A reminder

A quote is going around Twitter today, to the effect that “the Walton (Walmart) family’s wealth is equal to the COMBINED wealth of bottom 41.5% of Americans, yet Walmart pays its workers peanuts.” This is indeed an appalling statistic, and I doubt that the general public is aware of the extreme degree of inequality in America today. Hence this seems to be a case where “raising awareness” is salutary, especially since Walmart employees are attempting a strike today.

Nevertheless, I find fault with one word choice in this quotation: “yet.” As I’ve told a couple people who tweeted this quote, “yet” should be “because.” As it stands, the quote makes a valid moral point: the Waltons have so much, and yet they won’t share it with their long-suffering workers! What this perspective omits is where the money came from — which in this case is precisely from keeping their labor costs as low as possible (and forcing their suppliers to do the same). It’s not as though they just happen to have a lot of money and also just happen to run this exploitative business — the money comes directly from the exploitation. Every dollar they have has been extracted from an impoverished and degraded life.

When I start talking like that, it becomes clear why the “yet” is more appealling to people. It’s scary to say that rich people don’t deserve their money. And for the purposes of trying to convince people to support the strike, the “yet” version may be more strategic and prudent. But we shouldn’t forget that the “because” version expresses the actual truth of the situation.