To Match Walton Heirs' Fortune, You'd Need to Work at Walmart for 7 Million Years

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

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"

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