Let’s check the socks market


America’s economic recovery can be measured not only in the performance of stocks — but also of socks.

Most economists, pundits and politicos see the boom in the stock market and say: “See, the recovery is going splendidly!” But if they went to such stores as Kohl’s, Target and Walmart to find out what’s selling, the answer would be: “Socks.” Even in the present back-to-school season, usually the second-biggest buying spree of the year, sales are sluggish at best, with customers foregoing any spending on their kids except for socks, underwear and other essentials.

This is not only an economic indicator, but also a gauge of the widening inequality in America. The highly ballyhooed “recovery” has been restricted to the few at the top who own the stocks, get paychecks of more than $100,000 a year and buy BMWs. But meanwhile, the many don’t have any cash to spare beyond necessities. Walmart’s chief financial officer seems puzzled that there is, as he puts it, “a general reluctance of customers to spend on discretionary items.”

Golly, sir, could it be because job growth in our supremely wealthy country has been both lackluster and miserly? Yes, jobs today are typically very low-paying, part-time, and temporary, with no benefits. Mr. Walmart-man should know this, since his retail behemoth is the leading culprit in downsizing American jobs to a poverty level. In recent months, headquarters has directed Walmart managers not to hire at all or to concentrate on hiring temporary and part-time workers, while cutting the hours of many full-time employees and making it harder for all workers to get the corporation’s meager health care plan.

Walmart’s sales and profits are stagnant today because — hello — even its own workers can’t afford to buy anything in the store besides socks.

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This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.