translates into a form of corporate welfare.

The Vermont senator, a socialist, is running for president as a Democrat. According to the Real Clear Politics average, he trails Hillary Clinton by just 4 percent in Iowa, while Sanders is ahead by about 6 percent in New Hampshire. The Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary are fast approaching.

In a recent campaign appearance in Des Moines, Iowa, Sanders, 74, blasted family-owned Walmart, the world’s largest private company by revenue and number of employees, which (for now) operates about 4,500 stores in the U.S. and approximately 6,500 overseas.On a global scale, the discount retailer provides paychecks for approximately 2.2 million employees.

“In America today, one family — the Walton family of Walmart — owns more wealth alone than the bottom 40 percent of the American people. And by the way, when we talk about the Walton family, the wealthiest family in America, and when we talk about Walmart, understand that Walmart is the major beneficiary of welfare in America. Isn’t it weird that many of the people who work at Walmart are on Medicaid, which you pay for; they’re on food stamps, which you pay for; they’re on government-subsidized housing which you pay for, because the Walton family refuses to provide the wages and benefits their workers deserve. So I say to the Walton family, the weathiest family in this country, get off of welfare, start paying your workers a living wage.”

Whether you are a fan of Walmart’s employee policies or not, Walmart has long been a target of the liberal/progressive movement in part because it is a non-union workplace. A 2015 report from a coalition of progressive groups, for example, claimed that “Walmart’s low-wage workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing,” Forbes reported.

In February 2015, the discount retailer increased starting pay for associates to at least $9 hour, followed by a boost to at least $10 an hour for those workers who complete a skills-based training program.

Traditionally, an entry-level wage at any company was just that — entry level.

Yesterday, amidst declining earnings, Walmart announced that it was closing 269 stores (154 of them in the U.S.). A total of about 10,000 American Walmart workers will soon be out of a job. Walmart is also one of the biggest taxpayers in America.

Walmart shopping cart
Hillary Clinton, who was endorsed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union on Tuesday, served on the Walmart board of directors from 1986 to 1992. “That’s notable because UFCW is arguably Walmart’s leading critic,” the Washington Examiner observed.

Walmart apparently greatly benefits from the other end of the taxpayer-funded food stamp transaction, i.e. customers. In a 2013 report, the Wall Street Journal explained that “Wal-Mart estimates it rakes in about 18% of total U.S. outlays on food stamps. That would mean it pulled in $14 billion of the $80 billion the USDA says was appropriated for food stamps in the year ended in September 2012.”

The number of food stamp recipients in the U.S., about 46 million, is at all-time highs. The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector claims that the fastest-growing food stamp cohort is now young adults with no kids, Breitbart News reported.

As far as Walmart being a bad corporate citizen for the reasons cited by Bernie Sanders in terms of employees on welfare or other government assistance, an economist cited by the American Enterprise Institute presented an alternative view.

“You could say all these guys who work at Wal-Mart are on food stamps, and if they weren’t being paid a low wage, they wouldn’t be on food stamps. So therefore implicitly we are subsidizing the hell out of Wal-Mart. [But as Wal-Mart might see it], if they weren’t working at Wal-Mart at a low wage, they wouldn’t be working at all. The food stamp [cost] would be even bigger.”

According to a separate item in the Wall Street Journal about the big box chain’s pay levels, “even if Walmart wages are insufficient to raise every employee above the federally defined poverty level or the food-stamp threshold–both of which vary depending on household size, a factor beyond an employer’s control–they do make a positive contribution toward that end. By definition, all paid work alleviates poverty even if the wages for a particular job in some cases fall short of overcoming it.”

Do you agree with Bernie Sander’s demand that Walmart get off welfare and start paying a so-called living wage?

[Photo by John Minchillo/AP]