The poster boy for the reverse Robin Hood role is North Carolina billionaire Art Pope. Pope’s inherited business empire operates under the umbrella of Variety Wholesalers. Variety is privately held and therefore it is difficult to get exact numbers, but they do business under ten different names. They are in retail and there are two guiding principles they utilize when determining where to locate a store. They look for a neighborhood with a median income of under $40,000 and a population that is at least 25% African-American. In less polite language, they look for people with fewer options that they can exploit.
Pope likes to employ part-time people at minimum wage and no benefits. He is a practitioner of what I call the “plantation mentality”. If you pay your people the very minimum then you get to keep more for yourself. Like the master in the big house who led a comfortable life while his slaves produced the fruits he feasted on.
Pope has taken the model one step further in that he is involved in various organizations that advocate against minimum wage laws, regulation and compulsory education. They feel minimum wage laws price low skill laborers out of the labor market. They favor their selective philosophy to be taught versus traditional education – in communist countries they call that brainwashing. They feel the government should get out of the way and let the marketplace regulate itself – we have seen how well that works out. Can you say Wall Street Bailout or BP Oil Spill?
If this sounds a lot like the Koch brothers it should. Pope is aligned with Charles and David Koch in many of his “civic” involvements. In fact Pope has been backing political office holders to the point that he basically owns the Republican caucus that controls the North Carolina State Legislature.
Listed below you will find his enterprises followed by organizations he is involved with – his involvement is in parenthesis.
Bill’s Dollar Store
Super Saver Store
The Pope Foundation (Director and significant financial supporter)
The Civitas Institute (significant financial supporter)
The John Locke Foundation (Director and significant financial supporter)
Americans for Prosperity North Carolina (associated and significant financial supporter)
Atlas Economic Research Foundation (Director)
Institute for Humane Studies (associated and significant financial supporter)
Americans for Prosperity (Director and significant financial supporter)
John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (Associated and significant financial supporter)
While only recently has he been in the spotlight, Pope has been at this disinformation campaign for years. He was a director of the now defunct Citizens for a Sound Economy. In 2004 it split into Freedom Works, now run by Dick Armey, and Americans for Prosperity.
Like his allies the Koch brothers, Pope is a member of the lucky sperm cell club and acts out of a sense of entitlement not morality. It should be easy for most of us to severely restrict our patronage of his businesses and involvement with his associations. While we may not be able to knock him off his high perch, we can make life in the big house just a little less comfortable.
NOTE: For more on Art Pope see The Banishment of Art Pope – 12/27/11.
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