Wal-Mart or Hel-Mart?
Name a current issue--the economy, the environment, the Mexican border, expensive meds, abortion, gun control, jihad, union thuggery--and Wal-Mart is on the front lines.
Sure, Wal-Mart had that little illegal-alien dustup via its subcontractors a few years ago, but compared to the retailer's steps to actually fix the economy of the country whence most illegals hail, it's a small sin. Howard Dean recently told Roger Simon, "We will never solve immigration problems in this country without improving the Mexican economy dramatically." Well Wal-Mart is on the case.
A 2004 Dallas Morning News article reported that the success of Wal-Mart in Mexico, where it is the largest retailer, "has led Mexican chains into a quickened corporate evolution. The companies are computerizing distribution systems, retooling warehouses and streamlining once-bloated middle management teams." In addition to employing about 100,000 Mexicans, "Wal-Mart is so big, analysts said, that its strong sales have actually helped keep food prices from spiraling in Mexico."
All of which is good news for the Mexican consumer, and that could mean fewer Mexicans risking their lives to shoot at our border patrol.
Then there's that issue that has Americans running for the border--the northern one: affordability of otherwise high-priced prescription medication. Democrats in Congress have been encouraging Americans-especially senior citizens-to buy their meds through Canada, a country that convinced drug companies to operate more or less without a profit margin there, through a deal that can be summed up as "Profit off the Americans, and give us a break." Laundering the discounts back to Americans, of course, could result in putting an end to Canada's deal, or in raising the prices even more for Americans. But now we don't have to go to Canada for cheap medicine; we can just go to Wal-Mart. From CBS News in November:
The retail giant has been pricing hundreds of generic drugs at just $4 for a 30-day supply...Other stores--Target, Wegman's and BJ's--have followed suit, lowering their prices as well...Anyone who stubbornly insists that U.S. health care needs a heavy dose of Canada apparently doesn't shop at Wal-Mart.
Indeed, it's possible that Wal-Mart is doing more for poor people than any social program ever did. A 2006 study by the economic research firm Global Insight estimated that the effects of Wal-Mart on the general economy save shoppers more than $200 billion a year. That's eight times more than the food stamp program, and translates into a savings of $2,326 a year per American household. Not per household that shops there, but per American household. So Wal-Mart is saving you money even if you don't shop there.
Nor is the company squeamish about expanding into ghettos, executing a two-year plan to "build more than 50 stores in neighborhoods with high crime or unemployment rates, on sites that are environmentally contaminated, or in vacant buildings or malls in need of revitalization." Talk about wealth redistribution.
In addition to forcing the retail world into greater efficiency as its competitors streamline their own processes so they can keep pace, Wal-Mart also helps keep a lid on U.S. inflation, according to a Global Insight study that the company commissioned in 2005, which
concluded that over the 1985-2004 period, Wal-Mart led to [a] 9.1 percent decline in food prices, a 4.2 percent decline in prices of other goods and a 3.1 percent decline in overall consumer prices.
With the 1.4 million jobs cut by other employers "since the economy emerged from the latest recession in November 2001," Bloomberg News Service reported in 2003, the Labor Department says that Wal-Mart's "job creation has helped the labor market... 'Without Wal-Mart, the country would be in a deep recession,' said John Challenger, of the Challenger, Gray & Christmas outplacement firm, who has served on the labor/human resources committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago."
Sure Wal-Mart can be heavy-handed in some of its business practices, but it's nothing compared to the heavy-handed and sometimes violent tactics of the labor unions opposing it. No wonder Wal-Mart headquarters will fly its executives into a small town at the first rumblings of workers organizing at a store there, as the 2005 documentary "Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Prices" snickered. But watching the film at a screening in the dingy national headquarters of the Socialist Party USA that I'd infiltrated, I wasn't laughing along. Instead, I was turned on: No one has taken a stand like this against unions since Ronald Reagan slept with a gun when his life was threatened by Hollywood's Commie-infiltrated unions.
The documentary also showed an interview with an employee of Wal-Mart-Germany, who spoke disapprovingly of the bare-bones benefits that Wal-Mart offers outside Europe, and boasted with proletariat indignation of the higher salaries and the 36 vacation days that German employees are entitled to and which Wal-Mart-Germany had no choice but to give. A year later, Wal-Mart pulled out of Germany. Such events have the potential to expose the fact that European socialism doesn't work--yet another grace of Wal-Mart.
Counter-intuitively, the giant retailer has been lobbying the federal government here to raise the minimum wage. Because even its lowest-paid employee makes more than minimum wage. Or perhaps it's because minimum wage is what the unions pay picketers to protest the company's wages. Here's a snapshot from in front of Wal-Mart's new grocery chain "Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market," from Las Vegas Weekly:
They're making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it's 104 F, and they're protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store...
"We're out here suffering a lot for these [workers]," says [line foreman James] Greer. "We had one gal out here in her 40s, and she had a heat stroke..." She went home sick after her shift and didn't ever return to work. Another woman, Greer said, had huge blisters on her feet and he took her inside to the Wal-Mart pharmacy. The pharmacist recommended some balm, and Greer bought it for her. Since then, he said, other picketers have purchased the balm for their blisters inside the Wal-Mart they are protesting.
...[Inside Wal-Mart], the air-conditioning is cool, business on this day seems brisk, and the employees seem not so miserable; two checkers chat it up as they ring up customers.
Wal-Mart staves off socialist proclivities in other ways as well. Its insistence on the job being customer-oriented rather than worker-oriented keeps the company distinctly American in outlook. Whereas customers increasingly have to navigate around the moods of service employees and not interrupt their petty inter-employee conversations before asking a service question, lest the customer offend the proletariat and be maltreated while trying to get what he/she needs, Wal-Mart places an emphasis on friendliness toward the customer.
The requisite smiling at the customer which Wal-Mart instructs was something that Barbara Ehrenreich in her notorious 2001 bestseller Nickel and Dimed found degrading when she experimented as a Wal-Mart employee for several weeks as research. Nor did she like the fact that, as a non-union employee, she was actually required to work: On her first day, Ehrenreich reported, she was put to work right away rather than be granted a face-to-face meeting with executives to establish the terms of her employment. Ehrenreich also took exception to drug-testing of employees, something that Wal-Mart does and therefore, like other companies that do the same, indirectly helps fight the war on drugs.
As it does the war on terror. In December the company made the rare corporate move of not caving in to Muslim offense-taking and demand-making, instead continuing to sell the biblical-themed "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" video game despite complaints by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Among the grievances were that some of the enemy names sounded Muslim, and that the game "glorifies religious [Christian] violence" (everyone knows that only Islamic violence can be glorified). Unlike Wal-Mart, other companies typically pull the offending product off the shelves and put the staff through sensitivity training, as Nike did when the script logo on some of its styles was accused of resembling the word "Allah" in Arabic. (I think the employees undergoing Muslim sensitivity training were last seen praying toward Mecca five times a day, and several were crushed in the annual Hajj.)
As well, Wal-Mart helps keep Americans informed of what they're up against, by carrying Robert Spencer's book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), which made the store's Top 100 list in 2005. There's also the oft-criticized fact that Wal-Mart sells guns. "Everyday Low-Priced Guns" goes one of the sarcastic mantras against the store. But those low-priced guns will come in handy for the upcoming urban warfare with the teenage sons of our moderate Muslim neighbors.
For now, however, if your concern is that a child accidentally could get shot specifically by a gun bought at Wal-Mart, just think how many children Wal-Mart saved when it refused to stock the morning-after pill.
Although a lawsuit by three Massachusetts women forced Wal-Mart to finally stock "Plan B," the initial response from a company spokesman was that "Wal-Mart chooses not to carry many products for business reasons." His way of saying, "Most of our customers aren't whores." And for those who are, it makes a lot more business sense to sell diapers and baby food for years on end than to sell a one-shot emergency contraception pill.
But you can bet Wal-Mart's pharmacy won't be carrying RU-486 any time soon-that's the actual abortion drug that causes hemorrhaging, nausea, headaches, hair loss, inability to conceive and possible death from septic shock. But if you insist, wire hangers are in Aisle 12.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, Wal-Mart was there. Well, actually it was under water. But that's the whole point: even under water, the store continued paying its New Orleans employees. The company also contributed $17 million for disaster relief.
Nor is the plight of our furry friends lost on Wal-Mart, which in a joint effort with Purina promotes local animal adoption programs so that customers are aware of alternatives to the puppy-mill-perpetuating sin of pet purchase. An ad reads: "Make a difference in your community by adopting a dog or cat from a shelter in your area. Go to Verybestpetnetwork.com to view local pets that need a loving home." Note that the wording is "dog or cat"-not "puppy or kitten."
Just as the store, by listening to the criticisms of those who seek its demise, has improved its healthcare benefits, it has also become a responsible player with regard to the environment. While it's had a bag-recycling program in place for years, in October 2005 it unveiled a plan
to boost energy efficiency, cut down on waste and reduce greenhouse gases...and ultimately use only renewable energy sources and produce zero waste...Targets include increasing fuel efficiency in Wal-Mart's truck fleet by 25 percent over three years and doubling it within 10 years; invest $500 million annually in efficient energy technologies at stores; and cutting solid waste from U.S. stores and Sam's Clubs by 25 percent in three years.
Wal-Mart also helps fight crime. Not only did the store's security cameras help nab two Phoenix serial killers recently, but looking around at some of the store's seedier customers, I'll bet they've been saving so much money shopping at Wal-Mart that they haven't had to rob anyone in years. The store is also instrumental in helping find hundreds of missing children every year. (Admittedly, you could lose that many in just one Wal-Mart.)
Wal-Mart may even reform and transform American education: "The Waltons have become the biggest financial supporters of charter school and voucher programs," according to the National School Boards Association. "They have donated at least $701 million to education charities since 1998...the family expects to donate as much as 20% of its $100 billion in Wal-Mart stock."
Allies say the family's giving is injecting competition between public and private schools that will produce better-educated children, and so reduce unemployment, crime and other social ills...Indeed, Sam Walton, shortly before he died in 1992, spoke about linking the "Wal-Mart way of doing things" to philanthropy. He referred to education projects that challenge the status quo.While a profit-making business infuriates leftists by accomplishing the myriad miracles that they only dream of government being able to do, the retail chain also has the fun benefit of leading Democrats into temptation, baiting them to behave like-gasp!--regular folks.
On the day that John Edwards addressed an anti-Wal-Mart rally during that "Wake up Wal-Mart" tour last year, one of his volunteer staffers asked Wal-Mart to hold a Playstation 3 for Edwards' family. Not to mention the fact that Kerry likewise targets Wal-Mart while his wife owns more than a million dollars in its stock. Of course, the very act of attacking Wal-Mart exposes a contradiction that one Republican strategist pointed to last year: "When you've grown up as wealthy as Howard Dean and John Kerry, Wal-Mart is just not a place you're particularly familiar with."
Even more delicious is that the store occasionally drives a wedge between the Democratic Party and its base. White city liberals precluded minority communities in Brooklyn and Queens getting a
Wal-Mart. Minority neighborhoods in Atlanta were luckier: "At the grand opening of a Wal-Mart in a black suburb of Atlanta, civil rights leader Andrew Young danced with store clerks, bouncing to the song "We Are Family."
(Young has since resigned his post as a Wal-Mart cheerleader after saying he likes Wal-Mart more than the "stale bread, and bad meat and wilted vegetables" that Jews, Koreans and Arabs have been overcharging blacks for. Just the sort of comments that the Left's designated victims rattle off casually, exposing the inclusion party's inherent contradictions.)
Further worrying its progressive critics, Wal-Mart has joined the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, has made domestic-partnership benefits available, hired a marketing firm that targets the gay and lesbian consumer market, encouraged its bigger suppliers to also include lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender businesses, and donated $60,000 last year to Out & Equal, which promotes same-sex marriage in the workplace. Wal-Mart placed a full-page ad in the program guide for the 2006 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, promoting diversity and equating race and religion with sexual orientation.
It all may have started when the retailer began stocking Brokeback Mountain in April 2006. That offering, of course, pales in comparison to other books for sale at Wal-Mart, with titles such as The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex and The (New) Joy of Gay Sex and, until recently, something called The Little Black Book for Girlz, which includes instructions for engaging in oral and anal sex, encourages teen girls to find their inevitable inner lesbian, and tells them that god is a "fat black dyke." Can't get any more progressive than that!
Obviously, no business is angelic. Something that is further illustrated by the fact that Wal-Mart, like everyone else in the world including its competition, deals with China-thereby helping sustain the Communist regime there. But if you're a labor rights group or other anti-capitalist, this should be good news. It's what you've been trying to get us to do for Fidel's Cuba, after all.
Now if Wal-Mart could just win the battle with New York and set up shop in Manhattan, it could start us on the road to ridding ourselves of yet another societal scourge: the United Nations. It's taking up 17 acres of prime real estate that Wal-Mart could use to build. The world body is looking to get a billion-dollar renovation. I'll give 'em a renovation: Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, tear down this building...and put up a Wal-Mart.
At least the new tenant would be useful. After all, the case has just been made that this capitalist citadel could solve global poverty a lot faster than the Useless Nations ever will.
Julian Gorin is a writer and comedian. She has appeared on numerous national shows and writes at JuliaGorin.com. Her work can also be found @ Political Mavens.
Special Bonus Video Features:
Penn and Teller turn their Bullshit detector on Wal-Mart hate. (Not Safe for Work: Language, brief nudity, and silent mime.) 27 minutes.
Republican Girls Gone Wild in "Wal-Mart Rocks!"-- "The View" meets "The Daily Show" and takes a right turn.