Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Day 11- $1 a day
Over the weekend I watched a documentary called "Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price". (I watched it on my friend Elizabeth's free Netflix, for those of you who are alert enough to catch incongruencies in my experiment) Whoa. If this documentary is true, then Walmart is guilty of providing lackluster pay and pitifully inadequate health benefits for its employees, insisting upon dishonest work hours, overlooking inhumane conditions for overseas factory workers, discriminating against women and certain race groups, and taking LOTS of money out of the hands of the poor to put into their own pockets.
It wouldn't be so bad if you didn't know that Walton family members were numbers 4,5,6 and 7 on Forbes' 2008 list of America's 20 richest people. Each of these Waltons has a net worth of $16-23 billion. That's 9 zeros on the end, like this: $23,000,000,000. After viewing the documentary I thought, "Ok, but surely those rich Waltons give away a bank vault of money each year." So I looked it up on the internet and discovered that Christy Walton gave $4 million away last year, which according to my calculator is a whopping quarter of 1% of her net worth. In 2004 Business Week reported Bill Gates as giving away 58% of his net worth.
"They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed." Is this the first sentence of a "60 Minutes" expose about Walmart? Nope, it's a verse out of the Bible by the prophet Amos where God is mad as hell and He isn't going to take it anymore. Later in the chapter there is talk of "crushing" and "[no] escape" and "fleeing naked" when it's time to pay the piper for injustices.
Ok, what's this got to do with my experiment? Sadly, on many levels I am a Walton. They sound so much more evil because their wealth is on such a grand scale, but it's all relative. Compared to many families struggling in Rwanda, New Orleans or Bangladesh--I am a Walton. I know I'm being totally judgmental about Walmart and I hope I am wrong about their business and personal giving practices. Perhaps they give to many noble causes anonymously?
I've never stepped foot in a Walmart, and now I probably never will. But I've never stepped foot in Sudan either, and looked poverty in the face and brought food to the mouths of malnutritioned children. My net worth could probably feed an entire village for years and I freely admit that I have no idea what to do with that thought. But I do know that I don't want to be a Walton- making more money, clutching it tightly in my fist, and turning a blind eye to the suffering that the money in my hand could be relieving.