Wal-Mart Profits from Taxpayers Home > Corporate Watch > Paying the Price at Wal-Mart
When Wal-Mart comes to town, consumers often pay more than they save. Not only does Wal-Mart ask taxpayers to subsidize the building of its giant retail stores, Wal-Mart pays its workers so little they regularly are forced to use emergency rooms and public services—at taxpayer expense.
First, the company usually asks for massive public tax subsidies and exemptions to build one of its big-box stores. Over the past 20 years, taxpayers have contributed at least $1 billion in subsidies to Wal-Mart stores and distribution centers, as well as to developers of shopping centers anchored by Wal-Mart stores, according to Good Jobs First, a nonprofit research group.
* A 2001 study commissioned by the city of Barnstable, Mass., found big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart annually depleted the town’s revenues by $794 per 1,000 square feet due to higher road maintenance costs and greater demand for public safety services.
* Elected officials in Cathedral City, Calif., gave Wal-Mart $1.8 million in tax rebates 10 years ago. Last year, when the city finally began getting its full $800,000 in annual sales taxes from the two stores, Wal-Mart decided to close them in 2005 and build a new supercenter in nearby Palm Desert. Cathedral City officials learned Wal-Mart was moving out after reading about it in the newspaper—at a time when the city already had a $3 million deficit.
Next, Wal-Mart makes taxpayers pick up the health care tab for its employees. While 66 percent of workers at large U.S. firms get health coverage on the job, fewer than half of Wal-Mart workers do, an October 2003 AFL-CIO report finds. As a result, Wal-Mart workers are forced to use emergency rooms and public services for their health care needs.
* The average Wal-Mart costs taxpayers an estimated $108,000 a year for its workers’ children who are enrolled in state children’s health insurance programs, according to Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay for Wal-Mart.