International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde opined earlier this month that the “staggering rise in inequality” over recent decades may well “haunt us” deep into the 21st century. We agree. And we suspect that the ghost of Sam Walton will figure somewhere in the haunting.
Sam Walton founded Walmart back in the 1960s and went on to
leave billions to his heirs. Those heirs have spent the last 20 years
growing their inheritances. Four of them now rank among the ten richest people in the world. They control, journalist David Cay Johnston noted last week, about half of Walmart’s shares.
Sam’s heirs don’t just hold these shares. They squeeze out of
them every possible penny. An apt stat that lays bare that squeezing:
Dividends to Walmart shareholders have over the last decade soared 60 percent faster than Walmart’s earnings. Meanwhile, for those without stock, Walmart has cuts. The retailer has just announced plans to axe health insurance coverage for some 30,000 workers.