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Ashton Kutcher to Walmart: Dude, Where's My Living Wage?


A Walmart (WMT) in Canton, OH recently held a food drive for “so that associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving."

As is so often the case, national outrage quickly ensued, led in part by actor and activist Ashton Kutcher via a "Twitter war" with the nation's largest retailer.

Walmart has 1.4 million employees in the U.S. and says the majority of them make more than $25,000 per year, well above the official poverty line of $11,490 in annual income for individuals and $23,550 for a family of four. 

Other groups argue that Walmart only pays an average of $9 an hour, but the point is moot. Walmart employs more than 1% of all adult working Americans and many, if not most of those employees, struggle to make ends meet. While that’s a lamentable state of affairs it’s a reflection of the country, not Walmart. 

Related: Worried Walmart Just Made Your Holidays Less Expensive

According to the website StatisticsBrain.com more than 90% of America lives within 15-minutes of a Walmart. It’s from that population that Walmart draws its employee base. Walmart doesn’t cherry-pick the dregs of society to work and shop in its stores. Walmart is America. 

Hating Walmart is easy. It's a cop out. It's a substitute for doing something on an individual and national level to try to end poverty in America ourselves. Making Walmart workers into victims is pandering self-denial of what America is as a whole; its worst instincts of casual, showy noblesse oblige in the place of actual societal effort.

In the last year Walmart has paid $8 billion in taxes and put a roof over the heads of 1.4 million Americans. The company offers same sex benefits to workers in all 50 states, no questions asked despite only 16 states recognizing gay marriage. This week it self-identified problems at factories in Bangladesh in effect shaming a consortium of retailers to do the same just days later.

Related: Walmart Makes it Official: Thanksgiving Is Dead

The company didn’t have to do any of these things and certainly got no bang for the buck in terms of public relations. Like America, Walmart eventually does the right thing, even if it means trying every other alternative first.

As a country we’ve tried the option of blaming Walmart for our appalling wage dispaity.  Now it’s time to do the right thing and actually take on the responsibility of fixing the common standard of living in a more uniformed way at a societal level.

Ashton Kutcher is well-intentioned but confused. America’s enemy isn’t Walmart. America’s enemy is the country itself .