As food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), saw its first cuts Friday, you would think that the biggest opponent of slashing those benefits would be Walmart. The retail giant is the biggest beneficiary of the program's funds, which subsidizes its workforce and provides a significant revenue stream for the company.
According to the company's own calculations, Walmart takes in about 18% of the SNAP program's spending. "That would mean it pulled in $14 billion of the $80 billion the [Department of Agriculture] says was appropriated for food stamps in the year ended in September 2012,” concluded Shelly Banjo and Annie Gasparro in The Wall Street Journal. The 18% rate is disproportionately high, considering Walmart takes in about 10% of overall sales in the United States.
Walmart's CEO Bill Simon, as usual, seems clueless about what these numbers mean. “I would say we’re cautious but modestly optimistic. When the benefits expanded, our market share actually went down. In other words, everybody’s benefit is going to get cut, price will become more important. And when price is more important, we’re more relevant.” Simon is saying that SNAP cuts will actually benefit his company, which is more than a little bit creepy (rooting for people to lose benefits so you can profit from it).
The Daily Beast argues that Simon is misreading the numbers anyway: "Even with the tailwinds of expanded unemployment benefits and food stamps, and 44 straight months of jobs growth in the U.S. economy, Walmart has been unable to increase its U.S. sales at the level of economic growth, or at the level of inflation." They say the reason for sluggish Walmart sales is that the decline in real wages is far from being offset by an increase in SNAP benefits.