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Some common sense on Wal-Mart

Over the holidays, some of my in-laws were, for whatever reason, musing about the household incomes of the average Wal-Mart shopper versus the average Costco shopper. You'd think that would be a fairly obscure bit of data to track down, right? But I did some Googling and, lo and behold, ot only did I find that very datum right off the bat, but it was embedded in a column from today's Washington Post that I think represents some of the clearest wisdom on the subject of Wal-Mart that I've ever read.

There's a comic side to the anti-Wal-Mart campaign brewing in Maryland and across the country. Only by summoning up the most naive view of corporate behavior can the critics be shocked -- shocked! -- by the giant retailer's machinations. Wal-Mart is plotting to contain health costs! But isn't that what every company does in the face of medical inflation? Wal-Mart has a war room to defend its image! Well, yeah, it's up against a hostile campaign featuring billboards, newspaper ads and a critical documentary movie. Wal-Mart aims to enrich shareholders and put rivals out of business! Hello? What business doesn't do that?

Wal-Mart's critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.

These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart's "every day low prices" make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.

Read the whole thing.


The usual misleading claptrap of the "uninformed to the point of simply being a liar" Republican traitors.

Q: What company doesn't tell it's employees to seek food stamps, medicaid, etc ... ???

A: The small businesses routinely run into bankruptcy by Wal-Mart, in violation of all existing anti-trust law, with the usual criminal Republican help at the governmental level.

Dubya decided that the poor aren't worth going after: he wants the middle class. That is why he can't wait to give taxpayer money to corporations. That is why he wants every Indian, Russian, Chinese and Mexican worker that can breathe to jump our borders and displace American workers at a lower wage, boosting his buddies' corporate profit while gutting America.

George Bush hates America.

Did you know that Hillary Clinton is on the Board of Directors of Walmart BH?

Well, she is.

Moreover, anyone who has a problem with the above article simply doesn't understand basic economics.

ALL businesses depend upon selling things for more than what they bought them for, with all other COMMODITIES (electricity/energy, store rents, materials, transportation/distribution and, of course, LABOR all factored in).

ANY business that fails to do so will fail.

That's why the primary rule of business, ALL BUSINESS, is - "the customer is always right."

Business's first allegiance is to the customer/consumer. It's second allegiance is to the customer/consumer and it's third allegiance is to the customer/consumer.

Get the picture?

LABOR is NEVER a major consideration of ANY successful business enterprise. LABOR is a commodity, like wood, or iron and, like every other commodity, business tries to get it at the cheapest possible price.

That's how BUSINESSES reduce costs and cater to the consumers demands for lower prices.

Labor SELLS its skills/labors to business and just as business caters to the consumer, it behooves the worker to cater to business - which is HIS CONSUMER, the consumer of his skills/labors.

It's people who don't understand that very simple dynamic that tend to have a huge problem with market based economies or "Capitalism."

The only folks who have a legitimate gripe against Wal-Mart are the small businesses that can't compete. But hey, that's business. Deal with it.

Suppliers and employees have the option of taking their products/services elsewhere if they don't like Wal-Mart's terms.

And the customer is the overwheming winner. Imagine that.

Mallaby's numbers have been massaged.

He sounds like he's on the Wal-Mart payroll, like most of the Right Wing blogworld and media swamp.

Umm, kinda like this place.

They've been scrambling like roaches when the lights go on to cover for Wal-Mart now that the documentary's out; just like the same scumbag apologists made all sorts of excuses for Bush and his devastating "MY PET GOAT" seven minutes in Moore's "FAHRENHEIT: 911"

Here's the de-BUNK:



The Post's go-to guy on the transformation of economic royalism into social policy, Sebastian Mallaby, makes the case for progressive Wal-Mart.

("Really.") To a former Kerry economic adviser Jason Furman he attributes $200 or $250 billion in consumer benefits, which is, duh, more than the "dramatically smaller" anti-poverty programs.

In how many ways are these numbers flaky?

The aggregate numbers are for all consumers, not just the poor. The adult poverty rate in 2004 for people 18 to 64 was 11.3 percent. We can safely assume that these adults spent much less per capita than the average person.

Secondly, some low-income persons are really retired people spending down their savings. Their consumption exceeds their income. Offsetting these factors is the likelihood that the incomes of Wal-Mart shoppers are lower than average. But what is the actual share of Wal-Mart purchases we could attribute to the poor? Don't look for the answer in the Post.

The actual source for the number is research by the eminent Jerry Hausman of MIT, not Furman. Maybe Mallaby wanted to play the "even a Kerry adviser" card. Furman based his $50 billion on what I'm sure he would admit is a crude extrapolation of Hausman's more arcane results. Mallaby then pumped in his own laughing gas to get from $50 to $200 or $250 (the column cites both numbers).

SM's innovation assumes the discount value on all Wal-Mart goods is proportional to the benefits of their food sales. Don't ask where the support for that comes from. It's an undisclosed location, some place from whence numbers fly.

Not all of the $50 (or $250) billion is Wal-Mart. It includes other retailers, some of whom pay much better than Wal-Mart. You could knock off 25 percent to get the flaky Wal-Mart share of these flaky numbers.

If we take the very generous, math-friendly number of ten percent, the total benefit to the poor from SB's biggest number is $25 billion, the same order of magnitude as some of the bigger anti-poverty programs. Mallaby basically blows up his benefit number ten-fold, then admits without specifics that it is not as targeted as anti-poverty program benefits.

Changes in the price level are spread broadly over the population, not just to the poor. The incidence of a price level change on the really poor is overstated because the poverty number includes the retired and the momentarily poor (a larger group than the persistently poor).

The poor pay more for stuff they can't buy at Wal-Mart. They pay higher interest rates on their credit cards, installment loans, and wage- and tax refund-anticipation loans. As families move out of poverty into the lower middle class, they lose means-tested benefits but aren't sufficiently well-off to exploit breaks in the tax code.

Hausman's study does not address the wage side of the equation. Mallaby cites an estimate of the wage effect by someone else, but cautions us, "this number is disputed." Ha ha.

All of a sudden we get judicious. All of these numbers are disputed! With piffle like this, why should you listen to what SM says about trade?

The difference between a liberal and a populist is that the latter appreciates the primacy of individual capacity for independent support in the labor market.

This capacity is very much influenced by public policy, for good or for ill. Our maxim here is that wages (and benefits) matter more than prices to the working class, including the poor. Obviously prices affect the purchasing power of wages, but it is not a dollar-for-dollar impact. The entire benefit of a price change does not go to wages.

Just another day on the Washington Post op-ed page.

For economists and masochists the Hausman paper is here (167K PDF), and a related, much less reliable study is here.

Also, would this be the SAME Sebastian Mallaby who wrote this column


explaining how GREAT Paul Wolfowitz the NeoCon failure would be as President of the World Bank after Karl Rove canned his ass and "promoted" him?

On account of how "passionately democratizing" Wolofowitz was?

In SPITE of the fact that the same $87 Billion Kerry voted for BEFORE he voted against was massaged by this same Wolfowitz to provide NON-OVERSIGHT by COngress and the Pentagon Inspector-General?

Guess Sebastian was out shopping at Wal-Mart that day.

Thankfully, the marketplace DOES NOT belong to the government.

It's an open market.

If you can't compete because a larger store can both buy & sell at lower costs due to volume purchasing, well, you DON'T have a "right" to the marketplace. You have a right to compete, "as best you can."

Walmart, Costco and other such retailers are merely giving consumers what they want - lower prices.

That's NOT a crime, except as a figment of a few radical Liberals's imaginations.

And there's no getting around the simple fact that LABOR is a COMMODITY. The worker SELLS his skills/labor to an employer, the way that employer SELLS goods & services to consumers. Just as consumers DEMAND lower prices and higher quality from retailers, employers DEMAND ever more "productivity" and "Efficiency"/cost-effectiveness from their workers.


People point to Walmart and cry "anti-union".
Unions enable disfavored people to live satisfactorly without addressing their disfavor. This way their family's problems are never resolved. Without the union they would have to accept the heirarchy, their own inferiority.
Unions serve to empower.
Walmart is anti-union because they are good. They try to help people address and resolve their problems by creating an enviornment where there are fewer hurdles.

Media ridicule and lawsuits are creations to reinforce people's belief that Walmart is evil in a subsegment of the industry dominated by the middle and lower classes.
Low-cost disfavored Chinese labor is utilized by corporate america to maximize margins. They all do it. Only WalMart gets fingered because they are the ones who help, and those who seek to create confusion in the marketplace want to eliminate the vast middle class who have a real chance and instead stick with lower classes who may not work otherwise. So they dirty him up while allowing the others to appear clean.

The coining of the term "Uncle Sam" was a clue alluding to this::Sam Walton's WalMart is one of few saviors of the peasant class.

"Unions enable disfavored people to live satisfactorly without addressing their disfavor...Unions serve to empower" (Uncle Sam)

Actually, that's not correct.

Unions were formed to further the aspirations of those workers already "favored." That's what Unions do, they "close the job market" for a specific skill set. That's why so many Construction trades like plumbing, electric, carpentry, etc are called "closed shops." You have to buy a Union book, if there are any available, in order to be able to ply any of those trades.

Unions, from Local 3 (the Electrical Workers Union) to the UFT (United Federation of Teachers) to the UFA (Uniformed Firefighters Association) to the AMA (the American Medical Association) exist to limit access to those fields, to in effect, create an artificial labor shortage in the fields they represent.

Unions protect existing (favored) workers at the expense of "other" and newer workers.

That's what Unions were set up to do...and most of them do it quite well.

Actually, you brainiacs got it all wrong:

Unions were set up to organize workers and represent their united rights in the struggle between capital and labor.

In an ideal capitalist system, like the one we had in 1900 and this throw-back JMK espouses, capital holds all the cards, labor is just another expense, and workers are to be exploited tot he fullest.

Thank GOD that Labor fought, and many died until they won their battle against the system that brought about the abuses of the early 20th century. Commonplace exploitation like child labor, 80-hour work weeks, murderously unsafe working conditions, and no benefits, no pensions, no healthcare were fought and pushed back into where they belonged: In the owner and accountant's wet dreams.

I suppose Uncle Sam and JMK would have no problem tearing up the American Dream and destroying the middle class that decent wages, decent benefits, and a safe working environment produced.

Wal-mart is, quite simply, Death.

Death to the American Dream of an America where your kids have a chance to do better than you did.

And any cheap apologists' argument that the American Dream is worth a $12 pair of jeans is nothing short of breathtaking. Until you yell in outrage.

My problem isn't with Wal-Mart's business practices (unless they are shown to break the law). My problem is that, according to their own plans, want to position a Wal-Mart every 5 miles in their markets and one every 2 miles in densely populated cities.

I don't want my city to become a city of Wal-Marts. They absolutely put small businesses out of business, which leads to a total McDonaldization of the retail landscape.

I have no problems with a few Wal-Marts around town (even though I'll never shop there because they are chaos incarnate). I just can't see any justification for having one on every corner. Who would want that?

Utter nonsense Blue88.

There is no justifiable struggle between Labor & Capital. The customer/consumer is king. And yes, the sole purpose of every Labor Union is torestrict access to that field, creating an artificial Labor shortage for its members.

Workers, like businesses are dually customers and vendors. The worker SELLS his labors to an employer for a set wage. Those wage rates are a function of supply & demand. Skills that are rare, hard to master or extremely dangerous are generally more valuable (paid more) than more common ones.

Business is the lifeblood and foundation of the economy. It's business that ALLOWS government to exist, not the other way around, as there is no more vital roll for government than to protect the open routes of commerce (the open or free market).

Walmart does what any and every major retailer does, seeking out goods at the cheapest possible prices and maintaining a hard cap on its Labor costs, in order to deliver better value (lower prices) to its customers/consumers.

GM failed to put a hard cap on its Labor costs and its Labor costs, especially the costs of its former workers (retirees) is now threatening to bankrupt that company, though GM just took a very necessary preventative action by laying off some 30,000 workers and scaling back operations.

What is hurting American Labor today?

Not American business...certainly NOT American business!

What's harming American Labor today is our porous borders that allow in tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who, in turn, put a strong and persistent downward pressure on wage rates. That and ill-conceived Trade Treaties like GATT, NAFTA and CAFTA, which all violate the principles of "Fair Trade."

None of those bi-Partisan supported Treaties encourage "Free Trade." They are unilateral in that regard. America offers Free Trade/Free Access to our markets, while the other nations engage in Fair Trade whenever it suits them.

Don't blame American business ("the Founder of our Feast") for problems brought on by decades of ineffective government Trade policies.

I see, so labor is a commodity. Like any other commodity, the cheaper the better. Foreign labor is always cheaper, thus Bush wants open borders and 400,000 legal Mexican workers to go along with the 1.4 million illegal ones who will continue to pour over our borders.

But this is fine, because labor is just a commodity. The cheaper the better. The customer is king!

Hmmm, I wonder how these customers get their money? Do they work? Do they work at jobs for American companies? Hmmm, that makes them commodities, not kings.

EVERY job can be replaced. Computer jobs go to India. Labor to Mexico. Doctors are pouring in from all over. Manufacturing goes to China. But wait, this is good! Labor is a commodity!

I don't see any problem at all with this, do you?

The customer is a commodity!

Open borders and unbalanced Trade Treaties (NAFTA passed during the previous admistration and by the 1994 Democrat controlled Congress and Gatt first signed into law in 1947...also by a Democrat controlled Congress) ARE NOT GOOD for American workers.

You never read where I said they were...unless you misread.

The Republicans DO NOT want open borders, the Democrats favor that, inanely thinking that (1) immigrants will actually vote and (2) if they DO vote, will vote for them, but Republican interests want access to cheaper foreign labor (thus their support for various "Amnesty Programs" and "Guest Worker" programs) - there's nothing at all nefarious about that, it's merely short-sighted.

Moreover, there's no way to argue against the fact that labor is a commodity - sold by workers and bought by businesses that are, in effect, Labor's cutomers.

It's the ineluctable forces of the market economy that makes the CONSUMER king!

By choosing to spend her consumption dollars at place A (where prices are cheaper), she directs the market, by rewarding "GOOD," (consumer friendly/cheaper) businesses and punishing "BAD," (higher priced) ones...that's what puts the cap on incomes, the desire by all of US, as customers/consumers, for cheaper goods & services.

That shouldn't be that difficult for you to understand BH.

Workers, like businesses are SIMULTANEOUSLY customers and vendors. The worker SELLS his labors to an employer for a set wage and in that case, the business/employer is the consumer. It is up to the worker to make him/herself more valuable to the customer/employer.

As I said, "Don't blame American business ("the Founder of our Feast") for problems brought on by decades of ineffective government Trade policies," that's what misguided Liberals always tend to do.

get one fact straight JMK in your capital letter-laden screeds: Hillary is NOT on the Wal-Mart board.

"Hillary is NOT on the Wal-Mart board." (Fred)


Should've said "SERVED," right?

1986 to 1992, resigning when her husband ran for President, correct?

Your last sentence makes it sound as though you're saying Hillary has had nothing to do with Walmart's board, which would be equally incorrect.

We must be fair about this.



And from the far Left Village Voice, no less.

Got your number, JMK, the king of trash.

Busted again.

"Oh, but I meant Hillary BEFORE..."


She resigned ONLY when her husband ran for President...when she HAD to resign that post. She served on Walmart's board of directors from 1986 - 1992, while First Lady of Arkansas, and retained her stock in that concern well into her "Co-Presidency."

Before she served on the Board of Directors at Walmart, she was a corporate litigator on their behalf.

Perosnally I have no problem with Hillary Clinton's corporate roots and alliances with the dreaded "Evil Empire" that is Walmart. Like I said, the market is an open one, but that doesn't mean it's a level one, nor should it be.

In fact, with Hillary's support for the Iraqi invasion, her pushing for more money for First Responders and increased Domerstic security, she actually looks a lot better to me than most of the Liberal fringe of that Party - the looney Kucinich's & Feingold's, etc.

The peole who SHOULD have misgivings about Hillary's deeeeeep Corporate roots are all those Dems who're looking to her to carry their water in 2008.

If you're a Dem and you pull the lever for Hillary, be prepared to swallow hard.

Wait a second, "Got your number, JMK, the king of trash,"?!

What's THAT about?

I don't believe I've ever posted anything here that you could effectively argue against.

Sure, you may disagree with me on occasion, but it's harder to argue any of the specifics. I presume that's why you don't.

"Busted again."

When was the other time?!

Moreover, while I DID indeed deliberately infer that Hillary was still involved with Walmart, Fred here, inferred that Hillary Clinton had no meaningful, direct ties to Walmart, which is equally untrue and equally deliberately misleading.

After all, I've seen no indication that she ever divested her stock holdings in that company and Walmart was a huge backer of Bill Clinton, just as Bill Clinton was one of the most pro-business Democrats ever to come down the pike.

In summation, all I'm saying is that if you LIKE Hillary, you've got to LOVE Walmart.

What's wrong with that?

Come on, feel that love.

Walmart had a Buy American agenda when Hillary was on the board. This year they will buy $34,000,000,000 (yes, 34 BILLION) dollars worth of merchandise from China.

I guess Walmart is more Republican now, eh?

Listen up, stupid. American workers ARE American consumers, right? So when Korporate Amerika sends jobs away and imports cheap labor, income falls, and buying power falls. You can't say an American is a commodity here and a king there. Protecting American jobs is protecting American consumers.

The government is now in the business of helping Korporate Amerika fuck real Americans out of their jobs, pay, benefits, and anything else they can think of. In the end, this short-sighted behavior will hurt the entire country. That is why it is treason.

Use some common sense. Walmart isn't using low prices to help consumers, they are driving out all competition with illegal government assistance and in a completely unethical manner.

Only a Republican would fail to see this.

I was suspicious when Tierney at the NYT took the time to smear this movie, and got even more suspicious when Mallaby, Hume, almost every right-wing hack bit into it. Looked like ordres from the top to me.

I was right.

The Wal-Mart movie has been ordered to be SWIFT-BOATED!!!

Read all about it:


Swiftboating the Wal-Mart Movie:

From the moment Wal-Mart saw the trailer they went into full attack mode complete with a war room, political operatives and spin doctors. They may have an unlimited bank account (well, actually they OWN the bank), but this film will not be swift-boated.

The Wal-Mart war room is run by Edelman PR, the famed DC PR firm known for its 50-year defense of the tobacco industry, and is staffed with people adept at feeding this echo chamber.
From Mike Deaver, Ronald Reagan's chief of staff and image guru to Mike Krempasky, a right-wing political blogger/operative with ties to key Republican dirty-tricksters such as Morton Blackwell and Richard Viguerie.

Before the film was even released, they came up with 10 pages and a video power point presentation attacking not only the trailer, but also every other film Robert Greenwald has ever made with 3 pages of bad reviews dating back to 1980.

So follow it along, this is classic right-wing echo in action.

It started with an article on right-wing media lapdog Brent Bozell's Cybercast News Service, and quickly led to simplistic character assassination techniques with the NY Post comparing Robert Greenwald to a Nazi propagandist, and Bill O'Reilly "accusing" Robert of being "just to the right of Fidel Castro ... just a ridiculous human being." You know, the shoot the messenger type stuff that political campaigns do all the time.

Then once they saw the film, the war room released 28 pages of material and a video news release with soundbites ready-made for the evening news. The centerpiece was a prolonged attack on the Hunter family story. The war room was able to convince Byron York, the author of "The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy" which includes an entire chapter trashing Robert Greenwald, to pick up the story and follow the talking points. He convinced his buddy Brit Hume at Fox News to have him on, then another bow-tie conservative Tucker Carlson echoed, and now John Tierney, a columnist for the New York Times. Echo Echo!

All of this is an effort to discount the non-political movie reviewers who are glowing about the film.

Entertainment Weekly: An "investigative outcry driven by stringent reporting rather than attitude."

New York Times: "'The High Cost of Low Price' makes its case with breathtaking force."

Los Angeles Times: "An engrossing, muckraking documentary ... but if you're expecting an angry diatribe, you're going to be disappointed."

Toronto Star: "Wal-Mart says the documentary will have limited appeal beyond the 'special interests' that Greenwald represents. Wal-Mart is wrong."

Boston Globe: "By the final credits you may want to picket Sam Walton's grave."

What is most surprising is how out of touch these right-wing critics are with many in the conservative grassroots who are embracing the film. Here is just one example from emails we've received.

Deanna Zandt in San Francisco: "My dad, a self-described blue collar 'ultra-conservative' and big fan of both Sean Hannity and G. Gordon Liddy, was already fed up with Wal-Mart's ruining of small town businesses, but he said the movie really opened his eyes as to just how bad things were. He thought it was really well-made and wants all of his friends to see it, too."

Why is the right-wing attack machine so intent on destroying a film that raises serious issues conservatives have long had -- the aggressive pursuit of corporate welfare to the tune of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, the off-shoring of American jobs, and the neglect for customer's safety? In another time, the conservative elite would be rushing to embrace a film defending family business from unfair big business destruction. A film with more Republicans than Democrats in it.

Since this is the latest echo to come out, let's pick apart John Tierney's column piece by piece:

If you've seen the anti-Wal-Mart documentary playing at churches and colleges and union halls, you have learned about the people here in Amish farm country who couldn't stop Wal-Mart from ruining their simple way of life.

That is not what the film says, and certainly not its intent. Middlefield was chosen as a location not because of the Amish or any symbolism about a simple way of life, but because we wanted a small town that had not already been affected by Wal-Mart, which is actually quite difficult to find.

The film is about Wal-Mart's relentless greed and how Wal-Mart uses its size to hurt family business all across the country.

And right off the bat, notice how Tierney tries to dismiss even the tone of the film. Is he suggesting Wal-Mart does not destroy family business all around the country!? Even Wal-Mart acknowledges that.

The film, ''Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,'' focuses on H & H Hardware, a family-owned business in this small town in northeastern Ohio. Its anguished owner explains that he needs a loan to survive, but complains that the bank has refused him because Wal-Mart's pending arrival has depressed the value of his property.

Why make fun of a man who lost everything to the Wal-Mart invasion? Anguished?

He shows a rack of booklets being distributed by an Amish customer: ''How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America.'' But there is no stopping the giant. The film shows a headline, ''Wal-Mart Descends On Middlefield!,'' followed by bulldozers in action.

Accompanied by the mournful twangs of a guitar, H & H slowly goes out of business. An Amish horse and buggy is shown passing the moribund store, followed by images of empty shelves and the lights being turned off.

It's a sad story. But it's not exactly the one you hear if you talk to the Amish customers now shopping at Middlefield Hardware, the new store in the same building where H & H operated. They will tell you the new store is a big improvement over the old one.

Why did Tierney only talk to people who were shopping at the new store? Yes, he's not a journalist, but this is like doing a poll for an election at the party headquarters! He was given the opportunity to speak to others, and he refused.

The store was opened last month by Jay Negin, a local resident who bought the building despite the new Wal-Mart. He told me that the building's appraised value, rather than being hurt by Wal-Mart's opening in May, is higher now than it was last year.

Maybe the banks are more optimistic these days with all the media attention on Middlefield and visiting right-wing columnists with expense accounts, but is Tierney accusing Jon Hunter of lying? Did he investigate, check dates, banks or just anything resembling research? This is shoddy, unfair journalism.

He scoffed at the notion that Wal-Mart put his predecessor out of business, as did some former employees and customers of the old store. They told me that the business had been floundering for years because of management mistakes.

So a present owner trashes the previous owner. Why did Tierney not speak to others who have the exact opposite point-of-view? Why did he not acknowledge there are many in town who see it differently. Why is he doing Wal-Mart's bidding in trashing the honest, hard-working Hunters?

Don Hunter, Jon Hunter's father, and the founder of H&H: "I've seen a lot of small communities crucified and forced out. Ma and pa operations that have been in business for years that are out on the street, that have had to close their doors just because of one entity. It appears that is their intent -- come into a community and force everybody out."

It actually closed three months before Wal-Mart opened, a fact not made clear in the documentary.

Not clear to the political right-wing attack machines thanks to the Wal-Mart war room, but perfectly clear to viewers and movie critics. Only because Tierney is following the war room's talking points is he seeing it this way. If you look at the film without hearing the attacks, you will see it for what it is. The film never states the Wal-Mart store has opened, using the words "descends" instead of "arrived" and punctuating the sequence with the dramatic use of a bulldozer all meant to reinforce that the Wal-Mart store has just broken ground. This is about as obvious as you can get without using a narrator, which is a device Robert never uses in his documentaries.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer fell for this Wal-Mart distortion, but issued a prompt correction.

The former owner, Jon Hunter, while insisting to me that Wal-Mart had hurt his prospects, also said that he had been losing customers well before Wal-Mart because he had made bad decisions and couldn't afford to keep his shelves stocked.

Notice how Tierney's playing with words here. Hunter is "insisting" that Wal-Mart "hurt his prospects." The owner insisted on this, yet it's not accurate to portray it that way in a film? Huh?

Here is Hunter's full statement issued in response the Wal-Mart war room attacks: "At the same time that Wal-Mart announced they were coming to Middlefield, I was counting on a new business plan and bank loan to continue to support my hardware store - the loans depended on the value of my business and the building. When I went to secure the loan, the appraiser devalued the building at a drastically lower price than I expected - this was directly related to Wal-Mart coming into town. The appraiser told me that banks knock the values of other stores down when Wal-Mart opens in town since 'sooner or later there will be a bunch of empty buildings.' I was turned down for the loan. So, Wal-Mart was a related factor to my business closing down."

Tierney is blatantly distorting Hunter's words.

The new hardware store is doing fine, Negin told me. ''Am I concerned about Wal-Mart?'' he asked. ''Not really. If you're a struggling business, they can hurt you. But as long as you listen to your customers and give them the products and service they need, they'll stay loyal.''

And I'm sure Mr. Negin is happy for the free publicity the film has given him. Kenneth Stone's 2003 study in Mississippi showed a slow, steady decrease in sales at hardware stores after Wal-Mart arrives -- 14.9% decline after five years. Lucky for Negin, he didn't buy a grocery store because Retail Forward, an industry consulting firm, estimates that for every Wal-Mart Supercenter that opens in the next five years, two supermarkets will close.

He's hardly the only optimist in Middlefield. John Bruening, an optician who appeared in the documentary fretting about Wal-Mart, got so much unexpected business that he has opened another store.

This is really great, but John Bruening has not changed anything he said about Wal-Mart in the film.

Many of the business owners in Middlefield attended a seminar organized by Jon Hunter and put on by Kenneth Stone on how to compete once Wal-Mart arrives. This is a life support measure that many small family businesses are taking in order to fight the widespread and accepted facts of Wal-Mart devastating their businesses.

When I mentioned these inconvenient facts to the filmmaker, Robert Greenwald, he acknowledged he might not have chosen the best examples of Wal-Mart's victims. He urged me to look at the ''macro'' issues -- at the overall revenue lost by local merchants and the other social costs of Wal-Mart.

I asked Robert about their conversation and he said "a 45 minute phone call was reduced to this completely untrue and inaccurate statement."

I'll grant him that some businesses do suffer because of Wal-Mart. And yes, there are larger issues, like Wal-Mart's wages and benefits, that are worth considering in another column. But as long as we're in the town that Greenwald chose as a symbol of Wal-Mart's oppression, let's consider some of the macro effects here.

The macro effects like how in Maine, an average of $7.8 million was sucked out of local family businesses in the first year of a new Wal-Mart store in town. (Georgeanne Martz, 1999)

Weldon Nicholson, a store manager and 17-year Wal-Mart veteran: "We used to drive downtown and just say, well 'This will be a ghost town soon.' kinda proud of the fact that we worked for big Wal-Mart, we're coming into a small town, we are somebody, almost like we're taking over. 'To hell with it,' Wal-Mart will buy the damn town. We'll shut them down. We used to drive through towns going 'six months, three months, six months,' of when we'd be closing them."

And let's hold on a minute here and help Tierney out with research for these "larger issues" he is promising to cover in a future column.

He could start by talking to Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's EVP for benefits: "Our critics are correct in some of their observations. Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance."

He could also ask Ms. Chambers what her plan is to solve this problem she identified: "The cost of an associate with seven years of tenure is almost 55 percent more than the cost of an associate with one year of tenure, yet there is no difference in his or her productivity." And her plans to "dissuade unhealthy people from coming to work at Wal-Mart."

There still may be Amish activists passing out booklets against Wal-Mart, but they seemed to be vastly outnumbered by the Amish who tie their horses to the posts outside the new Wal-Mart.

This is like comparing apples to fruit flies. The honest comparison is not those passing out leaflets versus shoppers, but Wal-Mart shoppers compared to non-Wal-Mart shoppers.

''I wasn't too happy about Wal-Mart coming,'' said Ada Schlabach, who was browsing through the plain-colored fabrics that the store stocks for Amish customers. ''I didn't know what it would do to the community -- would it make it more citylike? But I was surprised. It's kind of nice now. I like shopping here.''

Ben Yoder, an Amish carpenter who is 24, was there with two of his four children. ''We get all our diapers and wipes here because it's cheaper than anywhere else,'' he said. He and most of the Amish shoppers said the Wal-Mart was especially welcomed because they could reach it by horse, unlike the one more than 20 miles away.

Only 20 miles away! Wal-Mart deliberately opens stores close to each other specifically to shut down the local businesses. It also drives Wal-Mart's employees nuts because it depresses sales at the existing store just enough to keep profits below the threshold where they would get a small cut, turning the profit sharing program at Wal-Mart into nothing but yet another empty PR device for the war room to deploy.

''Wal-Mart isn't really a big issue with our people,'' said Eli Miller, who runs a sawmill. ''At first some were upset because they were scared by something new. But now they like being able to get everything here -- your name brand, your off brand, all in one place. I think of it as simple shopping.''

Of course there will always be individuals who will disagree, but John Tierney should be using his valued spaced in the New York Times to write about the real issue here -- how Wal-Mart affects family business all across America.

Since Wal-Mart insists on running this like a political campaign, the media should demand CEO Lee Scott come forward and debate the film. The war room should not be allowed to issue pages of attacks and then refuse to discuss it themselves relying on the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Byron York, and John Tierney to do their dirty work.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post linked Mike Krempasky to Roger Stone. He strongly denies this so I removed it.

Remember Blue, the customer is a commodity, and if a business, or an American worker, can't compete with a taxpayer subsidized mega-corporation or a barefoot third-world laborer, that's just tough titties.

It will all work out in the end, because our minimum wage salaries will buy a lot more at Walmart!

"...American workers ARE American consumers, right? So when Korporate Amerika sends jobs away and imports cheap labor, income falls, and buying power falls. You can't say an American is a commodity here and a king there. Protecting American jobs is protecting American consumers..." (BH)

Just because a FACT is difficult to hear, for instance, "You're fat," doesn't make it any less a FACT.

A visit to the mirror will often confirm the given example for many people...and the FACT is that LABOR (American or any other) is a commodity, like wood, or brick, or plastic, or steel.

It is a perishable commodity bought by willing employers and sold by eager, would-be employees.

I'm not only pro-worker, but active in a Union, the UFA, one of the only Unions to endorse G W Bush in the last election, and that Union is trying to force those who fail to see the economic realities of the symbiotic nature of the relationship between business and labor OUT of today's Labor Movement altogether. It is a bold undertaking.

Take the United Auto Workers, for instance, the UAW has traditionally taken a very adversarial, anti-business stance against the major auto makers, and that has resulted in those companies scaling down and laying off tens of thousands of workers.

I'd suggest going even further.

Unions talk about "promises made to retirees" at such places. I'd say "Promises, schmomises, nobody today is getting the deal THEY got, so F&%k'em and let's scale back their retirement benefits via mandated "buy-outs," etc, so we can keep more people employed right now and, most importantly of all, KEEPING THE COMPANY (the jobs creator) GOING STRONG.

As I said, the primary, secondary and tertiary allegiance of every business is to the consumer/customer.

Businesses aren't demanding LOWER wages, CONSUMERS are demanding lower prices, which can only be achieved by getting every commodity (INCLUDING LABOR) as cheaply as possible, even if it means using cheap foreign labor, once government passes things like GATT & NAFTA and opens the door to cost-free importing from Third World venues.

All those workers you mention are the very same cutomers/consumers who demand "everyday low prices!"

We have met the enemy and HE is US.

What's stupid is NOT understanding the nature of labor (as a commodity) and what caused today's strong downward pressure on wage rates - NOT BUSINESS, but GOVERNMENT!

Business DIDN'T Pass NAFTA and expand GATT, government did, in fact, a Democratic Congress did!!!

Robert Greenwald's simplistic documentary deserves wide condemnation for the failure of its makers to understand even the most basic economics and thus to ultimately "get it all wrong."

Walmart ISN'T the culprit here, GOVERNMENT is, but dimwitted Liberals, most of whom are unable to navigate even the most basic economic tomes, revere government, so any "film-maker" worth his salt, seeking to curry favor with that inane group, will downplay government's roll and blame business...or even better yet, like Robert Greenwald, come into the endeavor with no undestanding of basic economics himself.

All businesses and trades cater to customers first, second and last.

The poor worker, is a mere salesman/trader (businessman) of his wares/skills and as such, must cater to the whims and demands of HIS CUSTOMER, business/industry.

And if you're unfortunate to have only the skills requisite for stocking shelves or running a cash register, there's not much leverage to be had. Any major retail business will tell you, "I've got an immigrant here willing to do that unskilled work at $5/hr...$3/hr," etc.

Who set up such an anti-worker climate?

Who priced American labor out of the manufacturing and retail labor markets?

GOVERNMENT DID, that's who.

It's government that ALLOWED companies to use off shore, cheap labor and to move production palnts off shore without Tariff restrictions and it's government that has allowed hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to flood our labor markets with dirt cheap labor, all of which puts a tremendous downward pressure on ALL wage rates here.

Again, don't blame business for doing what it must to please the consumer, that's why businesses exist in the first place, blame government for jettisoning Fair Trade and moving to a largely one-sided "Free trade" model that has undermined wage rates here and will continue to do so.

I can agree 100% with JMK. It is the government. The leader of the government is a Republican, George Dumbfuck Bush. His rubber stamp congress is Republican controlled. Everything they have done since 2000 has been to further the corporate destruction of America.

You know, JMK, I bet if some village in India started training firefighters -- MILLIONS of firefighters, and then the government allowed 500,000 of them to work in this country, well, you would be singing a different tune.

Yeah, I know. I hear it all the time. NOBODY could take YOUR job, because you are SO DAMN GOOD.

But you have to admit, if a cheaper firefighter can be found, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, you should be put out of a job, or have your pay and benefits cut 80% to compete with someone from the third world. You do understand that to compete with them, you will need to live like them.

I agree if you say that our treasonous government is to blame, however. Just don't blame the American worker.

Here's where you show your ignorance, Bailey.

It CERTAINLY IS the government's fault, BUT this administration DIDN'T pass NAFTA, nor expand GATT - two separate Democratic controlled Congresses did, and with a Democrat in the WH.

That's who F&*$ED America, Bailey, not the current crop of political hacks.

Apparently you misread my posts, I didn't think they were all that complicated, but I'll go over the gist of it here once again; "As I said, the primary, secondary and tertiary allegiance of every business is to the consumer/customer.

Businesses aren't demanding LOWER wages, CONSUMERS are demanding lower prices, which can only be achieved by getting every commodity (INCLUDING LABOR) as cheaply as possible, even if it means using cheap foreign labor, once government passes things like GATT & NAFTA and opens the door to cost-free importing from Third World venues.

All those workers you mention are the very same cutomers/consumers who demand "everyday low prices!"

We have met the enemy and HE is US."

Once those Democratic Congresses eliminated the tariffs on goods and services produced off shore, any business that wished to compete HAD TO move to cheaper off shore production, otherwise they couldn't compete with all those businesses that did...so, EVERY BUSINESS that CAN, HAS.


Simply put, to please their customers. That is in order, "To give their customers what those customers want most" - LOWER PRICES.

A littel historical review, NAFTA was passed in January of 1994. The Democrats controlled Congress and Clinton/Gore were in the White House.

The "Gingrich Revolution" didn't begin until January 1995! They came to power in the elections after NAFTA was passed (Nov 1994).

The American worker is a trader of labor (labor is a commodity)...that's right, EVERY worker SELLS labor.

Business IS NOT his enemy, it's HIS CUSTOMER.

Am I going too fast?

Business seeks ONLY TWO things (1) pleasing their customers/consumers, so they can sell more volume to repeat customers and (2) most importantly of all, MAKING MONEY.

Business' customers want goods at lower prices, so business is forced to cut costs in every way possible. That means getting all the commodities it needs at the cheapest price possible, including LABOR.

When government protects American industry with tariffs on foreign goods and services, it protects the American wage rate, while inadvertently keeping prices on domestic goods and services much higher. It also hinders international trade, which when freed creates more demand and more opportunities for everyone.

Under a protectionist (heavilly tariffed) system, wages remain high, BUT domestic prices remain high as well, leaving the worker/consumer no better off.

Under an open or free trade system, American industries must compete with foreign industries on a equal footing, even though many venues provide much cheaper labor, and ancillary costs, that means First World wage rates slide, as Third World wage rates gradually climb.

Free traders argue (and they may well be right) that ultimately it would result in a leveling of wage rates globally and the future competition between labor pools would be based on efficiency or productivity.

Again, businesses merely reacts to the market. In a restricted trade era, they don't need to worry about reducing prices so much, as the consumer's choices are severely limited. For instance, you can't buy merely a Toyota to escape Ford's higher prices, when government tariffs Toyotas until they're as expensive as our domestic models. In an unrestricted trade era, business merely seeks to reduce the price of EVERY commodity (including labor) so that it can offer consumers/customers the lowest prices possible.

Both the advantages and disadvantages of Free Trade can be debated all day long, BUT for those, like you, who appear to blame Free Trade for sliding salaries, you have to (1) put the blame for GATT & NAFTA where it rightfully belongs - on the Clinton administration and the Tip O'Neill Congress (according to you - they're your traitors) and (2) acknowledge that Free Trade creates new opportunities as it eliminates older ones. CRB is right about that, despite whatever downward pressure it creates on wage rates across the board.

It's those new opportunities that are probably why U.S. unemployment remains steady at 5.0% and personal income in America ROSE 0.5% this last quarter!

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