by Max Brantley
The roundup of retailers' sales results in January pretty well tells the story of where the U.S. and its people are today.
High-end stores — think Saks — did great. Retailers catering to cost-conscious lower income people — think Walmart and Home Depot — didn't do so well.
Walmart has been holding down prices to get customers to spend. “We’ve seen the unemployment numbers come down a little bit, and that’s really good, but that hasn’t stopped the paycheck cycle,” said Charles M. Holley Jr., Walmart’s chief financial officer, referring to customers spending paycheck-to-paycheck.
Please note the word "paycheck." These are working people, scraping by, whose payroll tax deductions alone (but for the temporary reductions that President Obama had to fight to extend) put their effective tax rates up near those of billionaires whose earnings come from tax-exempt investments, capital gains and other favored revenue streams, as opposed to actual labor.