18 October 2006

Wal-Mart-O

It's a testament to our (speaking for the collective American people, rather than the collective here at OL&L) love of bandwagons that Wal-Mart bashing has spilled over even into such popular web networking sites as Facebook. Facebook's new option allowing for members to virtually support candidates and issues has taken this darling of a Democratic (big D) issue to the screens of student's computers. We love the angst filled "notes" (for entertainment purposes) populated with anti-Bush diatribes literally (click if you have a facebook account) parroted from Keith Olbermann, as much as the next guy. We do wish, however, he would have stuck with sports. Politics, it goes without saying, is not his forte.

This mixing of sports and politics is getting as bad as Hollywood and politics. It used to be that we could sit down and read our favorite sports blog without getting an earful about how much things suck in Iraq. Seriously. You'd think the Tuesday Morning Quarterback would stick to Tuesday's, mornings and for the love of football--quarterbacks. But he's not alone, everyone from Dr. Z to our favorite columnists at the Seattle PI and Times feel duty bound to weigh in on the evils of the Bush regime (right up there with Hitler and Stalin, or didn't you know?). If it doesn't say "Sports - Politics - Pop Culture - History - Literature" across the top of their blog or article, then they should stay away from anything that isn't exclusively sports. We read the sports page to escape politics. Heaven help us when we start doing it the other way around.

And of course they are all critical of Wal-Mart. Even Gregg Easterbrook, the aforementioned Tuesday Morning Quarterback got in a little jibe at Wal-Mart in one of his recent articles. This coming from a guy who prides himself on challenging the accepted wisdom, who writes off-the-wall articles that make sense because he backs them up with statistics and evidence. What evidence did he cite in abusing Wal-Mart? None.

Today, The Wall Street Journal outed the group responsible for most of the anti-Wal-Mart slander--unions. It really shouldn't come as a surprise. Wal-Mart is threatening the domain of a group that has become an ancient fixture in American politics. But like some other things ancient, unions deserve to go the way of the dinosaurs. As The Wall Street Journal explains, the two major and supposedly grass root, citizen led groups are actually born of an unholy affair between two major unions and are almost wholly funded by them. And their major source of "academic" material to support outlandish claims of economic damage by Wal-Mart? Why, a couple of unbiased bastions of academic ethics itself--the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the University of California at Berkeley Labor Center. For their efforts they received at least $100,000 and $43,550 respectively from the involved unions.

We're sure there was no cooking of the books in these studies.

The truth, ma'am, is that as a study from Global Insight shows, Wal-Mart "saves American households an average of $2,300 a year through lower prices, or a $263 billion reduction in the cost of living. That compares with $33 billion savings for low-income families from the federal food stamp program."

So much for taking advantage of America's poor.

Bashing Wal-Mart is becoming as American as apple pie. But it shouldn't be. In addition to Democrats, unions, and Berkeley, we have some historians to blame. Their treatment of business throughout history has been less than favorable. For years, marxist influenced historians have been peddling stories about the "robber barons" of the early 20th Century who took advantage of Americans. These stories have filtered down to nearly every history textbook in every high school across America and are as accepted as the widely accepted notion that people thought the earth was flat when Columbus sailed (they didn't).

The implication is that historians, in taking an anti-business position on history, have contributed to anti-business sentiment in America. Popular memory tells us that business has always taken advantage of Americans and Wal-Mart is just the latest iteration of those 20th C robber barons. Of course, popular memory also tells us that America won the War of 1812. My British professors are quick to squash that misconception.

If they are leftists, who don't like capitalism, and write history, is it possible they might have an anti-business bent to their writing?

We are unapologetically pro-business and generally pro-Wal-Mart. When we visit Mexico with our family, and crave good old American foods like Peanut M&M's, we have no problem asking the locals for directions to "Wal-Mart-O," where we know we'll get good quality at a good price.

8 comments:

patient observer said...

He's baaaack! Hallelujah!

Benjamin Treasure said...

Any opinion that isn't pro-business certainly must be marxist. If you say so. Those poor Waltons must really have their panties in a bunch over these evil unions who want to give the thousnds of Wal-Mart employees things like, oh, decent healthcare? You keep going to Mexico to eat Peanut M&M's.

Sir Rants A Lot said...

What if I'm anti-union AND anti-Wal-Mart?

An important piece of Americana has disappeared due to the likes of Wal-Mart and their copycat big box retail friends.

I have nothing wrong with low prices, but pricing the competition out of the market and then raising prices is un-American, and evil. (Sidenote: I've always felt Wal-Mart is evil - call me biased)

For far too long, Wal-Mart claimed to be a wholly American company, stating in numerous advertisements that the products sold in Wal-Mart were made in America. They were outed on this topic in the late 1990's when it was discovered that a wide range of products were sourced from China. Correct me if I'm wrong, but we haven't claimed China as a U.S. territory.

the beav said...

Welcome back, Kotter!

morgan said...

A few quick notes after reading the article:

It is Gregg Easterbrook not Greg Easterbrook. Also, it is quash not squash. And finally, Gregg Easterbrook writes his "sports" article for Page 2 which specializes in the melding of sports and popular culture. As such, the TMQ is not supposed to stick to just sports.

The TMQ also writes for Popular Science and other academic journals if I recall correctly. Based on his articles I have read and the research he has cited, both his own and that of others, I would say that the TMQ is in fact qualified to opine on "Sports - Politics - Pop Culture - History - Literature". The same goes for Chuck Klosterman. It is for this melding that I read Page 2. It makes the often boring topic of politics a little more interesting for me.

In defending the TMQ, I am not defending his out-of-character, off-the-cuff remark about Wal-Mart. He made a mistake if you will, but that does not invalidate the rest of ideas nor the forumn in which he expresses them.

morgan said...

Sir-Rants-Alot:

Quick question for you. I can understand how one might believe that pricing competion out of the market and subsequently raising prices is "evil." I don't necessarily agree with that assertion, but I can understand how one might think that way. What I don't understand is how said strategy is "un-American." What did you mean by that comment? How is creating a competetive advantage and exploiting the advantage un-American? I was under the impression that innovation and capitalism was what made America successful. Creating a revolutionary POS operating system that interfaces with suppliers and then leveraging that advantage is un-American? What I am looking for is your definition of "American" and how Wal-Mart is un-American.

Fernando said...

For the record, I have worked at Wal-Mart's corporate offices in Bentonville, AR (summer 2005). I was on the sales reporting team and worked with executives both in the US and internationally.

In response to Ben...
How much do you really know about the Waltons? Have you read Sam's autobiography (Made in America)?

While I personally have not met the Waltons, I know several people who do know them and their kids. Also, I have heard Rob Walton speak at their annual shareholders' meeting. The family is really down to earth and did their best to be modest with their spending.

I have also heard Lee Scott (CEO of WM) speak on various occasions. He did address this question.

First off, their health care is not as bad as people claim. Yes, it may not be the greatest, but have you looked at the competition? In some cases, its benefits is not any better.

Secondly, most of the 1.7M employees at Wal-Mart are not full-time employees. As one would expect, most of the retail workers are high school (or college) kids; they also do have a sizable senior citizen group of employees. High school employees are generally not looking for health care benefits b/c they're covered by their parents. Many of the senior citizens working for Wal-Mart do it b/c they want something to do; that is, they don't need to do it to support themselves, but they're just bored not working and want to spend some of their time doing something productive. For every Wal-Mart store, hundreds of jobs are created. In most cases, it normally offsets any job loses from other companies. They also bring a lot of tax revenue to each city they're in.

Also, there are plenty of corporations who don't have very good health care. Across the board, companies are cutting back due to excessive costs.

Thirdly, having a union is not necessarily a good thing. They may be fighting for the little guy, but they also can be very inefficient. As you may or may not know, Wal-Mart is quite remarkable with efficiency in many aspects of its organization. Granted, it still has room to improve (like any corporation).

In response to Sir Rants...
I'm not sure I agree with your "important piece of Americana". First, lots of "small town America" is drastically poor and behind the times. People left these towns in search of a "better" life. And it's up to debate if this is important.

In addition, you made a flawed claim. Wal-Mart did not price competition out of anything. It's consumers who shop. A lot of people shop at WM. Are they forced to shop there? No. They choose to go there b/c they have great prices and the quality isn't that bad. So, in the end, it's people in these small towns that have doomed "small town Americana". Also, many of other big box competitors demand low prices from their suppliers and it some cases, they do get prices lower than WM. Oh yeah, was WM pricing people out of competition when it was founded back in the 1960s? I don't think so. Several people thought Sam Walton's strategies were crazy. It wasn't until the mid-80s when things started to really pay off. Competition realized that WM had something good and have been playing catch up (or have been changing their target market).

Also, when has WM raised the prices? Do you have specific examples? As far as "un-American", other companies have raised prices, too. Are they evil? It seems like people take an overwhelmingly huge bias against WM b/c it's the biggest retailer in the world.

WM is still an American company. Just b/c they buy lots of products from China doesn't make them un-American. Businesses look for ways to make profit; labor is significantly cheaper in some parts of China that the US. So, why not purchase products made in China? Also, in one of the meetings w/ Lee Scott, he was quick to note that WM still buys more ($$-wise) from companies inside the US than from China. So, is Microsoft un-American b/c they have call centers in India?

Well, enough for now, but I'm with Jake. People got to get off the bandwagon of bashing Wal-Mart.

carl The Truth williams said...

http://money.cnn.com/2006/10/20/news/companies/walmart_blogs/index.htm?cnn=yes

Sorry, I couldn't html my way out of a brown paper sack.

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