Sunday, July 25, 2004

Tear down the Wal

In today's New York Times, Barbara Ehrenreich argues that Wal-Mart's success is unsustainable, chiefly because its millions of employees will grow increasingly unable to afford the chain's own hyper-discounted wares, not to mention the class action lawsuits it faces for sexual discrimination and failure to pay overtime. Interestingly, Ehrenreich proffers an example of a successful retail chain that, according to her, treats its employees fairly: Costco. I have to admit I've never been to one.

I do believe there is a lot of elitism in the opposition to Wal-Mart, but it seems clear they mistreat their employees at potentially great cost to the nation's social welfare system. Personally, I don't blame Wal-Mart, as others do, for the destruction of Main Street business districts. I blame the local governments who have given them millions of dollars in subsidies nationwide, as well as all the government programs and regulations that have favored low-density suburban development over high-density urban development. (Highway expenditures, zoning codes, federal home loan programs, etc.) Wal-Mart is a symptom of a larger problem, but one most of our leaders--and many of the citizens who elect them--are unwilling to face.


Blogger Cope said...

You make a lot of the points that weren't in the original piece that pissed me off for their lack of inclusion. It's very easy to blame the big corporation and forget about the government subsidies handed out to lure WalMart (or Home Depot, or other big box retailer) to your community.

I think in time, WalMart will play itself out -- they'll have to treat employees better or face more lawsuits, they'll have to be more friendly in their building practices or face consumer boycotts. The problem is, the time it will take for all this to happen is only pushed further into the future every time government allows WalMart to cushion the blow with free money.

7:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does the media love CostCo, and hate Wal-Mart? Check out who gives money to the DEMs, and who gives money to the REPs.

Obviously, the bicostal hatred of WalMart is naked liberal elitism. When was they last time any of these spoiled elites had a short paycheck, and had to balance meals versus bills for the next two weeks? All I have to say is thank god for Super WalMart. Not the best selection of Bobo chow, but cheaper, but no stinking cards needed.

-AtPC (I don't like registering for blogs anymore than I like using datamining, switch and bait, selective price raising grocery cards)

ALSO) I would not be so quick to convict WalMart based on the publicity from the class action lawsuit lotto trolling trail lawyers.

5:29 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

It's very easy to pick on trial lawyers. Just ask the Republican Party. While I'll agree they can go to excess--the tobacco lawsuit is a great example--civil lawsuits hold corporations accountable for their misdeeds.

I agree that Wal-Mart has improved the quality of life for many people by enabling them to afford consumer goods they wouldn't have otherwise. What I'd suggest is that there are plenty of hidden costs, spread throughout the economy.

But that's neither here nor there. I'm an advocate of the free market, so long as there is a level playing field. The problem is that many local governments, including plenty in the Pittsburgh region, have been snookered into giving Wal-Mart and many other retail stores subsidies and tax breaks. They think retail brings prosperity, but it does not create well-paying jobs, nor does it spark population growth. So those tax breaks merely help big-box retailers bury their local competition.

8:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish it was that easy to pick on trial lawyers, then the excesses would have been fixed by now. No, nothing, even trial lawyers, is 100% bad .... nor it is 100% good. I wish it would be taken care of before it gets even more out of control.

I reserve my judgment about the obvious guilt of WalMart, in spite of the media hype from the George Plimpton of the social activism, Ms Ehrenreich, and the self interest of the class action lawyers seeking their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The case is far from a slam dunk from what I have seen.

Here, here! Free Markets, a toast. (clink)
(whisper) Stadium Vote.
(sotto voco) Casinos.

Of all the things that local and state gov does violate my libertarian sensibilities, cutting deals with box stores does not make my top 10 list.

As far as the heinous aesthetic crime of sprawl. PIT has escaped the full surround sound experience of strip malls compared to the beltway, Colorado, Vegas, and others through the mixed blessing of lack luster economic growth. Wait until you see clusters of men hanging around Home Depot in the morning, then we will have arrived in sprawl city. I don't think we will ever get there with a finally nearly stable, but still slowly declining work force.

I am not sure what the last deal WalMart cut around here?

I know in Aurora, Colorado, WalMart was confounded from acquiring an abandoned grocery center in the inner city. Sure, I would have liked them to have gotten it without tax deals, but I think a store in an under served area is better than blight. The far left absolutists that hate WalMart seem to prefer that the working class either go to a "convenience" store, or take multiple buses to the suburban sprawl.

7:29 PM


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home