Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lessons for Teacher Lu

Scotty writes about Chris Lupke's Town Crier column in the Daily News today:
He makes it seem like the businessmen in China are complaining about WalMart. But, that is not what was being said.
Given previous letters to the editor from PARD, I'm surprised Lupke stopped at lead paint and didn't blame Wal-mart for kiddie porn and crack houses as well.

Let's examine a few of Lu Laoshi's claims further, shall we?

If Wal-Mart is such a all-powerful monopsony that it squeezes poor Chinese suppliers to "commit suicide," then why has it's stock declined 25 percent in the last three years? You can't have it both ways. As a recent Wall Street Journal article so gleefully touted by the PARDners states, "As Wal-Mart's influence erodes, so does its allure to manufacturers." The Journal continues,
In some ways, Wal-Mart's loss of clout is a reflection of a more fragmented world. Retailing is a mirror to how we live and work. Big-box stores thrived by selling highly recognizable national brands, which themselves were fed by two phenomena: the growth of mass media and freeways, which encouraged large stores in remote areas. Stores and brands together achieved scale efficiencies that allowed them to overwhelm local chain stores and regional brands.

But the Internet is transforming the retail definition of scale. The once-stunning compilation of 142,000 items found in a Wal-Mart supercenter doesn't seem so vast alongside the millions of products available on the Internet.

At the same time, the cost of creating and sustaining a national brand is rising because of media fragmentation. Niche brands, created by Internet word of mouth, are winning shelf space and sapping profits required to fund big brands' advertising.
So it is the free market and consumers, as always, not union-funded "grassroots" pressure groups like PARD,that are changing Wal-Mart.

By the way, according to the New York Times, Wal-Mart's stock stumbled because the company abandoned its traditional customer base and tried to go "upscale."

If Chinese workers average $150 per month working in factories that supply Wal-Mart, what were they earning before they started working in those factories? What are the alternatives? I find it highly interesting that liberals like Lupke who want the U.S. to stop trying to impose American-style democracy on countries like Iraq are so anxious to impose American-style wages and working conditions on countries like China.

If PARD is a "grassroots group" contending that Wal-Mart damages "smaller and locally owned businesses," why did Lupke have to use a quote from a furniture store owner in Chicago? Is it because the only anti-Wal-Mart business owner in Pullman left town a year ago? Is it because ALL the public comments from business owners in Pullman have been in favor of Wal-Mart coming to town?

Speaking of Chicago, Lupke leaves out a few salient points, as you might expect. For one, the fact that 25,000 Chicagoans applied for 325 jobs at the store. I guess Wal-Mart must not be as bad a place to work as Lu Laoshi claims. Also, since Wal-Mart opened in the West Side of Chicago a year ago, according to the Chicago Tribune, it has generated more than $5 million in state and local taxes. And all of that despite massive union efforts to block the West Side store and continuing efforts to block a South Side store.

Fortunately, Mayor Daley vetoed the city council's union-bought and paid "living wage ordinance" designed to stop Wal-Mart from opening on the West Side and sided with folks like Alderwoman Emma Mitts of the predominantly minority 37th Ward on the West Side who stated:
I'm not in your business, so don't get in my business in my ward. If they don't want a Wal-Mart, fine, I do. I have kids in my neighborhood telling me, "I need a job." I can get opportunities for them. I started out working in a grocery store. It helped me.
And speaking of labor unions, it is no coincidence that Lupke used the phrase "Wal-Mart actually does seem to be waking up a bit." Wake Up Wal-Mart! is the anti-Wal-Mart organization funded by the United Food and Commerical Workers union. That is the same union that PARD's attorney David Bricklin just recently represented over in Fircrest, WA in a Wal-Mart appeal.

Wal-Mart did not launch its $4 prescription program to "cultivate support in communities," it did it to help revive those flagging stock values Lupke touts. I couldn't find any Wall Street Journal editorials critical of this, but I did find a Wall Street Journal/Harris poll that found low-priced generic drugs are likely to attract a big share of the market for prescription drugs. And there was a Journal editorial in December 2005 that concluded that the campaign against Wal-Mart is about union politics.
Is Wal-Mart Good for America?

It is a testament to the public-relations success of the anti-Wal-Mart campaign that the question above is even being asked.

By any normal measure, Wal-Mart's business ought to be noncontroversial. It sells at low cost, albeit in mind-boggling quantities, the quotidian products that huge numbers of Americans evidently want to buy--from household goods to clothes to food.
Funny, Lu Laoshi didn't mention that one.

Lastly, as to Lupke's point of the lawsuit against Wal-Mart for hours worked off the clock, I suppose it bears mentioning yet again that Costco, the preferred big-box store of PARDners everywhere, is the subject of a class action lawsuit for gender discrimination. Why, the PARDners will sputter, Wal-Mart has been sued much more than Costco. Indeed. Wal-Mart has 1.6 million employees versus 136,000 for Costco and Wal-Mart garners five times as much in annual sales as Costco. Do the math. Who's the bigger target?

Technorati Tags:

No comments: