The city of Denver recently announced it is giving $10 million in welfare benefits to Wal-Mart. Even to the most cynical person, the question is: Why?
Wal-Mart is a company sitting on top of nearly unlimited money. A bankroll to the tune of $66 billion lies in the hands of the Walton family, owners of 38 percent of the publicly traded company’s stock.
But when downtown Denver went shopping for a discount store to serve its residents and knocked on Wal-Mart’s door, the company played hard to get. The folks at Wal-Mart wanted something from the city if they would land in the Alameda Square shopping center.
Namely, welfare benefits. Tax breaks. Tax abasement. Subsidies. Buying out nearby stores so Wal-Mart would have space to expand. Wal-Mart demanded that a cash-strapped city play the john to their pimp, and what did the city do?
They jumped at the chance. Denver, a city facing a severe budget deficit, put itself deeper in the red to satisfy the greed of a retailer the city needed.
This behavior is par for the course for Wal-Mart. The company has already used unfair tactics to knock out nearby non-chain stores in rural America and already proved its contempt for unions and the fair treatment of workers. It has eagerly worked hand-in-hand with the Chinese government, a government which routinely executes it’s own citizens and uses slave labor within its prisons. There are infinite investigative stories about 13 and 14-year-old girls forced to sew shirts for the giant in some third world hellhole.
In short, Wal-Mart is the bad guy. It is not new, and it isn’t something to get up in arms about. But a city being so eager to bleed itself dry to please the Waltons? That is something new.
Philadelphia woke up approximately 10 years ago as a result of the Rendell renaissance. New Yorkers and Washingtonians are moving here in droves; Center City has never been more active and the inevitable wage tax cut will make Philadelphia an even more desirable destination for large businesses.
The time will come when Philadelphia, like Denver, will face pressure from a prestigious company into bleeding welfare benefits for an already-rich business or see it move to the suburbs instead.
There are plenty of people in this city who need welfare much more than corporations. For example: the unemployed who cannot find work in this hellish economy; struggling families trying to make it in a city with sky-high utility bills; and seniors who are able to make their benefits stretch less and less each year.
These are the people government aid was made for, not mega-corporations used to playing games of extortion with struggling American cities. Until the time comes when laws can be enacted preventing corporate welfare, the politicians of Philadelphia will have to keep an eye out. Let’s keep this money where it belongs: with the people.
Neal Ungerleider can be reached at N_Terminal@yahoo.com.