Read

Search form

The Waltons of Walmart: The Greediest Family in the World

The Waltons of Walmart: The Greediest Family in the World
Fri, 9/13/2013
This article originally appeared on Gawker

Four members of the Walton family, heirs to Sam Walton's Walmart fortune, are collectively worth more than $100 billion—more wealththan the entire bottom 40% of Americans. They are doing everything in their power not to give up a penny more than they have to.

The Waltons are the richest family in the world. They are the new Rockefellers, the modern synonym for "vast wealth." And indeed, income inequality in America has reached levels not seen since John D. Rockefeller roamed the earth. The Waltons are the kings and queens of our new Gilded Age.

Reasonable people, I suppose, can disagree on the morality of amassing such mind-boggling wealth. What most reasonable people would agree on, I think—what we would regard as basic human decency and common sense—is that it is not healthy for such great wealth to exist in perpetuity, passed down from generation to generation endlessly, creating ever-larger dynasties, until America is even more of an unequal plutocracy with unequal opportunity than it already is.

This is why estate taxes exist. We have agreed, as a society, that at least some of these huge piles of wealth should be put back into the public coffers when their rich owners die. Not all of the wealth; not even most of the wealth; just enough to get some back in circulation, for the good of everyone, and to try to do something to slow down the creation of personal billionaire kingdoms.

Quite a few billionaires, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, have pledged to give away almost all of their fortunes to charity. The Waltons take a different approach. They have decided to hoard as much of their fortunes as possible. They have decided to use each and every tax loophole possible in order to keep their money in their own family, and not to allow the public to claim a single dollar more in taxes than they absolutely have to.

In Bloomberg on Wednesday, Zachary Mider had an excellent in-depth report on the strategies the Walton family uses to avoid estate and inheritance taxes on their fortune, which has been built on the backs of extremely low-paid workers. One of their favorite techniques: establishing a type of charitable trust that can shelter money from taxes, and later put that money back into the pockets of family heirs. Sometimes, with a profit!

"If the trust’s investments outperform that benchmark rate, then the extra earnings pass to the designated heirs free of any estate tax... "With a big enough spread between the actual performance and the IRS rate, a Jackie O. trust can theoretically save so much tax that it leaves a family richer than if it hadn’t given a dime to charity... "'This time in history is probably going to go down as a unique opportunity” to “transfer assets out of an estate at the lowest cost,' said Charles J. McLucas, president of Charitable Trust Administrators Inc. in Tustin, California."

So the next time you hear about how fabulous the Walton family's opulent new art museum is, or how much money the Walton family has given to land conservation, remember that all of that charity is part and parcel of a structure designed expressly to hoard billions of dollars within this one single family, and to avoid paying the normal tax rates that have been levied for the purpose of a tiny step towards equality.

And also remember that all of the millions and millions of workers who made those billions and billions of dollars possible are trapped in a world of low wages, and are prevented from unionizing and bettering their own situation by the zealous efforts of Walmart.

The Walton family's very existence is an insult to the American dream.

Originally published by Gawker

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Standing Rock Sioux protests, Dakota Access Pipeline, police brutality, police violence, fossil fuel protests, Big Oil, Diggers, attack dogs

Some of the faces and voices from Standing Rock, in their own words.

U.K. surveillance legislation, Investigatory Powers Bill, Snoopers Charter, U.K. terrorism surveillance, U.K. surveillance programs, internet surveillance, cell phone surveillance, metadata

The Investigatory Powers Bill – or “Snoopers Charter” – is now enshrined in U.K. law, forcing internet and mobile phone companies to keep a record of all citizens’ browsing and phone use, even if they aren't suspected of terrorism.

Big Oil, Big Finance, economic transformation, climate collapse, economic alternatives, fossil fuel free, fossil fuel divestment, copyright laws, infrastructure investment, worker-owned cooperatives, jail the bankers, too big to fail

Moving society away from carbon dependence is not just about becoming good consumers, but engaged citizens.

money in politics, Don McGahn, campaign finance laws, FEC, campaign finance regulation, Citizens United, money as speech

Don McGahn, soon to be Donald Trump’s White House counsel, bears as much responsibility as any single person for turning America’s campaign finance system into something akin to a gigantic, clogged septic tank.

This week, the ice is melting, sea levels are rising and science denying psychopaths are steering the canoe.

Somali-Americans, Somali businesses, Abdul Razak Artan, Ohio State attacks, Somali activism

The Somali-American community was bashed last week after Abdul Razak Artan, a member of Ohio's large and growing Somali community, took part in a car-ramming attack and massive stabbing at the school that left 13 injured.

Posted 4 days 7 hours ago
Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock, Alex Garland, North Dakota, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests

Here are some of the faces from Standing Rock, in their own words.

Posted 4 days 6 hours ago
Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests, DAPL

"We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us."

Posted 5 days 1 hour ago

This week, the ice is melting, sea levels are rising and science denying psychopaths are steering the canoe.

Posted 3 days 5 hours ago
Big Oil, Big Finance, economic transformation, climate collapse, economic alternatives, fossil fuel free, fossil fuel divestment, copyright laws, infrastructure investment, worker-owned cooperatives, jail the bankers, too big to fail

Moving society away from carbon dependence is not just about becoming good consumers, but engaged citizens.

Posted 2 days 31 min ago
Somali-Americans, Somali businesses, Abdul Razak Artan, Ohio State attacks, Somali activism

The Somali-American community was bashed last week after Abdul Razak Artan, a member of Ohio's large and growing Somali community, took part in a car-ramming attack and massive stabbing at the school that left 13 injured.

Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests, DAPL

"We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us."

Matteo Renzi, 5 Star Movement, Italian populists, anti-EU vote

Matteo Renzi resigned Sunday night after suffering a crushing defeat in a referendum on constitutional reform – signaling a fresh populist blow for the E.U.

Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump, demagogue, Republican Party control, climate catastrophe, American militarism, fascism

Some years ago, the public intellectual warned that the U.S. was ripe for the rise of an authoritarian figure. Now he describes the threat Trump poses to the planet.

Big Oil, Big Finance, economic transformation, climate collapse, economic alternatives, fossil fuel free, fossil fuel divestment, copyright laws, infrastructure investment, worker-owned cooperatives, jail the bankers, too big to fail

Moving society away from carbon dependence is not just about becoming good consumers, but engaged citizens.