Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wright is Wrong

Another day, another contumelious letter to the editor.

In yesterday’s Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Tracy Wright of Moscow made a woodenheaded and unintentionally hilarious attack on Wal-Mart. Again, I’m so happy there’s going to be a Supercenter in Moscow. The writers from Moscow are quite amusing.

Wright claims that Wal-Mart opponents are being portrayed as “un-American aesthetes who are unsympathetic to the needs of the working poor”. Yep, they are. What’s the point? Is Wright perhaps feeling pangs of conscience?

Wright compares the battle over Wal-Mart to “jobs and cheap diapers” versus “Main Street USA”, a la Disneyland. That’s true. We locals are just here to look quaint for the amusement of the university intelligentsia who reside here temporarily, just like the animatronic robots at Disneyland. Who cares what we want? The elites just need us to be shining happy faces working in shining happy “fair trade” espresso stands and “fair trade” craft shops to play out their post-modern, neomercantilist Utopian fantasy. These liberal intellectuals crave a little 1890’s style town, but with all the enlightenment, diversity, tolerance and personal lifestyle choices of the 21st Century. Heck, one anti-Wal-Mart Pullman City Council candidate even wanted Pullman to get a trolley, just like “Main Street USA”.

Without debunking the fact that Wal-Mart really does provide jobs and help the poor, Wright jumps into the main objection against Wal-Mart: the people that work at Wal-Mart will never own Wal-Mart or any other store. Of all the silly arguments against Wal-Mart I have seen, that has to be one of the silliest.

Microsoft and Boeing are widely regarded as being great employers, but does anyone who works there have a chance of one day “owning” those companies? Let’s look a little closer to home. Do those heroic UFCW union brothers at Safeway have a shot at “owning” the mega-grocery chain one day? How about ShopKo? RiteAid? Dissmores? You think someone working at Tri-State is going to take over the company, or is Gerard Connelly going to pass it on to a family member the way ownership was given to him? Let’s close ‘em all down, since no employee can realistically “own” those stores like they could own a hardware store, a stationery store, a toy store, a children’s clothing store, a sporting goods store, or a small grocery.

First of all, Wright fails to realize that someone could be working at Wal-Mart as a starter job, or as a second job, to save money to open his or her own business one day. Working at Wal-Mart is a quicker way to realize your dreams than being in the unemployment line. Plus, working at the world’s most successful retail store is like getting a Ph.D. in how to run your own business. Whether you work at Wal-Mart or not, saving $895 a year shopping at Wal-Mart also puts you further down the road to business ownership. In any case, not every worker wants to have his or her own business. What a sweeping and erroneous generalization.

Secondly, Wal-Mart workers and other people CAN own a piece of Wal-Mart. It’s called stock. Being a shareholder in Wal-Mart has enriched countless people. Many have Wal-Mart in their 401(k) or CREF portfolios and are counting on it to help meet their financial needs after they retire. Large companies like Wal-Mart provide fiscal benefits no Mom-and-Pop store could ever hope to provide. What’s wrong with that?

Wright says that what we are debating is individual autonomy versus “corporate paternalism”. Again, 100% correct, but in the opposite context in which Wright applies it. Individual autonomy does not exclusively mean owning your own business. It means having the economic freedom to do what you want with your own money and your own property. That can mean starting a business, choosing to shop at Wal-Mart, or simply stuffing it under your mattress. It’s freedom baby, yeah!! Very groovy! The “American Dream” of the opportunity for ownership and self-determination, as described by Wright, cannot exist without free enterprise and freedom of choice.

“Paternalism” is exactly what these statists are advocating. They will tell us where to shop, where to live, and what to think, while telling businesses how they can compete, where to purchase their goods, how much to pay their employees, how big their stores can be, and what benefits they have to offer. They know best about everything. Wright mentions the “security of serfdom” and a “hive where workers are cared for but only to the extent necessary to maintain productivity”. That sounds just like the modern American socialist welfare state that the liberals have worked so hard to attain (except for the productivity part).

The “American Dream” is not about guarantees and entitlements. You just may have to “work slavishly in a hive making honey for the queen bee”. I have before and so have most people. In many ways, that’s what it is all about. It’s a dream, not a giveaway. You earn it through hard work. Maybe you’ll get there and maybe you won’t. That way you appreciate it and then you won’t be so quick to judge others. The Declaration of Independence only enumerated the “pursuit” of happiness as an inalienable right, not its actual attainment. Life isn’t always fair. There are winners and losers. But ultimately, life is what you make it, not what these nattering nabobs of negativism say it should be.

Wal-Mart and other big-box stores do not “present an attack on the most traditional of American values”, as Wright claims. They are monuments to those values. The problem is that leftists like Wright don’t like the traditional American values of entrepreneurship, property rights, competition, laissez-faire, consumer choice and raw capitalism they represent. They obviously prefer the values of East Germany. Now that was a worker’s paradise. Technically, everyone owned everything. I can’t imagine why that didn’t work out.

Opposition to Wal-Mart is not un-American, as the Daily News tag line read. I celebrate the First Amendment rights these moonbats have to whine about Wal-Mart continuously or to say I’m not a Christian because I shop at Wal-Mart. But Wal-Mart opponents’ motives and message are indisputably un-American. Trying to usurp what someone can do with his or her land is not patriotic. Condemning the 8 out of 10 people that willingly choose to shop at Wal-Mart because you think they are crass consumers of cheap Chinese crap is not patriotic. Telling me where I can or cannot shop based on your personal taste is not patriotic. And proclaiming “let them eat cake” to the poor, students, seniors and working families to further a union’s political agenda is most definitely not patriotic.

The American Revolution was largely fought because of protectionism, tariffs, and other unfair restrictions that were being put on free trade and the free market. Tracy Wright and other anti-Wal-Martians would do well to learn those lessons again.


April E. Coggins said...

This is from Wal-Mart facts about their new store in Aurora, Colorado: "Store Manager Charlie Harris started as a part-time hourly associate 12 years ago in the hardware
department at a store in Moscow, Idaho."


Ms. Wright would like to deny Charlie Harris and others like him, the opportunity to work for Wal-Mart and the possibilities that such employment would bring.

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

Thank goodness for Wal-Mart. I can take my savings from there and might actually then be able to afford the fee to get into Disneyland to see Main Street, USA.

By the way, I don't think many faculty who have TIAA-CREF as their retirement plan must read what investments are made on their behalf. I read them last spring. TIAA-CREF invests in Wal-Mart heavily.