Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

“Is Wal-Mart really the devil with the blue vest on?”

Tom Henderson, liberal gadfly and Lewiston Tribune columnist, must have drank the whole pitcher of Kool-Aid before penning the puerile drivel that appeared in today’s edition:
"The Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I saw four horsemen and they said, as with a voice of thunder, 'Welcome to Wal-Mart.'"

What is it with liberals, Wal-Mart, and Biblical analogies?

Wal-Mart may not be a sign of the Apocalypse, but you couldn't tell that from the wailing and gnashing of teeth in Moscow and Pullman. Death, famine, pestilence and war would receive warmer welcomes than the proposed supercenters.

Well, if Wal-Mart is the Antichrist, I wonder if Henderson has noticed there are a lot of Satanists on the Palouse? Look at the all the letters to the editor from Moscow residents in support of a Supercenter there in the last few weeks. Pullman and Moscow are both university towns with the usual liberal professors and students. What part of “vocal minority” does Henderson not understand? What he should be commenting on is how warm of a welcome the proposed Supercenters have received in what should be hostile territory.

The lamentations can be heard far beyond the Palouse. Few things polarize Americans like politics, religion and Wal-Mart.

More accurately, few things drive the local leftist fringe crazier than President Bush, Christ Church, and growth and development.

Political activists are spending millions on polling, micro-targeted ads, e-mail, direct mail and grassroots organizing designed to build Wal-Mart up or tear it down.

Henderson conveniently ignores the fact that these “activists” tearing down Wal-Mart work for labor unions seeking to revive their failing movement by unionizing Wal-Mart and its 1.3 million employees. It’s money, not ideology, which motivates this fight.

"Our opponents have organized the likes of a political campaign against us," says Bob McAdam, vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart. "It would be nonsense for us not to response in a similar fashion."

Well, that's one strategy.

Wal-Mart is right to defend itself. The management has a responsibility to stockholders to do so (Wal-Mart is the fourth most widely-held stock in the world. Many people’s retirement income is tied to Wal-Mart, a fact often overlooked in the Wal-Mart debate).

Another might be to admit Wal-Mart is not the Mary Poppins of corporations and take steps to improve its behavior. Even the most passionate defenders of Wal-Mart and free enterprise must realize that smiley face has a dark side.

“Improve its behavior?” What about all the money Wal-Mart donates to charity? What about its response to Hurricane Katrina? It would be hard to find a better corporate citizen than Wal-Mart. In any case though, doing business in a capitalist society is not like a Disney movie. There are winners and losers and very often no happy endings. If Mr. Henderson naively chooses to believe that Wal-Mart has a “dark side” because they are successful, so be it. But “evil” companies don’t survive very long (look at Enron). Wal-Mart has adapted to the demands of its customers and the free market and must continue to do so to survive.

Wal-Mart sells cheap merchandise made by underpaid workers.

That's a sweeping and silly generalization. Many of the items sold at Wal-Mart are the same name-brand items sold in more expensive stores. And “cheap” and “underpriced” by whose standards? Find me ONE store on the Palouse that doesn’t have SOMETHING made overseas.

In China's Guangdong Province, workers make toys for Wal-Mart for wages averaging 16.5 cents per hour. Wal-Mart certainly isn't the only company to take advantage of cheap labor, but it's one of the biggest.

This is always the liberals’ uneducated and hysterical mantra about globalism. Did Mr. Henderson consider what that worker in Guangdong Province might have been doing prior to working in the factory? How about walking behind a water buffalo holding a plow for much less than 16.5 cents per hour? Is Mr. Henderson aware that the percentage of workers in China making less than a dollar a day between 1981 and 2001 dropped from 79% to 27%? Perhaps he should keep his opinions to himself until he is better informed.

If Wal-Mart were a country, it would rank as China's eighth largest trading partner -- ahead of Russia, Australia and Canada.

Only a liberal could bemoan the fact that an American company is more successful than Russia.

Chinese workers get no health insurance. American workers fare a little better. Bowing to pressure, Wal-Mart execs recently announced they will force part-time employees to wait only one year before being eligible for health insurance instead of two.

That’s ridiculous. The Chinese government mandates that state-owned enterprises with more than 100 employees provide full health insurance benefits to workers. Most large enterprises with over 1000 workers have their own hospitals and smaller enterprises have free outpatient clinics. The biggest problem with health care in China is that free market reforms have not been applied there as they have been elsewhere. And “forcing part-time employees to wait a year for health insurance?” Again I ask, how many part-time employees of any business in Pullman, Moscow, Lewiston, or Clarkston get benefits, including those who work at WSU?

As it is, health insurance is optional for employees. Getting health insurance means getting less of an already slim paycheck.

What an absurd statement. Thank God health insurance is optional. The alternative is France; with high unemployment, a poor economy, and rioters burning cars in the streets. And yes, paying for insurance means it will take a bite out of your paycheck. If you get something for nothing, nothing is about all you will get in return. Has Henderson ever been out in the real working world? These are the kinds of decisions families make every day. Wal-Mart’s low prices help ease that burden a bit.

Wal-Mart is hardly the devil with the blue vest on.

Only rational thing Henderson says in the whole column.

Americans spend $35 million at Wal-Mart every hour. We're the ones who prefer low prices to corporate ethics. We're the ones who helped force 888 other grocery stores into bankruptcy between 1990 and 2000.

Yes, Americans choose low prices. Only liberal elitists have the luxury to shop according to their political ideology. I’m glad Henderson acknowledges that it was consumers that shut down those grocery stores. Wal-Mart has never “forced” a single business to close.

Wal-Mart is obviously not going to change its ways. It's up to us to change Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart will change its ways as they see fit, and they are, but not because a handful of union activists or leftists tell them to do so. Only the customers can do that.

The fault, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is not in stores, but in ourselves.

If your delicate conscience prevents you from shopping at Wal-Mart, then don’t do it. Just don’t try to stop the rest of us. Don’t forget about those favorite iberal buzzwords “tolerance” and “diversity.”
When will we have a column in any local newspaper that takes a straight up or down look at the LOCAL benefits or harm a Wal-Mart Supercenter would have for Pullman and Moscow, without getting into China, sweatshops, globalism, or how big the company is?

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1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Can anyone think of a lower paying, less prestigous job than a newspaper carrier? What medical benefits are offered to Lewiston Tribune carriers? Oh wait, I forgot, the powerful newspaper lobby used their influence to exempt newspaper carriers from all employment laws. Carriers are conveniently classified as "private contractors" and do not enjoy any of the benefits that Tom Henderson cries out for, including the minimum wage and child labor. This is hypocrisy in its purest form.