President Obama At Wal-Mart

Presidential Obama @ Mountain View WalmartPresident Obama landed in Silicon Valley to do the usual political fundraising to shake money loose from the movers and shakers, and visit the Wal-Mart Store in Mountain View to promote energy efficiency. Visiting Wal-Mart surprised me. Having visited that particular location after a job interview several weeks ago, the floor was dirty, the shelves were in disarray, and the lighting was terrible. Looking at the pictures taken at the presidential event, the store was clean, neat and well-lit.

Perhaps the president can visit this Wal-Mart more often?

Although rolling out solar panels at all its stores is commendable, Wal-Mart isn’t exactly the poster child of a responsible corporate citizen.

Wal-Mart pays their employees minimum wage and let them to work just enough hours per week to qualify for food stamps, forcing taxpayers to subsidize Wal-Mart’s high profits. And it’s perfectly legal under existing laws. According to one study (download the PDF here) by Demos, Wal-Mart could easily pay employees a higher wage by using the money set aside for their annual stock buyback program and save taxpayers a bundle.

Wal-Mart’s executives don’t play by the same rules as their minimum wage employees. When growth for fiscal year 2014 fell to 1.6% and missed the incentive compensation threshold at 1.8%, no one told the executives, “Better luck next year.” That would be unfair! Wal-Mart “re-adjusted” the numbers to award millions of dollars to their executives for having a lousy year.

Did I ever mentioned that I got laid off from last my job because the Fortune 500 CEO laid off 10% of the work force and gave himself a raise for having a lousy fiscal year?

If Wal-Mart ever put employees above profit (something that Costco has done successfully for many years), Wall Street would scream bloody murder. Maximizing profits at someone else’s expense is known as the modern “free market” system: privatizing profits and socializing losses. God forbid if corporations and executives bear the consequences of their actions in a true capitalist system.