TEXT OF STORY
MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: What’s that expression? The rich just keep getting richer? A look at Fortune magazine’s list of the 500 biggest U.S. companies based on total revenue confirms that perspective. The list, released this week, shows Wal-Mart with $351 billion in revenue, pushing past Exxon-Mobil for the top spot. The magazine says this is the most profitable period in the 53-year history of the Fortune 500. But Marketplace’s Bob Moon reports there is some debate over whether that’s good news or bad.
BOB MOON: Critics think of the list as the Fortune 500 fat cats, with collective profits of $785 billion last year representing a 29 percent jump over the year before. The magazine credits mild labor costs and soaring productivity.
MEIZHU LUI: I like the way they say “mild labor costs.” In other words, they’ve been able to keep wages really low, without sharing with the workers who are responsible for that.
Meizhu Lui heads the group United For A Fair Economy. She’s not alone in her concern. A new study by the Fairness Initiative on Low-Wage Work finds 1 in 3 American workers make $11 an hour or less.
Others argue the higher corporate profits eventually trickle down to all American workers. The Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards says it’s good news for everyone.
CHRIS EDWARDS: American workers should feel more secure in their jobs when their businesses are making profits. The problem industries are those like airlines and automobiles that are not making profits. There’s where you see the job losses and the jobs moving offshore.
Edwards says it’s business expansion that will raise American incomes in the long run.
I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.
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