In the 14th century, the renowned Italian poet Dante detailed a horrendous descent through nine layers of eternal damnation that he had charted, with the bottom floor reserved for the most wretched of sinners. In recognition of today’s realities, Satan has added a new basement to his punishing Inferno: a special level of Hell to accommodate Walmart’s top executives and profiteers.

Their sins are many and well-documented: Paying poverty wages, selling products made in global sweatshops, exploiting child labor, cheating U.S. workers, bribing public officials, bankrupting local competitors, producing shoddy products, etc. In recent weeks, though, the massive chain’s bosses earned their assignment to Beelzebub’s basement by their abominable performance in Bangladesh.

hightower-walmart-Ron Dauphin

Ron Dauphin/Flickr

First came their deliberate choice to profit from their suppliers’ abuses of powerless garment workers paid $37 a month. Second was their intentional turning of a blind eye to the blatantly unsafe factories they use, including the hellhole that collapsed in April, killing more than 1,100 workers in Bangladesh. Third was their diabolically shameful denial of responsibility, claiming that the dead workers were not making clothes for Walmart on the day of the collapse.

And now, they have fiendishly refused to join nearly 40 other global retail giants in an agreement to help finance such minimal safety upgrades as putting fire escapes on Bangladesh’s factories and allowing rigorous independent inspections.

Walmart executives explained that non-binding, unenforceable self-regulation would be best for all concerned. And you could hear Old Lucifer cackling as he prepared their rooms in his new, tenth level of Hell.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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