Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, June 24, 2005

Professors Against Republican Donations

The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) was formed back in January of this year to oppose the building of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman. They describe themselves as “grass roots” and say their members range in age from 19 to 81 and include Washington State University professors, farmers, businesspeople, students and homemakers.

That’s funny, because I haven’t seen many farmers, businesspeople, or homemakers in PARD. Virtually every letter to the editor, every press release, and every Web posting I have seen opposing Wal-Mart seems to be from either a WSU faculty member, the spouse of a WSU faculty member, or a WSU student.

Be that as it may, I admit my first reaction upon hearing of the plans to open a Wal-Mart in Pullman was: “Why? There is already one in Moscow.” I have always shopped at Wal-Mart in Moscow because I like more selection and low prices. But seeing as feelings were running so high in the community, I thought I would do extensive research on the issue and reach my own conclusion. You have seen the results of this research in previous posts. A Wal-Mart in Pullman, while good business for Wal-Mart, is even better for this town.

PARD’s arguments about how Wal-Mart will have a negative effect on the local businesses, workers and consumers are simply not supported by the facts. PARD has stated support for a Target or a Costco, which, as big box stores, theoretically would have all the same wage, business, aesthetic, traffic, and environmental issues as Wal-Mart. Even Al Norman, the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement, stated:
"Target is every bit as ruthless (as Wal-Mart)," he said, and the problem with most large retailers is that "they usually pick the wrong size and place."

"Target is just Wal-Mart with an attitude."
Yet PARD claims in their position paper:

A smaller Target, on the other hand, would seem to be a more reasonable fit demographically, and has often been a good anchor.
And while so opposed to Wal-Mart as a company, PARD seems to support the one in Moscow. It didn't make any sense to me. So I wondered: “Why is PARD so passionately opposed to Wal-Mart?” Then I saw the following letter to the editor in the June 4 edition of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News from Alicia "Al" Borm. Daily News subscribers may recognize Ms. Borm as one of the PARD activists at a City Council meeting back in March who put tape over their mouths to protest the city's lack of public hearings concerning Wal-Mart.
A recent letter asserted that "the typical super center raises or donates $30,000 to $50,000 per year to local charities" (a figure from Wal-Mart's own Web site). If true, it is good that Wal-Mart is contributing locally and one hopes it does more. The increase in charitable giving by Wal-Mart is probably due partly to pressure local groups throughout the country have put on Wal-Mart to mend its ways. This pressure may eventually force Wal-Mart to transform itself into a company we all can feel good about supporting.

In the meantime, however, it is important to know Wal-Mart has contributed not thousands but millions to charter schools and school-voucher causes (USA Today). A community like Pullman, which is filled with state-employed teachers at all levels of the education system, should strongly oppose the building of a Wal-Mart Supercenter here for this reason alone. In our state, Wal-Mart has donated $300,000 to charter-school causes that have been rejected at the polls by Washington voters twice. Sending one's children to a private school is a personal choice, but charter schools and school vouchers weaken the public school system by diverting scarce funds away from it.

It also is revealing to examine Wal-Mart's political donations which mostly went to Republicans in the last election (www.fec.gov). In our state, Wal-Mart donated to the campaigns of Dino Rossi, George Nethercutt and Cathy McMorris, but not to those of Don Barbieri, Patty Murray, or Christine Gregoire.

Nationally, Wal-Mart contributed to Tom DeLay, Katherine Harris (former Florida Secretary of State, remember her?) and George Bush but not to John Kerry. By contrast, 99.11 percent of regionally-based Costco's political contributions went to Democrats, including Don Barbieri. Just so you know where your consumer dollars are going.
Suddenly, it all became clear to me. It has more to do with Don Barbieri losing than with economics, traffic, the environment, or any of the other things that should be the subjects of the Wal-Mart debate. It’s simply politics. Good old leftist, pro-labor, anti-business, anti-conservative, anti-Republican politics. And more than a little regional/class snobbery as well (Wal-Marts tend to fluorish in "red" states and 31% of Wal-Mart's shoppers have annual household incomes of less than $25,000 a year, according to a study by Retail Forward). All of PARD's talk about "traffic" and "public safety" is a smokescreen to hide their elitist, liberal agenda.

I guess on some level, I knew that colleges were bastions of liberalism, but Pullman is hardly Berkeley. Then I started checking the backgrounds of some of these PARD professors. I was shocked to find what passes for higher education at the taxpayer's expense these days.
T.V. Reed, PARD Chairman, is the author of publications on apartheid and popular music, Indian radicals in film, and environmental justice ecocriticism. His website states that “he has long worked for the internationalization of American studies, the effort to undercut the ethnocentrism too often found in the field.”

Nella Van Dyke, PARD Petition Coordinator, did her PhD dissertation on “The Dynamics of College Student Protest, 1930-1990”. She presented a paper titled “How the AFL-CIO Has Mobilized College Students for Labor Protest.” at the American Studies Colloquium Series at WSU last year.

Leland Glenna and Greg Hooks , PARD Living Wage task force, are professors in the Department of Sociology, along with Ms. Van Dyke. Maybe it should be renamed the "Department of Socialism."

Marcie Gilliland , PARD C0-Secretary, is a mental health counselor with an area of special interest in “feminist psychology.”
Apparently, Wal-Mart has become the new Vietnamesque cause célèbre for protesters across the country. Wal-Mart is more accepted and more respected in China, a Communist country, than it is here at home (see the latest issue of Time magazine). It’s truly amazing. Wal-Mart is probably the greatest example of free enterprise and the American Way ever. And yet the left sees it as the root of all evil in the modern world. Why? Because Wal-Mart is viewed as being conservative and Republican. The equally successful and even more monopolistic Microsoft draws no similar ire, because they support more liberal, politically correct causes. If you don't believe me, visit Buy Blue. As Jay Nordlinger put it in the National Review:
Wal-Mart is an all-purpose bogeyman, responsible, in some people's minds, for an array of ills. The anti-Wal-Mart mindset is a kind of religion, like dumb environmentalism, or dumb devotion to gun control, or dumb hatred of the SUV. You can't reason with these people, can't have an honest debate with them: Wal-Mart is simply their devil.
Make no mistake, PARD shares that same zeal. Just ask them yourself. What COULD Wal-Mart do to address their concern about location, traffic, etc. The answer is nothing. They are on a jihad against Wal-Mart, pure and simple. Do we really want to shop based on political party? Do we need these cultural and political wars that are raging in the other Washington in our town? The answer is a resounding NO!

The future of Pullman is too important to be left up to these far left professors and students who arrogantly assume we all feel the same way they do, or would if we just “learned more about the company.” Just recently, in a letter to the editor in the Moscow Pullman Daily News, Janet Damm stated:
I believe that many pro-Wal-Mart residents of Pullman have not done their homework.

Before you jump to conclusions that a super Wal-Mart would be good for Pullman please do some research.
You have to love the intelligentsia, always looking out of all us poor lumpenproles. Sorry, Janet, I already did my research. And you and your extremist friends do not represent our community or our values. Pullman and Whitman County, excluding the more liberal faculty members and students, is a pretty low key and tolerant place, without much political protest, controversy or strife. In a 2000 study, Demographics Daily rated Pullman 424 out of 632 small cities with a poplulation between 10,000 and 50,000 in the category of "Connection to cultural mainstream/residents feel connected to the outside world." What we care about is our schools (#1 out of 632) and our low cost of living/housing and taxes at affordable levels (#7 out of 632). We don't care for much for what people have done in Hayden, Gig Harbor, La Grande, Bend, Medford, Inglewood, Chicago, or Xanadu. This is Pullman. Perhaps you would be better off in one of those other cities.

But I'm sure the professors will continue to bemoan the "loss" of "their" town in the Daily News, forgetting that they came here to teach from somewhere else in the country and will probably be moving on again in a few years. Those same professors are also in the higher income brackets, which maybe makes them forget that the rest of Pullman and Whitman County, including students, would really like the 400 new jobs and access to a variety of merchandise and significantly cheaper prices, not to mention the benefit of increasing competition among local stores. Many residents, especially seniors, lack the transportation resources to zip over to Moscow, Clarkston or Spokane to shop, or do not have Internet connections to shop online to meet their needs. The anti-Wal Mart crowd has those resources as well as the free time to protest at City Hall, collect petitions and give interviews with the media. Meanwhile, 9-5 workers, seniors, and farmers in the rest of Pullman and the county are too busy with their lives to protest FOR Wal-Mart.

1 comment:

uiprof said...

Congratulations! I enjoyed reading about your support to this community a lot. Although I live in Moscow (I'm a professor at U of I), I pay close attention to the Wal-Mart story, and am saddened to see folks of PARD trying to derail any advancement. The City of Pullman should be thrilled to see such a successful retail chain like Wal-Mart consider coming here. Eventually, they will come anyway, and the PARD folks wasted their time and ridiculed themself. Thanks again for your open mindness and support to this community!