Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

Reporter

Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment. PGP public key.

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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:

Sources: Center on Budget Policy Priorities, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Congressional Budget Office

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

For more on the Walton fortune, see my 2011 chart: "6 Walmart Heirs Hold More Wealth Than 42% of Americans Combined"

Occupy II: What's Happening Now in Lower Manhattan

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):

 

Short Takes: "Detropia"

Detropia

LOKI FILMS

85 minutes

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.

Tue Nov. 3, 2015 2:13 PM EST
Fri Aug. 14, 2015 3:01 PM EDT
Thu May. 21, 2015 4:46 PM EDT
Mon Apr. 13, 2015 9:25 AM EDT
Tue Dec. 16, 2014 7:00 AM EST
Fri Nov. 7, 2014 6:12 PM EST