Tax cut dividend: Wal-Mart to pay bonuses, raise minimum wage for employees in wake of GOP bill

The biggest private employer in the United States, one synonymous with blue-collar America, is handing out cash to its workers and Democrats think running against the tax bill will be a slam dunk for them next year?

As of last night, according to a running list being kept by Americans for Tax Reform, more than a million employees among dozens of companies are getting bonuses inspired by tax reform. That doesn’t include Wal-Mart, which alone employs roughly one and a half million Americans. Not all of them are getting bonuses per today’s announcement, but many will. And even the lowest workers on the corporate totem pole will see a bit of extra cash.

The big-box retailer announced Thursday it will increase its starting wage rate for hourly employees in the U.S. to $11, and expand maternity and parental leave benefits. Currently, Walmart’s starting wage is $9 until workers complete a training program. Then, they receive $10.

Walmart will also pay a one-time cash bonus to eligible employees of as much as $1,000. The payouts, which should total roughly $400 million, will result in a one-time charge that the company will take in the fourth quarter of this year…

The company is also creating a new benefit that provides financial assistance to its employees who are looking to adopt a child, giving them as much as $5,000 per child to cover expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal costs.

Not everyone gets a $1,000 bonus, only employees with 20 years of service or more. Those with less time see their payout scaled down. It’s also true that Wal-Mart is playing catch-up here with Target, which raised its own minimum wage to $11 an hour a few months ago and plans to raise it to $15 by 2020. To some extent, this wave of post-tax-bill bonuses are all PR moves, designed to blunt criticism from the left that the bill was a giveaway to corporate fatcats by slashing the federal corporate tax rate.

But so what? More money in workers’ pockets is more money in workers’ pockets, and with a leviathan like Wal-Mart setting a new competitive standard for wages other companies are destined to follow. It’s in their interest to do it too, as the Republican rationale for cutting corporate taxes was that it would create a trickle-down effect for average Americans. Here’s the GOP’s political reward, splashy evidence that the trickling has begun. I love the adoption benefit that Wal-Mart is offering too, which is a surprise and is probably designed as another political reward to the pro-life Republicans. Whether it’ll meaningfully increase the number of adoptions by Wal-Mart employees is unclear, as adoption is ludicrously and tragically expensive even for white-collar workers. But every little bit helps.

Steve Deace makes a canny point:

If the economy remains in good shape, it’s bound to mitigate some Democratic gains next fall. It might not save the House for the GOP given the wave of Republican retirements there, but … maybe it’ll save the Senate? Possibly? Of note: In Quinnipiac’s new poll, when asked who should get credit for the current state of the economy, more Americans say Obama (49 percent) than Trump (40 percent). Those numbers will shift a bit towards Trump as we get further into his presidency, though. By the time Americans go to vote in November, it’s conceivable that good economic numbers on his watch will hold back some of the blue wave, although not all of it.

Free advice for POTUS in the meantime: Spend less time crowing about the Dow’s historic highs and more time crowing about job and wage growth. I realize the daily Dow numbers are irresistible to him since (a) he’s a New Yorker used to rubbing elbows with financiers and (b) there’s nothing he loves more than when he can trumpet the best/the greatest/the most historic, all of which describes the market right now. But the market will correct, and ostensibly he’s a populist. His core voters don’t have tens of thousands socked away in 401k’s. Wage growth means more to them than what the S&P 500 is doing today. Talk more about it!