Recently, I saw a number of people observe that the Walmart heirs have a greater net worth than the combined net worth of the bottom 30% of the U.S. population. The obvious problem here is that a large portion of those households have negative net worth, in many cases for perfectly un-alarming reasons, e.g., student debt early in the life course. I was pleased to see Felix Salmon make precisely this point:
According to the latest data we have, 24.8% of American households had zero or negative net worth — add them all together, and you get zero. Jeffrey Goldberg’s net worth, it’s safe to say, is greater than zero. And while it’s definitely a bad thing that one in four Americans have no net worth at all, I don’t think you can really blame Walmart for that. Indeed, Walmart saves money for poor Americans — while it might not be a great employer, there are many more poor Americans than there are poor Walmart employees. From a financial perspective, Walmart has been a decidedly positive force in terms of bringing down the cost of living for those on extremely limited budgets.
And Felix also writes an excellent defense of Alice Walton’s new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. Jeffrey Goldberg is frequently quite awesome. But not on the subject of Walmart, to my chagrin.