Just how rich are the Waltons? According to the latest edition of the Forbes 400, released yesterday, the six wealthiest heirs to the Walmart empire are together worth a staggering $115 billion. This marks the first time in American history that one family has controlled a 12-figure fortune. While the nation's richest person is still Bill Gates, the sixth-, seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-richest Americans are all Waltons.
To put that in perspective, here's a chart of things the Waltons could afford to pay for:
The Waltons' fortune might be something to celebrate if not for the fact that they've raked it in at our expense. Sasha Abramsky writes:
In 2004, a year in which Wal-Mart reported $9.1 billion in profits, the retailer's California employees collected $86 million in public assistance, according to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley. Other studies have revealed widespread use of publicly funded health care by Wal-Mart employees in numerous states. In 2004, Democratic staffers of the House education and workforce committee calculated that each 200-employee Wal-Mart store costs taxpayers an average of more than $400,000 a year, based on entitlements ranging from energy-assistance grants to Medicaid to food stamps to WIC—the federal program that provides food to low-income women with children.
The average Walmart worker earns just $8.81 an hour. At that wage, the union-backed Making Change at Walmart campaign calculates that a Walmart worker would need:
7 million years to earn as much wealth as the Walton family has (presuming the worker doesn't spend anything)
170,000 years to earn as much money as the Walton family receives annually in Walmart dividends
1 year to earn as much money as the Walton family earns in Walmart dividends every three minutes
James West, Tim McDonnell, Josh Harkinson, and Adam WeinsteinSep. 17, 2012 11:05 AM
Twelve months after they slept, ate, and occasionally got arrested with the demonstrators, our team of journalists has returned to Lower Manhattan to follow #s17 protesters observing the birthday of Occupy Wall Street. Below is our Storify of MJ street reporting, plus updates from our friends and colleagues across the internets (please be patient: The Storify may take a few seconds to load):
For the one-year anniversary, I tracked down five occupiers I met last fall in Zuccotti Park.
Josh HarkinsonSep. 17, 2012 6:00 AM
It was one year ago today that the pioneers of Occupy Wall Street first unrolled their sleeping bags in Zuccotti Park. Though the movement is long gone from the headlines, it can be credited for calling BS on our money-driven political system and launching a national conversation about class and economic inequality—one that still looms large in the presidential campaign.
I showed up at the Zuccotti Park encampment in its second week for what I thought would be just a day, but I ended up reporting on the movement from New York City all through the fall and beyond. What most fascinated me were the occupiers themselves, people alternately principled and unrealistic, brave and foolhardy, idealistic and naive. Occupy Wall Street may or may not have changed the world, but it certainly changed those who took part in it. For the anniversary, I decided to track down five of the folks I met in Zuccotti—from a key movement organizer to a heroin addict—to see where they're at now. These are their stories. (Also read "365 Days of Occupy Wall Street—an Anniversary Timeline.")
This brilliant film by the creators of the Oscar-nominated 2006 documentary Jesus Camp opens in the Detroit Opera House with a performance of Nabucco—a Verdi work that follows the plight of the Jews exiled from Babylon. Juxtaposed with visual evidence of the city's exodus—Detroit has lost half its population, and the opera house is itself near bankruptcy—it's an apt opening to a eulogy for the nation's most dystopian city. However, in once-vibrant neighborhoods that have turned into overgrown wastelands, Detropia finds grim beauty and a wealth of hopeful lessons for America's middle class. Among them: Destruction can unleash creativity, if we're brave enough to let it.
Plus: Four executive-pay loopholes that cost taxpayers $14 billion a year.
Josh HarkinsonAug. 16, 2012 3:01 AM
Where's my money?
In recent months corporate America has been lobbying the heck out of Washington to lower tax rates on businesses. As it should, defenders say, because corporations have a duty to maximize their return to investors. But if boosting profits were the goal, then you'd think more big companies would stop complaining about taxes, and look instead at an even greater expense: the bloated salaries of their chief executives.
In a just-released report, the Institute for Policy Studies details 26 megacorporations that paid one guy (their CEO) more than they spent on their entire federal tax bills last year. (See our interactive graph below—whoa! Halliburton!) These same companies averaged $1.4 billion in profits—which were announced, in some cases, around the same time they were announcing massive layoffs.