Saturday, August 17, 2019

Map Quiz! Biggest Private Employer in Each State

Ok, this is not a quiz but a series of reactions to this pic:

A few obvious patterns here.  Of course, the Walmart of it all.  What does it say that Walmart is the biggest employer for 21 states?  That they have done a great job of wiping out the competition, I guess.  Mostly red states plus Illinois and Virginia.  Hmm.  Lots of correlation/causation possibilities here. 

Let's come back to this, but focus on the other trends:
  • State university systems (which are not private employees, but whatevs).  California (woot for my PhD alma mater), New Mexico, Maryland, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Hawaii! A mix politically, but, damn, given that universities not only educate the next generation but are incubators of innovation and economic growth, this would seem to be a good thing.
  • Health care systems--Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Dakotas North and South, Minnesota, Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts.  Hmm.  Is centralization/monopolization of health care a good thing?  In private hands, bad.  Public hands?  Good.  Damn, the US health care system sucks mightily.  I mean, it might make sense that such a service oriented business might employ a great number of people--everyone gets sick, everyone dies, etc.  But I wonder what this figure would look like for places with public health care--would health care still be a top employer?  Perhaps even more so since one can imagine California's health care providers together would employ more than the UC system (of course, if we combined UC with Cal State Universities...)
  • Three outliers in order of increased funkiness: GM in Michigan--not a surprise but we wonder how long this will last; Wakefern Food Corp in New Jersey--that the food business is that concentrated and that big (or that the other potential big employing industries have multiple firms?); and finally and most strange--Denver International Airport.  WTF?  I mean, I know one of its lawyers, but perhaps this says more about how the rest of Colorado's employees are split up into different entities?  That maybe there are multiple health care systems?  I do know there are multiple university systems.  
Back to the big picture, that the biggest employer in nearly half the states is the one that is best at destroying smaller businesses, best at paying low wages, and feeds a small overly rich and right wing family might help to explain a lot that is broken about the US political system.  Just as every election is "about the economy, stupid", we need to take seriously that the structure of the economic system deeply shapes the structure of the political system.  One can look at Walmart's dominance in two ways:
  1. the status quo, where the company store helps to manipulate the system so that people vote against their economic interests
  2. a unionized populace (see, Phil, I like unions sometimes) that takes all of their political power and advocates for better working conditions, national health care, etc.  
When people talk about Blue and Red states and that some states are Red forever, this map makes me think that this is not inevitable.  The question is: how to get folks in the Red states to realize that they are being exploited?  Shouldn't they want more secure health care?  Shouldn't they want a better wage than Walmart has to offer? 

To be sure, this map is deceptive since it is of largest employers and does not tell us about percentage compared to the rest of the state's population.  It may be that Walmart employees are actually not that big of a voting block in many of these states (Texas?).  Indeed, only 1.5 million employees--a lot for one business, but not that big of an electoral constituency. 

Just something to think about on a Saturday morning rather than reading graduate student work or reviewing a journal article.

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