Last week, millionaire libertarian Peter Schiff staged a prank demonstration in the parking lot of a Walmart, to mock the calls for a livable wage for their employees. In the video, circulated on YouTube and through numerous political publications, Schiff pesters customers on their way out of the store, urging them to “donate” fifteen-percent of their purchase price, claiming that a 15% raise for employees would result in a direct increase at the cash register.
However according to data from data in this 2011 UC Berkeley report, Schiff’s shtick couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Here are the numbers from The Center for Labor Research and Education. At an 11% increase to a bare minimum of $12 an hour, assuming the company passed the price along to the consumer, as is so frequently claimed, the average cost increase per shopping trip would amount to a whopping forty-six-cents.
An increase of a whole $12.49 a year, compared to the millions each year that taxpayers end up spending for the welfare and social programs Walmart’s “associates” require just to make ends meet. With the Walton family sitting atop an empire of inscrutable wealth, now destined to be passed down almost tax-free, it is surprising that even a pro-corporate, pro-market cheerleader like Schiff, who makes his millions as a financial adviser, will try to defend the impossibly low wages which end up costing more than they save.
Here he is in the midst of his “prank,” using broken math and busted rhetoric to try and convince shoppers, that Walmart workers should be “grateful” for their jobs.
While millions of Americans struggle simply to keep the lights on, sorting out hard data from corporate PR smoke and mirror shows can be difficult in attempting to get a solid understanding of just what the issue of wages really means in terms of the economy and larger social justice concerns. The hard data is easy to miss, as its seldom as exciting or fantastic as a simple video blog with bombastic claims and talking points can be, but it is there.
And now it’s here. With a bit of luck, maybe even multinational financial economists like Schiff can take a moment to stop and give it a look, before embarrassing themselves further.