The giant retailer Wal-Mart is seen as the most successful business venture in the world today. It is at once a shining example of the magnificent benefits of capitalism and capitalism’s consequent social problems. It epitomizes the dilemma faced by multinational global corporations going forward.
By cutting costs to the bone, Wal-Mart brings food, clothing and an unprecedented variety of other products to shoppers at bargain-basement prices. Conversely, it must be subsidized by state and local governments because it pays such low wages that about half of its employees cannot make ends meet.
Sam Walton, its founder and guiding light, was an extraordinary “up by the bootstraps” individualˉ—a dirt-poor farm kid with an uncanny talent for innovation and a drive-for-success to match. During the 1950s while managing his first retail store, he did away with cash registers scattered around the store and put cash registers by the door so customers paid once rather than six different times for six different purchases. As he expanded his retail empire, he made his store managers limited partners and instituted profit-sharing. But this incentive was not extended to Wal-Mart’s floor workers.
Save and Subsidize
Wal-Mart’s original floor workers were farm wives supplementing their husbands’ incomes. Then came the financial efficiencies brought by big agricultural corporations, gradually eliminating family farmers. Now Wal-Mart’s floor workers are drawn from the dispossessed of small towns across the USA and world, and the wages they are paid do not enable them to be self-supporting. The same people who save by shopping at Wal-Mart wind up being taxed to subsidize Wal-Mart.
A two-hundred-employee Wal-Mart store now costs local communities $108,000 a year for health care, $120,000 for tax credits and deductions for low-income families, and $42,000 in housing assistance, according to an article, Inside the Leviathan by Simon Head, in the New York Review of Books, December 16, 2004.
Now Wal-Mart’s efficiency is being blamed for a variety of other problems. “Hundreds of employees have testified against Wal-Mart in the many class-action lawsuits brought against the corporation, and their sworn depositions provide a detailed account of what it is like to work at a Wal-Mart day by day, even hour by hour.”
In a law suit brought by Betty Dukes and six female employees of the Wal-Mart in Pittsburg, California, systematic sex discrimination was alleged in both pay and promotion; the suit was brought on behalf of 1.6 million female employees. A US District Judge in San Francisco ruled that this case can be brought to trial, which is now pending.
But according to what is today defined as “free market” capitalism, Wal-Mart committed no crimes and is being punished for its fantastic success. This has to concern other multinational corporations which likewise play by the rules of “free market” capitalism but drain tax-supported social services.
Does Wal-Mart’s dilemma mark a change in how society perceives giant corporations? Going forward, will Wal-Mart and other giant multinationals continue to be subsidized by taxpayers?
Sam Walton opened what would become the first of his stores on July 2, 1962, in Rogers, Arkansas. Assuming 9 am as the opening time, a chart for this event shows Uranus at 27 Leo conjunct the Ascendant, applying to a conjunction with Pluto at 8 Virgo in the First House. The Sun and Moon are conjunct in Cancer, (with both conjunct the US Venus, Jupiter and Sun in Cancer.) Wal-Mart’s birth pattern indicates an entity with the potential to profoundly (Pluto) revolutionize (Uranus). Indeed, Wal-Mart was viewed early on as something of an Ozark hillbilly rabble rouser in the community of retailers.
Wal-Mart’s Sun and Moon form a grand trine with Jupiter in Pisces and Neptune in Scorpio, giving it plenty of watery passion and potential to expand. Wal-Mart also has an opposition of Jupiter and Pluto, adding tense, dynamic energy to its drive for expansion.
Comparing Wal-Mart’s original store to the birth chart for the USA, July 4, 1776, Wal-Mart’s Mercury conjunct the US Mars forms a grand trine to the US Moon (public) in Aquarius and US Saturn (economic structures) in Libra. Mercury rules business so this could hardly be better for Wal-Mart’s unprecedented expansion throughout the USA and into other countries. Caution is indicated by the Wal-Mart Mercury being square the US Neptune, however, indicating deception or delusion.
On June 22, 2004, when the US District Court in San Francisco sent the Dukes case on to the higher court, Pluto had moved to 20 Sagittarius in opposition to Wal-Mart’s Mercury and the US Mars, putting Pluto also square the US Neptune. Indicating a major change in Wal-Mart’s makeup was Uranus at 6 Pisces, conjunct Wal-Mart’s Jupiter, opposite its Pluto, and forming a T-square with Venus in Gemini.
April 2015 Eclipse
Pluto, in June 2004, was also opposite a point between Wal-Mart’s Venus and Sun-Moon conjunction, while Saturn and Mercury were moving conjunct Wal-Mart’s Sun and Moon, and Wal-Mart’s Saturn was hit by a Neptune conjunction. With all the heavy economic indicators—Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto—afflicting, the long-range outlook for Wal-Mart’s success is in doubt. This pattern reflects the growing disenchantment with Wal-Mart.
To assess Wal-Mart’s fortunes in the future, I chose the eclipse in April 2015, for that is when the USA’s natal planetary positions are to be hit the hardest and we can expect the most difficult times. A Uranus-Pluto square will form a Grand Cross pattern with the Sun-Saturn square in the US nativity. Given the past history of Uranus-Pluto squares which hit these points, you can bet the farm that the 2000-teens will be volatile. How will Wal-Mart be impacted during this time?
Wal-Mart’s Sun-Moon conjunction in Cancer will be negatively impacted by the Uranus-Pluto grand cross, and also by the Sun-Moon opposition eclipse. It will be a miracle if the world’s largest and most successful retailer survives this period—unless it finds the ways and means to revolutionize its operation and adapt to new circumstances.
Astrologer Manfred Zimmel of Austria, editor of the financial newsletter Amanita, has pointed to this time, the 2000-teens, as the probable end of capitalism as we know it. Wal-Mart epitomizes this dilemma for capitalism—it generates record profits by bringing a cornucopia of products to consumers at rock-bottom prices, yet becomes a drain on these same consumers as taxpayers. This speaks to its Mercury conjunction with the US Mars-square-Neptune. In a society focused on big corporate profits, the costs to society tend to disappear in a Neptunian mist.
What the upcoming Uranus-Pluto square and grand cross promise is a rebalancing of the US and world economy. Wal-Mart could survive this difficult period if it questions its belief in the version of capitalism which has spawned its amazing success. But the chances of that are about the same as the Vatican questioning the Immaculate Conception.
Wealth of Nations
End-of-the-world forecasts for this period, the 2000-teens, come from the legends of many ancient cultures, but don’t despair. The world and we humans have survived many other apocalyptic predictions. And there is a bright beam of sunlight shining over the horizon of 2015. It has to do with a book published the last time Pluto was where it will be in 2015, when the American Revolution of 1776 was boiling up. At that time Adam Smith published what would revolutionize economics: The Wealth of Nations. Smith said that labor creates capital. His modern mega-corporate devotees revised that to “the company provides jobs.”
Some of Smith’s theories are cited by big corporate economists as “holy scripture.” But Smith’s eighteenth century capitalism was very different from today’s mega-corporate capitalism. Small business “profit” is really wages. Big corporate profit is what’s left after all expenses, including wages.
Big corporate enterprises create huge imbalances between a super-rich few and the impoverished many. Smith’s independent enterprises create what is needed for a whole society to survive and prosper: economic balance. That bright beam of sunlight is a recycling of Smith’s anti-monopolistic principles of capitalism. Pluto’s 248-year cycles tend to dig up such lost truths as Smith’s, dust them off, and fit them into a new cultural context.