What working at Wal-Mart taught a young conservative woman about the poor

My friend Jose sent me this wonderful article from The College Conservative.


During the 2010 and 2011 summers, I was a cashier at Wal-Mart #1788 in Scarborough, Maine. I spent hours upon hours toiling away at a register, scanning, bagging, and dealing with questionable clientele. These were all expected parts of the job, and I was okay with it. What I didn’t expect to be part of my job at Wal-Mart was to witness massive amounts of welfare fraud and abuse.

I understand that sometimes, people are destitute. They need help, and they accept help from the state in order to feed their families. This is fine. It happens. I’m not against temporary aid helping those who truly need it. What I saw at Wal-Mart, however, was not temporary aid. I witnessed generations of families all relying on the state to buy food and other items.  I literally witnessed mothers of small children asking their mothers if they could borrow their EBT cards. I once had a man show me his welfare card for an ID to buy alcohol. The man was from Massachusetts. Governor Michael Dukakis’ signature was on his welfare card. Dukakis’ last gubernatorial term ended in January of 1991. I was born in June of 1991. The man had been on welfare my entire life. That’s not how welfare was intended, but sadly, it is what it has become.

Here are just two short anecdotes:

a) People ignoring me on their iPhones while the state paid for their food. (For those of you keeping score at home, an iPhone is at least $200, and requires a data package of at least $25 a month. If a person can spend $25+ a month so they can watch YouTube 24/7, I don’t see why they can’t spend that money on food.)

d) A man who ran a hotdog stand on the pier in Portland, Maine used to come through my line. He would always discuss his hotdog stand and encourage me to “come visit him for lunch some day.” What would he buy? Hotdogs, buns, mustard, ketchup, etc. How would he pay for it? Food stamps. Either that man really likes hotdogs, or the state is paying for his business. Not okay.

I urge you with every fiber of my body to click through and read the true story of Welfare Queen #1 and Welfare Queen #2. Read them, and weep. Just because someone is poor, it doesn’t mean that they are automatically a good person. Maybe they are poor because they are irresponsible and selfish. Had you ever considered that? In any case, it’s not the government’s job to hand out money without knowing anything about the person who is getting the money. Government should leave the money in the hands of people who earn it, and let us decide who deserves to receive charity. (At the most, they should give us a tax deduction for charity up to 10% of our gross income to encourage more private charity)

But wait! There’s more!

From Human Events, toll workers being paid over $100,000 a year by the government.


Ladies and gentlemen, meet Princesella Smith, who raked in $89,599 for operating the toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2011.

Smith isn’t alone.  An investigation by the New York Post revealed that another toll booth operator pulled in a whopping $102,670 in 2011, $40K of that money coming in overtime.  In total, as the Post notes, there are at least 24 New York and New Jersey workers who have raked in more than $80,000 as “public” workers at a job that requires us to hand them even more of our money.

[…]Besides excessive wages to people whose only skill requirement is to sit on a stool and count and collect dollar bills, tax dollars reserved for transportation uses have gone to a panoply of nonessential programs.  As Ronald Utt of The Heritage Foundation points out, the “highway trust fund” has been raided to pay for Indian reservations, historic preservation sites, Appalachian and Mississippi Delta development, roadside beautification, bicycles, hiking paths, university research, and—the granddaddy of all expenses—feeding the $425 million beast that is the Department of Transportation.

The Port Authority (PA), for instance, employees a gardener for $94,000 and a blacksmith for $146,000 a year.  Heck, there are even retired PA employees who are making around that amount by cashing in on unused vacation and comp time.  (Here’s an idea:  As we’re facing budget deficits well into our future, how about requiring public employees to use their vaca time … or lose it.  No cashing in allowed.)

The larger problem highlighted with transportation spending, as Ronald Utt underscores, is the concept of public ownership.  A paltry 65% of highway taxes collected actually go to making driving a more pleasant experience for commuters.  The rest is squandered on whatever fancies a politician’s spending appetite at a given moment.  As the number of people driving has increased on the nation’s roads and highways (up 71% since 1970), lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and around the country have funneled money to stupid bike lines and high-speed rail debacles.

If I were President, I would immediately cancel all pensions for retired public sector workers and outlaw public sector unions.  What a colossal waste of money.

UPDATE: John Hawkins just posted a column entitled “The Five Things You Can Learn From Wal-Mart“.

16 thoughts on “What working at Wal-Mart taught a young conservative woman about the poor”

  1. I’m a counterjihad blogger whose day job is working as a cashier. (I used to be in IT, but that was before the economy went down the tubes, but that is a story for another day.) I do not receive welfare or food stamps; instead, the taxes deducted from my income go to pay for those programs.

    Having a smart phone would help me with my blog admin chores. But I won’t be getting one of those any time soon, simply because I can’t afford it.

    I suspect that people who are collecting welfare and food stamps, and who have money to spend on luxuries that I cannot possibly afford, are making money by selling drugs, prostitution, pimping, trading in stolen goods, or other activities that are “off the books” and therefore do not affect their eligibility to collect government benefits.

    They also get free medical treatment at various “free clinics” where the threshold for income eligibility is so low that the only people who go there are those who are earning all their income “off the books.” Grrr… I could use more medical care than I am able to afford on my own with the limited insurance that I have, but here again, that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

  2. I personally know someone who used to work at the local welfare office, determining who was eligible for welfare and who wasn’t. She routinely saw people driving up in very expensive cars, demanding welfare. Usually they would get it because of loopholes (mostly involving living with a man but not marrying him so he doesn’t count as a provider). Denying someone’s application often resulted in verbal — sometimes physical — abuse. One day she found a severed cow head in the front seat of her car. She left the job after a few years because she couldn’t handle the stress anymore.

    Welfare is a racket that makes things worse for people who really need it and takes money and productivity out of the economy. But what’s worse is that it robs people of their dignity by depriving them of incentives to work, create, and contribute.

    1. I agree. It’s not surprise to me that marriage is in decline precisely in the places where women collect checks for unwed single motherhood. What does a boy growing up fatherless learn about being a provider in an environment like that? How does it prepare him for marriage to see his mother running around with boyfriends, instead of being supported and loved by a committed husband? I really don’t like the government encouraging single motherhood with welfare.

  3. “If I were President, I would immediately cancel all pensions for retired public sector workers.” Really? And what would you recommend those retired public sector workers live on? I am one of those “public sector workers” who was not offered the option of a 401K but required to take their pension plan. (And working for a university requires much more than “sitting and taking a toll” skills.) I expect, when I retire, to take home something around $1500 a month. Since Social Security will be dead by then and your presidency would have deleted that income as well and I’m only about 10 years from retirement (meaning I don’t have time to build a liveable “nest egg”), what would you recommend public sector workers live on? What would you recommend those retired workers who earned a pension live on? My father retired from the County of Los Angeles on a pension and never paid into Social Security at all. What would you recommend he live on?

    1. I would recommend that he live on his savings, like people in the private sector have to do. We can’t depend on anyone but ourselves – why should we have to pay for pensions of people in the public sector as well as our own retirements?

      1. Most companies offer benefits as part of their inducement to get people to work for them. Most companies include some sort of retirement benefit as part of that inducement. Many people who go to work for the public sector do so to enjoy that particular part of the package. It would be your position that not only would the public sector not be allowed to offer that inducement, but that those who worked their whole lives with that package in hand ought to lose it. My father, for instance, is 82. His savings is insufficient to pay his bills for the rest of his life. “Too bad, Pops. Just because you spent your whole career as an engineer for the government making less than those in the private sector for the same work doesn’t mean you should expect a retirement … even though it was promised you.” Aren’t there workhouses for these people? Can’t we institute poorhouses again? I don’t know, sounds to me a lot like a character from a popular and timely story. ;)

        (By the way, the pensions for the people in the public sector are often paid for by the workers in the public sector. My paycheck is currently docked 10% to pay for those who retired before me. It’s not coming out of your pocket; it’s coming out of the pockets of those who expect to receive the benefit later.)

        1. Private sector workers have to fund their own 401K plans 100%. Rarely, companies will offer a small match of 10-20%. It’s completely different than the public sector where public sector workers get higher job security, the same salary, more time off, better health care and pensions where they contribute either nothing at all, or less than 10%. The rest of the cost is picked up by taxes paid by the private sector and the public sector – in income taxes. But why should private sector workers be paying for other people’s pensions?

          Here’s an example:

          Public sector workers pay 5.6% of their pensions, and private sector workers pay a significant portion of the rest of those pensions via income taxes, and 80-90% of their own 401K plans.

          That’s why we need to abolish public sector unions and public sector pensions. (Although, I would grandfather your father’s pension, since he earned less than comparable private sector workers – but that’s no longer true today). And this would be a draw down, not sudden. Phase them out over 40 years or something.

          Here’s some evidence of what happened in the last little while:

          1. Just as a note for information, not dissension, I know that the media likes to tell us that public sector workers are making as much as if not more than their private sector counterparts. And I don’t doubt that the examples cited are true. In my experience, however, as a public sector worker, I and my coworkers are making SIGNIFICANTLY less money for doing the same job that our private sector counterparts are making. If I chose to abandon my highly rewarding work here at shift to a mere private sector job for the wages, I could likely make $20,000 to $30,000 a year more. The claim that public sector workers make the same as or more than their private sector counterparts is not, in ALL of the areas in my experience, the truth.

        2. Wintery I still don’t see you addressing what I believe to be Stan’s most pertinent question. How is it okay to cancel pensions that people have already worked for and are currently depending on.

          It’s one thing to say, no more pensions starting now, you better start saving for your retirement. But it’s quite another to say to Stan’s 82 year old father, who planned his retirement and his savings around the fact that he was promised a pension, to suddenly sweep that out from under him when it’s too late for him to do anything about it. Is that truly what you suggest?

          1. I said in my last comment: I mean phase them out for people in public sector jobs going forward, and abolish the public sector unions effective immediately.

            Stan and his Dad should retain their pensions.

          2. I see that parenthetical comment now. I apologize, I don’t know how I missed it the first time.

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