UPDATED: The middle class is now too battered to shop at Wal-Mart


For 30 years, Wal-Mart has seemingly risen in inverse proportion to the decline of the American middle class. As buying power shrunk for American workers, the things that Wal-Mart did to keep its always low prices always -- including its anti-labor policies and its reliance on China for all that cheap stuff -- at least created what passed for a safety net for the working poor to survive in such a difficult environment.

But that balancing act can only last so long -- for one thing, Wal-Mart's role in shifting manufacturing to China is a poor long-term strategy, the inverse of Henry Ford's famous idea to pay his assembly line workers a high enough wage that they could buy his cars. And now it's collapsing.

The American working class can no longer afford to even shop at Wal-Mart:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Wal-Mart's core shoppers are running out of money much faster than a year ago due to rising gasoline prices, and the retail giant is worried, CEO Mike Duke said Wednesday.

Here's more:

Wal-Mart shoppers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, typically shop in bulk at the beginning of the month when their paychecks come in.

Lately, they're "running out of money" at a faster clip, he said

I have no doubt that $4-a-gallon gas is the last straw, but the problems at Wal-Mart are much deeper.

Wal-Mart has struggled with seven straight quarters of sales declines in its stores.

Clearly, there's only one solution to this problem: Cut taxes for the wealthy.

UPDATE: Wal-Mart has a plan to turn things around!

Wal-Mart will resume selling rifles, shotguns and ammunition at hundreds of stores as part of what The Wall Street Journal calls a "major retooling of [Wal-Mart's] U.S. operations," in which the retailer is returning to shelves many "heritage categories" it pulled a few years ago.

Wal-Mart, which is experiencing its worst-ever U.S. slump, had stopped selling rifles, shotguns and bullets at all but a third of its 3,600 U.S. stores, but the change will bring the products back to about half of the locations. Wal-Mart is the largest seller of firearms and ammunition in the country.

That's what Sarah Palin always says: Don't retreat, retool!