Friday, January 12, 2007

Getting What You Pay For

While I am on the topic of American conservatives cutting off their noses to spite their faces I thought I'd tackle the behemoth of US retail, the mighty Wal-Mart.

Unlike most of my brethren on the left side of life I'm not staunchly "anti-Wal-Mart". I have more of a love-hate relationship with it.

I believe in facing facts and the fact is I live in a podunk little town and at last check neither Nordstrom's or even J. C. Penney's were shit hot to come here. No Home Depot either, not even a Target. We have a couple of little individually owned clothing retailers if you enjoy wearing Hawaiian-flower print caftans or nothing but T-shirts emblazoned with skater or thrasher images.

This of course leaves the internet, my favorite shopping mecca. Much as I love internet shopping though I have to admit that sometimes one just needs a pair of socks. Then there are those little emergencies like when my coffeemaker gave up the ghost with no advance warning. Sorry, I'm not waiting till next week for a cup of coffee to make a $49.99 political statement, that ain't happening. If waiting till next week would save Darfur I'd do it, I'd most likely even give up coffee but I'm not doing it just to stay on the politically correct "good list".

I'm far from wealthy, trust me on that one, but I count myself fortunate that I'm in that group of people that can make choices as to where I shop, it's nice to have options. What about the roughly 40% of my community that do not have credit cards? No internet shopping for them, assuming they even own a computer and have an internet connection. They could drive the 60+ miles to Las Vegas I suppose. If they own a car capable of making the trips reliably and can afford the gas. Then again that's bound to piss off the environmental lobby.

That leaves the evil-employer-from-hell issue. I wouldn't want to work at Wal-Mart. Somehow I don't feature myself loving the hell out of being on my feet all day smiling at frazzled moms toting screaming toddlers. Thing is, I wouldn't want to work at a bank either for much the same reasons and they pay nearly as badly as Wal-Mart. They also utilise the trick of not covering any benefits for part-time employees and then hiring mostly part-time employees. No one is talking about Bank of America though, why is that?

The people who work at Wal-Mart are going to work somewhere and odds are good it will not be in a nice office job with full benefits at $12 an hour. No, because if they didn't work at Wal-Mart for $8 or $9 an hour they'd be relegated to working for one of those little mom-and-pop shops selling Hawaiian-flower print caftans for $6.15 and hour, full-time with no chance of benefits, ever. Or maybe the graveyard shift at the local convenience store selling 2-for-a-dollar hotdogs to drunks at 3 am. I'm voting for them to get hired at Wal-Mart. Even given our Nevadan penchant for firearms a body is still less likely to be shot in the head in Housewares barring runs on limited-availability clearance sale items.

What really kills me though (and here I am going to absolutely piss off most of my political allies) is that the very same folks who advocate so fiercely against globalization which contrary to popular mythology is not simply a bunch of "elitist leftists" but an overwhelming percentage of the "working class" are the very same folks who shop and work at Wal-Mart.

Per the Chicago Tribune
The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed for the third straight month in November, to the lowest level in 16 months.

The gap between imports and exports fell 1 percent, to $58.2 billion, the smallest shortfall since July 2005, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, as exports hit a record level and the deficit with China declined from an all-time high.

The fact that this occurred at the exact same time Wal-Mart faced it's first sales decline in 10 years is not coincidental.

Wal-Mart is the single largest importer of foreign-produced goods in the United States, their biggest trading partner is China, and their trade with China alone constitutes approximately 10 percent of the total US trade deficit with China as of 2004. As of 2004, 60% of products sold at Wal-Mart were imported into the United States from other countries. Wikipedia

Numbers don't lie. We can choose globalization and free or at least freer trade or we can give up inexpensive consumer goods. We can't have both.

I've listened to endless ranting and raving here in Podunkville and from that self-appointed "Champion of the Middle Class", Lou "Let's-Eat-the-Mexicans" Dobbs about the selling out of America and how we need to keep our manufacturing jobs here and for Americans. They huff and they puff and pontificate until they give literal meaning to the term "redneck". Then they jump into their affordable vehicle full of foreign-manufactured pieces and parts and go shopping. At Wal-Mart.

Excuse me for rolling my eyes.


ryk said...

I'm in the same boat with the love/hate for Wal-Mart. Here's a good example: Wal-Mart has announced that they are going to change all of their store lighting to LEDs. They're doing it (of course) because it will save them millions in electricity costs over the long term, but since they are going to be buying so very many LEDs they will single-handedly drive LED prices down so much that average consumers will be able to afford them. This will pretty much signal the end of the regular old power-sucking light bulb and dramatically reduce energy use all over the country. Tree-hugger that I am, I appreciate anything that promotes energy conservation on such a scale, but I know that all the US jobs in LED production just went to China. It's tough.

fc said...

It is truly a catch 22 trap with Wal-Mart. Since becoming disabled I have not been to wally-world in over two years. Don't miss it. The wife shops there when she has to but other places when she can.

Thanks for linking to me. I will move your link up to my "Linked Here" list.

Keep up the effort... Luv your nickname... grin...

- fc (fatcat politics)

Not Your Mama said...

If you take the long view the catch 22 gets even better, painful as it may be in the short run.

What happens when all the cheaper foreign workers decide they want better pay and benefits? Oh wait, already happening:

You know how it is, give people a job and next thing they expect to make a living wage.

Before you know it they'll go and develop a middle class and start worrying about silly stuff like the environment and human rights!!!

And here we go spreading this kind of thinking all over the planet.

Making the corporations seeking to benefit from cheaper labor overseas the architects of their own demise.

pesu said...

Intrestingly, the Germans voted with their wallets and sent Wall Mart packing. The Sacandinavians couldn't let Wall Mart do it's business in their neck of wood due to the non compliance of the minimum requirements/standards for their employees. To my knowledge, the net benefit for any community having Wall Mart has been pretty well marked as a minus.

Not Your Mama said...

Yeah, I couldn't see Wally-World going over big in Europe.

They do better in Mexico. Think of it as the village street market combined with our national fondness for incredibly ugly uniforms and done on a grand scale.

Much as we hate to admit it we have more in common with Mexico than Europe. Besides, we simply MUST have a reliable supplier of pink plastic purses, Jesus paintings and jelly shoes :).

sammyray said...

Great post, and great comment, ryk.

I work in a union shop, and we are constantly badgered to avoid Wal Mart. And yet, the only people making enough money to avoid it are the leaders of the union who live, leech-like, off of the membership.

It's hard to avoid when you can buy a plastic bowl or Oreos for half of what it costs elsewhere.

Woozie said...

We don't go to WalMart not out of hatred for it or anything, but simply because it's so damn far away. The nearest one is ~17 miles away, whereas Target is right down the street. Whetever money we'd save at WalMart, we'd spend on gas driving there and back.

pesu said...


leftdog said...

Hey there mama.

Not Your Mama said...

Very bad week. Had an illness and death in the family.

I should be back by early in the week assuming Bush hasn't blown up the universe by then.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there, not your mama! I am sorry for your loss.

Women on the Verge said...

Mama... I'm so sorry... Please know we're thinking of you... we'll be here when you get back!

pesu said...

I knew that something was wrong but to this extenct....I am so sorry about what has taken place and remain hopeful that we hear from you again soon. Take care, Mama!

leftdog said...

We are thinking of you! Take care.

cls said...

I've been worrying about you too. Sending good thoughts your way.

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