[Stauffer] Shop Mississippi, Buy American | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Stauffer] Shop Mississippi, Buy American

I'm not a fan of Wal-Mart, and that's only been made worse by a recent Frontline episode entitled "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" The show has made me think, once again, about the behemoth that I love to hate. I haven't shopped in a Wal-Mart or Sam's Club in well over seven years and, if the current trend holds, I never will again.

First, though, let me start with what I knew about Wal-Mart before I saw Frontline. I don't like what they do to small towns. I've never been thrilled with the way they up and leave one part of town and head over to the opposite side, which leads to blight and ugliness on that "old" side of town. Much less what happens to the town square, with the local department and shoe stores going out of business—followed by the grocery stores and record stores and drug stores and even gas stations.

Of course, Wal-Mart offers one-stop shopping, so there's some advantage in turning your downtown into a ghost town, with a dollar store here and an old campaign headquarters over there. Right?

But there's another level to it. Wal-Mart doesn't use local banks, either. Sure, deposits go in every day, but they're wired away to Bentonville before the day is through; banks don't have the use of those deposits for making loans or otherwise investing in the community. Back when there were grocery stores and drug stores and shoe stores, there was also more money to borrow from the local bank.

Indeed, these days they sometimes even move the bank into Wal-Mart. And the result of any remaining competitors is that they're usually consolidated into larger chains and companies that can stand the heat against Wal-Mart—including the grocery stores, drug stores and even the banks.

Near and dear to my heart, Wal-Mart doesn't buy ads in the local newspaper. (Not that Wal-Mart would buy ads in the Jackson Free Press, anyway, particularly with us writing editorials against them.) I'm talking about the local daily and weekly papers that are often used to tell the news for a community, share the photos of its achievers and give the high school sports scores. Wal-Mart tends to use other advertising methods—direct mail, often—that is produced and executed outside of the local economy. Meanwhile, with Wal-Mart driving all those other advertisers out of business, it can be tough for a small paper to make it.

Ironically, many of those local newspapers champion Wal-Mart when it first comes to town because of the low prices that are anticipated and the jobs that Wal-Mart creates—aiming and firing at their own proverbial foot, you could say.

Those are the things I already knew. What Frontline taught me is that (1) the constant search for lower prices causes Wal-Mart to drive its manufacturers and suppliers either out of business or overseas for cheap labor, thus hurting American jobs. And, (2) Wal-Mart doesn't even always have the lowest price!

Frontline reported that Wal-Mart's pricing strategy focuses on something called the "opening price point." Those are the prices you see on the big signs next to the smiley face on the endcap of aisles. The idea is that you look at the lawnmower or microwave or TV set on the endcap and think: "Wow, that's a low price. Wal-Mart really does beat the stink out of everyone else in town." Then, a lot of the time, you'll walk into the section and buy the actual, nicer lawnmower or TV that you want. Wal-Mart makes more money on that item, because it gets a good deal from the manufacturer, it takes a healthy markup and—pssst!—it may not be the lowest price!

In fact, Wal-Mart lost the right to use the phrase "Always the Low Price" in its TV ads years ago.

But how does Wal-Mart get to the point that they can offer that low "opening price point"? The company forces manufacturers to lower their prices. You can watch the Wal-Mart episode online (pbs.org/frontline/), and I recommend that you watch the part where they discuss "Muscling Manufacturers." The company is so demanding on manufacturers, and it's so strategically vital to be in Wal-Mart, that the manufacturer must lower prices or perish. (And the visual image of the Wal-Mart "negotiating rooms" is pretty striking.)

How do you lower those prices? Move to China. In fact, Wal-Mart has a huge distribution center in China and, per Frontline, regularly encourages American companies to relocate in order to lower those prices. And that means lost jobs and salaries right here in the U.S. of A.

So, Wal-Mart doesn't always have the low prices, it pushes American companies overseas, it imports the bulk of its products, it's predatory against local businesses, it destroys small downtowns, and new stores change entire small towns for the worse.

I'm not a fan of Wal-Mart.

If you're an addict, though, I'm not telling you to stop shopping Wal-Mart cold turkey the way I did. I'm just saying to remember, this holiday season and all year 'round, to at least give your local retailers a fighting chance. Stop into a locally owned grocery store or gift shop or boutique or dollar store. (And, yes, many franchises are locally owned.)

Shop the prices carefully. Think about whether you might be able to get your shopping done in two or three different stores and still save time and money (and, perhaps, buy more interesting gifts).

Look for and buy what's authentic about Jackson and its merchants. This year, send a gift that was made by an American worker or, if not, was at least sold by a Mississippi company—one that banks and works and plays and lives in your community. Think global, shop local!

Previous Comments

ID
69501
Comment

Oh boy! Another ìprogressiveî anti-Wal-Mart story. Great! Man, bang a lesser used drum. Personally, I buy products from Wal-Mart that could best be described as commodities, such as paper towels, cleaning supplies, and similar items. I tend to shop for personal items, and more specialized products at stores that target those market sectors. I hear a continuous drone about the ill effects on small towns. But unlike some, I actually grew up in a small Mississippi town and remember the ìgood ëol daysî. In those days, a very small percentage of the townís population actually got to fully participate in the ìlocal economyî. Most small towns were under the influence of one or two wealthy families and some snobby former editor of the school newspaper who ended up running the town weekly. The local department store wasnít necessarily run by some benevolent entity involved in community enrichment. It was run by savvy business people involved in personal enrichment (not that there is anything wrong with that). The problem is that in many cases they ran their businesses, and subsequently the town, like their own, personal fiefdom. If you were lucky enough to be employed by these folks, your kid had better not get in a fight with their kid. If that happens, you just might find yourself unemployed. I well remember when getting your paycheck from a company based outside the small town structure was a liberating situation and a Wal-Mart in town meant that you at least had buying options without a 40 mile drive. I hear the ìdeath of downtownî argument most commonly from those of us who grew up, left, and come back annually to soak up the ambience. Funding this is a lot to ask of the local population. Especially in a region where so many have so little. I agree with the advice to shop wisely and fully consider where your money is going. But Wal-Mart isnít the devil. Itís just a business that ultimately provides what the public demands. I just don't demand it as much as some.

Author
JakeSlade79
Date
2004-11-24T14:12:15-06:00
ID
69502
Comment

In those days, a very small percentage of the townís population actually got to fully participate in the ìlocal economyî. Most small towns were under the influence of one or two wealthy families and some snobby former editor of the school newspaper who ended up running the town weekly. I agree with you on this point, Jake. My hometown was the same way. However, we traded one evil for anotheróthe snobby (and often racist) local merchants for the Wal-Mart corporation. I disagree with you that another drum needs to be banged, and Wal-mart given a pass, though. The truth is, soon Wal-Mart will be on the only drum to bang. It is not only running the little guys out of business; it is driving many jobs to China and hurting the U.S. economy, as Todd talks about. This is serious business. And, I promise, you can buy cheap paper towels at a dollar store or Walgreen's. They may still be made in China, but they're not being sold by a predatory company that could give a damn about American workers, much less small businesses and U.S. manufacturers. I highly recommend watching the Frontline piece: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-11-24T14:23:13-06:00
ID
69503
Comment

Okay, I went and watched the piece online. I would like to address a couple of your statements: First of all, it is not my opinion that anyone should be given a "pass". But the state of manufacturing in this country must be considered in a broad sense and not simply blamed on any one player in the economy. One of the major concerns I have about Wal-Mart is their dogged pursuit RFID, a technology whose promise is the ability to track a specific product (not a type of product, but the individual item that you pick up and purchase) from the manufacturer to you as a specific consumer. The conspiracy theorist/îBig Brother-phobeî in me really doesnít like that. So I am NOT a Wal-Mart cheerleader. But I understand their place in the economy. Secondly, Wal-Mart is indeed the largest game in the world. But they have some vulnerabilities, and I personally think that they are at their zenith right now. They will not dominate the world and eliminate all competition. Their stores are losing a cohesive feel (especially the older ones) and more and more Americans are starting to shop in ìmiddle-tierî retail stores to escape the zoo-like atmosphere of a Wal-Mart during peak shopping times. It is a good enough gig that expanding retail chains are setting up as close to Wal-Mart as possible, and many are competing on the price/quality mix. The ìdrumî of which I was speaking is the reactionary element of blaming all of the economic woes that are somehow attached to the American manufacturing base on the biggest institution in sight. It belies the complexity of the global economy and ignores the sorts of things we really need to do to redefine our industrial sector. The fact that in the Frontline piece Hedrick Smith made Rubbermaid out to be the victim in the Wal-Mart showdown is an indication that he either didnít do his homework, or chose to ignore facts that didnít support his premise. Being something of a ìlate bloomerî and only recently finishing my degree, I studied the Wal-Mart v. Rubbermaid case for a marketing class. According to the text for the class, Rubbermaid was a victim of its own self-image. Rubbermaid, indeed admired for its earnings performance and brand recognition, had a reputation for dictating to customers. Retailers were simply presented with products and prices and told to take it or leave it. These retailers were reminded that there was no substitute for their products. This was the relationship they had with Wal-Mart for many years. Then came the price disagreement with a now bigger and more formidable Wal-Mart than had existed previously. Both parties were intractable in the issue and the market share for Sterilite got a whole lot bigger. The prevailing consensus in that particular study was that Rubbermaid was doomed by their arrogance and smugness. The notion that refusing to let your supplier dictate a price is wrong astounds me. (Boy, I bet the editor person is gonna crush that mangled sentence) The Frontline edition spent a lot of time depicting raised eyebrows at completely unsurprising facts. Yes, Wal-Mart buys more stuff from China than anyone else. They also buy more stuff in the U.S. than anyone else. Heck, they buy more of everything than anyone else. The China issue is born out of situations intrinsic to our economic system and industrial approach, including short-sighted unions and downright lazy management. I have worked in manufacturing most of my professional life, and have a huge stake in defending its continuation in our country. But history indicates that manufacturers are not better advocates for consumers than are retailers. So I am not sure how much we should bemoan the shift of power. I support the right to decide that you just plain donít like an organization and donít want them getting your money. That is activist consumerism and is how we exert our collective will on companies. It is a good thing. Just donít try to turn superficial, non-detailed anecdotes into empirical data about a very complex issue and expect me to swallow it whole.

Author
JakeSlade79
Date
2004-11-24T22:43:16-06:00
ID
69504
Comment

The ìdrumî of which I was speaking is the reactionary element of blaming all of the economic woes that are somehow attached to the American manufacturing base on the biggest institution in sight. Ah, but Jake, no one did that. That's your exaggerated interpretation of what Todd wrote. He did not write that "all of the economic woes that are somehow attached to the American manufacturing base on the biggest institution in sight." You are twisting what he said, only to refute it. (What's that called? I can't ever remember all those fallacy names without looking them up.) I'll let him speak for himself if he cares to, but I assure you that he's smarter than that. Oh course, the manufacturing woes in this country are more complex than Wal-Mart! You wouldn't intelligently try to argue that either (1) Wal-mart is the source of all the woes, or (2) Wal-mart is the source of none of the woes. That's either-or logic, which is seldom correct. The point here, though, is that Wal-Mart is becoming a bigger monster every year in various ways, and people should be aware of it before they blow most of their holiday (or grocery, or whatever) budget there. Just donít try to turn superficial, non-detailed anecdotes into empirical data about a very complex issue and expect me to swallow it whole. OK. Didn't. No one expects you to swallow anything, Jake, whole or otherwise. ;-) I hope none of our readers believe something just because they read it. The point is to provoke thought and discussion.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-11-26T10:24:53-06:00
ID
69505
Comment

I had some coffee and remembered the name of the fallacy: straw man. Build it up so you can knock it down.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-11-26T11:07:12-06:00
ID
69506
Comment

You went and looked that up, didn't you? ;-) There is no fallacy in my approach, or exaggeration in my statement about the overall message in Todd's piece. He actually stated, "What Frontline taught me is that (1) the constant search for lower prices causes Wal-Mart to drive its manufacturers and suppliers either out of business or overseas for cheap labor, thus hurting American jobs." That is an extremely broad statement. It doesn't precisely read "all of the economic woes that are somehow attached to the American manufacturing base on the biggest institution in sight", and it wouldn't make much sense if it did. I donít agree with him. But the man does know how to make a good sentence. But his summary, and the Frontline piece itself, could certainly be construed by a completely reasonable person to infer that Wal-Mart is the primary cause of manufacturers moving off-shore. The fact is that our economic system is what drives the demand for lower cost goods. Many other mass retailers are much more aggressive in low cost sourcing than is Wal-Mart, especially in the "home improvement" market. Those types of goods used to be almost solely domestic in our markets. That is no longer the case. Earlier I wrote, "Just donít try to turn superficial, non-detailed anecdotes into empirical data about a very complex issue and expect me to swallow it whole." That is exactly what the Frontline piece did. It was not a very thorough or objective piece. There was no discussion about the historic migration of manufacturing to lower cost areas that pre-dates Wal-Mart by decades. There was no discussion about the increased costs to manufacturers rooted in regulatory and legal matters. I am cynical by nature. I am skeptical by experience. The tone of the Frontline piece was that Wal-Mart takes products overseas so that they can increase their profit. I went and looked up Wal-Mart's income statement from last year. There net income was 3.5% of sales. Just about where other mass retailers land. The Home Depot profit figure shook out at about 6.6% of sales. At Wal-Mart, you meet with a buyer. At Depot, you meet with a group that will occasionally heckle you as you leave the room if you didn't get the price low enough. You want to get after them in print? I promise to sit quietly. The diversions in your last post not withstanding, the fine institution that is the Jackson Free Press and I have a disagreement on the gravity of the Wal-Mart situation. I'm okay with that, and offer you the last word. You editors are used to getting that anyway. :-) by the way, email me and tell me how to do that italics thing when referencing a previous post

Author
JakeSlade79
Date
2004-11-27T08:46:50-06:00
ID
69507
Comment

Actually, I didn't look that one up. That's an easy one to remember when I've had caffeine. It's all the fancy-ass named fallacies that I always have to look up. Mr. Keely's class was a long time ago. ;-) My whole point about the fallacy is that you initially exaggerated the point Todd was making into that he believed, quote, "all of the economic woes that are somehow attached to the American manufacturing base on the biggest institution in sight." That is clearly a fallacy -- the "all" is a big problem -- and your more recent post doesn't change that. However, past your initial comment, I think your posts show that you're not as either-or on it and, in fact, see that Wal-Mart, indeed, has done some harm. It seems like that the only real disagreement is how much. And I'm happy to simply disagree on that one. It's easy enough for folks to research that one for themselves: the evidence is rather rampant. Anyone who visits regularly knows that my personal blog bete noire is when someone comes on and twists what someone else said into the most dramatic opposite of their personal view, even when the comments don't come anywhere near saying that. I always challenge that, because it does nothing to move dialogue forward, as in: "You don't like Bush? You must be some radical liberal." Uh, no. Not saying you're doing that, but we've plenty of bozos try that nonsense here. Often, though, we have delightful discussions with newcomers here, once they give up the initial talk-radio-style bravado and talk about what someone is actually saying. Otherwise, you do italics -- listen up, everyone -- simply by putting the pointy bracket (what's it called, Knol?) on either side of an "i" and then /i to close it. That is shift-comma, I, shift-period to start the italic; then shift-comma, /I, shift-period to end the italics. Same with Bold, just with a B. Maybe the little bracket will show up "<" and ">" ...

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-11-27T13:31:56-06:00
ID
69508
Comment

Jake: You said: That is an extremely broad statement. It doesn't precisely read "all of the economic woes that are somehow attached to the American manufacturing base on the biggest institution in sight", and it wouldn't make much sense if it did. I donít agree with him. But the man does know how to make a good sentence. You're right, your inference into what I said doesn't follow. (And thanks for the kind words about crafting sentences. :-) Overall, I think you're being pretty reasonable in what you're saying. I didn't mean to suggest that Wal-Mart is the only retailer that has changed the manufacturer-retailer dynamic in the U.S. in the past ten years, and, in fact, I think forces such as bad trade policy and the manipulation of global currency markets have creating a playing field that Wal-Mart takes advantage of. (I do find their marketing irritating, though, because Wal-Mart is willing to "bang a drum" of mock patriotism regardless of whether its decisions adversely affect large sectors of U.S. manufacturing.) So, no, Wal-Mart isn't the only player. But it's overwhelmingly the largest, and perhaps the most pervasive in the sense that so many types of goods are affected -- textiles, food, gas, electronics, household furnishings -- which also happen to be consumer goods. Given the season, Wal-Mart (as opposed to Home Depot) is where a lot of people will decide to shop for the holidays. It does seem only logical, though, that because of Wal-Mart's place in the market -- $250 billion in sales -- it can dictate the terms for various industries to a considerable degree. If Wal-Mart decides that it's going to ride undervalued Chinese currency to better prices by moving operations overseas, it can force industries to go along with it. Consider that the entire U.S. textiles industry is $60 billion. That's exports and everything. Wal-Mart's sales are $250 billion. Clearly, Wal-Mart is a huge player. You're right, by the way, to say that Home Depot is worth looking into -- I'm not a huge fan of Home Depot, either, because I think they end up driving out other similar businesses and thus hurting consumer choice. And Home Depot is the second largest retailer behind Wal-Mart, booking $65 billion in 2003. I went and looked up Wal-Mart's income statement from last year. There net income was 3.5% of sales. Just about where other mass retailers land. This argument isn't really about price gouging, which I don't think Wal-Mart stands accused of. It's about volume. They get that volume by focusing on both being efficient and by their extraordinary marketing and end-cap pricing, apparently, and doing everything they can to (at least sometimes) bully manufacturers into going overseas. 3.5% of sales is still over $8 billion in profits, which is a nice little egg. Other retailers also take advantage of this arragement, but it's Wal-Mart that drives it. And that's the heart of the column -- it's is about Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart has a disproportionate impact on the U.S. economy. Sitting at about 2.5% of the entire GDP, it makes an impact. I also wrote it because, as much fun as Home Depot is for some folks to spend a Saturday, it's not where people overwhelmingly go Christmas shopping because of the "convenience" and "low prices." I'm of a mind that I'd prefer to see them at least compare the convenience and prices of local vendors in the Jackson area. And, I think you actually got my point anyway. Yes, my personal decision is not to shop at Wal-Mart -- not even for commodities which, by definition, should be market priced and available for reasonably similar costs at a locally-owned grocery store -- or much of any big box retailer, for that matter. (I've been seen in Target stores, although not as often as I once was. It always seems to cost $100 to get out of that place.) And I also don't feel that you have to utterly fight the machine when it comes to big box or chain retailers. But, I think it's important to notice when too much of a "good thing" starts to become a bad one. If you can help to pull back from that brink in even a small way by making a personal decision to "shop local," then I feel like that's a step worth taking.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2004-11-27T13:58:29-06:00
ID
69509
Comment

Wal-mart "big loser" this shopping season. Boo, hoo. I wonder if anyone is tracking how small, locally owned businesses are doingóor is the "health" of consumerism merely based on how many millions Americans spend on junk at big-box retailers? Wouldn't it be lovely if Wal-Mart's sales are down because people are finally figuring out that buying cheap crap from China is hurting their communities and the country's manufacturing climate? And it would be really special if they're spending time, instead, in more locally owned businesses. Oh, and be sure to note how the health of shopping season depends on Wal-Mart's fortunes. Gross. Here's the story: Tepid Start to Holiday Season The start of the holiday season was respectable but unimpressive for many of the nation's retailers, with consumers jamming stores and malls on Friday and pulling back as the weekend wore on. Big chains including J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. were pleased with their sales. But Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) was less fortunate - the industry leader said its sales in the seven days that ended Friday were disappointing, and the company lowered its sales forecasts for November. "Friday overall was strong, but Saturday was weak and disappointing, so together it was only a modest two-day performance," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at International Council of Shopping Centers. "Still, I continue to believe that this is not a bellwether for how the season will end up." Wally Brewster, spokesman at Chicago-based General Growth Properties, which operates 224 malls in 44 states, said sales and traffic were strong on Friday, but "stabilized" the rest of the weekend. As a result, he expects sales for the weekend to increase in the low single digits, in line with modest expectations. Wal-Mart's holiday weekend sales suffered because it didn't offer the deep discounts it did in past years, hoping to boost profits, analysts said. Penney and Sears did better by wooing customers with two days of big price breaks. "Wal-Mart was a big loser because they didn't get the same numbers of early bird shoppers as they did a year ago," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, based in Charleston, S.C. "The retailers that won this weekend were the ones that were super aggressive in special purchases and special pricing."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-11-28T16:03:56-06:00
ID
69510
Comment

There's a long article in the Wall Street Journal on this. WalMart cut its projections for the month, and, according to the WSJ, Penny and Sears were not really that happy. However, high end stores are experiencing strong growth. It'll be interesting to see, when the dust settles, if shopping's up across the board, or only for the high end retailers, or if WalMart will be the only chain left out in the cold.

Author
kate
Date
2004-11-29T08:51:00-06:00
ID
69511
Comment

Thanks, Kate. Well, at least it seems like that tax-cut-for-the-rich is paying off. The scary thing, of course, is that shopping in those stores may well be down because middle-class and poor people are worse off under the Bush administration, even though I, of course, would like to think it's because they're not shopping at Wal-Mart anymore because they're such a monster. Otherwise, I"m serious about wanting to know who tracks the progress of locally owned businesses, and especially in comparisons of who is shopping where. Don't have time to research it now, but if someone knows off the top of your head, please share. Happy Monday, all. Hope everyone had a delightful Thanksgiving.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-11-29T09:50:45-06:00
ID
69512
Comment

FYI, here's some tips on formatting when posting quotes, adding emphasis, etc... First, you should always "close" an open tag. Some tags include B (for making text bold), I (for emphasis or italics), and QUOTE (for distinguishing quotes)... You can also use the URL tag for links. Simply use URL=http://www.websitehere.com... All tags work like this... [tag]text here[/tag] (where tag is replaced with B, I, and/or QUOTE). The link tag works like [TAG=http://blah.com]link name or special text[/TAG]... Here's some samples: BOLD Italic [quote]quotes[/quote] [URL=http://www.jacksonfreepress.com]URL to JacksonFreePress.com[/URL] You can also combine tags as long as you open and close them in the same order. [tag1][tag2] text that needs magic here [/tag2][/tag1]. [quote]This text uses all tags described above: B, I, URL, QUOTE[/quote] Sorry for the tardiness... Hope that makes sense...

Author
kaust
Date
2004-11-29T10:25:15-06:00
ID
69513
Comment

Wal-Mart is the easy example of the ever increasing problem with big companies who evolve into monopolies and force manufacturors/jobs to 3rd world countries. It is a huge problem in Healthcare and many other areas. Every hosptial and healthcare facility in the US pays big money to join and be able to buy their products from 1 of 5 main "Group Purchasing Organizations." Once you belong to these GPO's you MUST use the product they have on the contract they have negotiated with a 90% committment. These GPO's negotiaiate up to 5 year contracts with manufacturors and award the contract on lowest price. The winner of the contract will move his facilities from the US to Mexico to China, in order to win the contract and stay in business. If your company does not win the contract, you are shut-out of that facility and will not sell your goods there until you win the contract. To maintain their negotiating power thousands of hospitals must change products to lesser/inferior made goods every time a contract changes. This replaced the bid system, where a manufacturor had to keep track of the owner of a every small chain of hostipals putting out bid requests, state bids for state run hospitals, and individual hospitals on large ticket items , making for a tight ship between local distributor servicing the facility.

Author
herman
Date
2004-11-29T11:27:58-06:00
ID
69514
Comment

i can't wait until walmart starts opening hotels on the tops of the supercenters. they're already dabbling in car sales out in texas, i hear... i try to stay away if i can. usually i can get everything i need using the jitney14/walgreens/kat's trifecta.

Author
Jay
Date
2004-11-29T13:46:33-06:00
ID
69515
Comment

GAWD JAY....Why did you have to tell us Seriously, can you imagine the shoddy low quality cars that would come out of there, given that they do not SPECIALIZE in auto sales? While we're at it, Wal-Mart's next move should be to become the ABC (American Business Corporation), which owns and operates ALL private enterprises in the United States .

Author
Philip
Date
2004-11-29T17:49:16-06:00
ID
69516
Comment

Then imagine how many people would defend the ABC Corp., saying they are the epitome of capitalism. Personally, I've taken to saying lately that I'm not a fan of capitalism. I believe in actual free enterprise.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-11-29T17:59:49-06:00
ID
69517
Comment

This book was an interesting read, albeit a bit blindly obessive in its attack against Wal-Mart. But, reading the words of a 80-year-old man as he assaults the corporation is rather convincing compared with the words of an uppity young person.

Author
Houch
Date
2004-11-30T00:52:46-06:00
ID
69518
Comment

Man, I love me some capitalism. It's the one economic system that has enough strength to underwrite all of this free thinking stuff. ;-) It allows us to fund Universities where cloistered academic types can explain stuff to us, galleries where we can admire creativity, and school board meetings where we can speak out of turn and be subject to arrest (well, maybe not that last part). Yep, I be likin' some capitalism. I don't expect Wal-Mart to make much of an impact on car sales. The manufacturers already took a lot of that stuff beyond the borders on their own. It appears to the untrained eye that it's a little difficult to sell a car produced by folks making over $25 per hour to other folks who make $10 per hour. It also appears that the Christmas shopping figures might be pointing to some of the vulnerabilities I mentioned earlier. Anyone have any idea how Wal-Mart stacks up to turn of the century Standard Oil as a percentage of GDP? That would be an interesting comparison.

Author
JakeSlade79
Date
2004-11-30T09:12:47-06:00
ID
69519
Comment

Anyone have any idea how Wal-Mart stacks up to turn of the century Standard Oil as a percentage of GDP? That would be an interesting comparison. I've not found that yet, but according to this Dartmouth paper, Wal-Mart has a 50 percent share in the discount retail industry (as of 2001, I believe). One thing you need to consider is that companies with dominant market shares don't necessarily maintain their preeminence. For example, Standard Oil's market share had been in the 90 percent range, but was declining when it was broken up in 1911 because Standard "failed to invest in the crucial Texas oil fields in the early 1900s."

Author
Ex
Date
2004-11-30T12:20:38-06:00
ID
69520
Comment

Jake, I think you missed my sarcasm. You're new here, though; we'll forgive you. ;-) The point, of course, is that actual free enterprise is becoming a relic of the past. We need *real* competition and playing fields not chopped up by huge corporate welfare, and we need companies that win the competitive game on their merits (including how the products they produce, and how they treat their employees and community), and not because of hand-outs from state desperate for jobs in the wake of NAFTA and other brilliant acts of "pro-capitalism" that are making it impossible for American companies to compete without shipping jobs overseas. All those beautiful things you talk about that flow from capitalism are not going to continue flowing once multinational corporations get so much rope from the U.S. government and taxpayers that they can hang the competition, as well as the rest of us. Speaking of speaking out of turn and being subject to arrest, remember USA*Engage -- that huge coalition of major corporations that fought to lift economic sanctions against countries (like communist China) that abuse their citizenry, including for religious persecution, so that they could move jobs there? It was opposed by folks as diverse as Gary Bauer and the Beastie Boys. It doesn't make sense for us to want to protect our own freedoms and then turn around and help our corporations to rip our jobs away and take them to countries where they are mistreating their own people. I don't see that as a healthy byproduct of capitalism. Also, folks who are unemployed after 30 years might not be as up to the fight of fighting to protect all those freedoms we hold so dear. We have to worry about a disempowered, cynical and unengaged citizenryóespecially once they figure out that the fundamentalist-corporate contingent in the White House isn't exactly going to help them with jobs or personal freedom. Neither is really the plan, as we can plainly see (if we bother to look).

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-12-01T10:51:16-06:00
ID
69521
Comment

oneword - classaction. http://www.walmartclass.com/walmartclass94.pl?wsi=0&websys_screen=public_declarations yes, I shop at walmart in vicskburg, there are few alternatives. (and that's how they like it. ) however, i will never ever buy their clothing . great brief, ladd.

Author
sunshine
Date
2004-12-02T16:36:17-06:00
ID
69522
Comment

p.s. ok, I'll try Fred's. y'all talked me into it. but the goods are still all from China, including that cute aquarium light thing, right? and the clothes are still from sweatshops, right? but at least it's locally owned? and they pay their workers well? america, the land of choices. hmmm.

Author
sunshine
Date
2004-12-02T17:14:16-06:00
ID
69523
Comment

While I appreciate the kind consideration for one so tender and uninitiated such as myself, I got the sarcasm as it was well documented. My response was supposed to be light-hearted. At one point in my life, I was considered amusing by some. I must be losing my touch. My point on capitalism is simply that, if fettered, American companies will not be able to compete globally and the overall economic pie will begin to shrink dramatically. I have quite a bit of faith in the market place and the competitive nature of American business. It is Darwinism at its peak. It is in this environment that Wal-Mart sprang up, and in this environment they will be brought down. The Wall Street Journal has articles on a fairly regular basis about the holes in Wal-Mart that competitors are exploiting. If we seek to "level" the playing field through legislation and engage in economic retrenchment via protectionist policies, we will falter and the results will be that the poor will have even less. Like it or not, we have already run into issues with the WTO in an attempt to protect our steel industry. As far as, ìfundamentalist-corporate contingent in the White Houseî Now youíre just name calling. My question about Standard Oil was geared toward the consideration of any modern corporation's size compared to the largest monopoly ever dismantled by the law of the land. I actually don't know how they compare. In dollars, Wal-Mart would certainly be larger. In terms of percentage of the global economy, I am not sure. By the way, if someone moves into your neighborhood, how many times do you tell them they are new?

Author
JakeSlade79
Date
2004-12-02T23:48:19-06:00
ID
69524
Comment

I think, 17 times is the usual. ;-) I'm sorry for wrongfully accusing you of not getting my sarcasm, Jake. Your answer, although sarcastic (in a good way) itself, didn't seem to indicate it. It strikes me that we agree on the need for good free enterprise; we just disagree on what the word "fettered" means. Your view of capitalism, in all its guises, are more rosy-colored than mine. Right now, I'd say U.S. capitlism is becoming more "fettered" by the day, and is thus not working as it's supposed to. But I'm happy to simply disagree about it. As far as, ìfundamentalist-corporate contingent in the White House." Now youíre just name calling. Actually, no. I'm stating what I believe to be a fact. I believe it is apparent based on the facts, m'aam, that there is a "fundamentalist-corporate contingent in the White House." It would be difficult to try to argue otherwise. You can disagree with my version of fact, but the only argument for saying that characterizing this administration as either fundamentalist Christian and/or as pro-corporate would be to believe that one or the other, or the combination of the two, would be a negative attack. If you're a Bush supporter (and I don't know that you are), that would be an odd argument to frame. And just because it's stated as a fact that you believe is negative doesn't mean it's ad hominem. It's not.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-12-03T11:41:06-06:00
ID
69525
Comment

BTW, Jake, you do know that I recognized your hints, right? It's great to be arguing with you again after all these years. XO

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2004-12-03T12:04:27-06:00
ID
69526
Comment

another oneword - FDA. so, overall, capitalism allows owners of capital to take advantage of both workers (see classaction above) and consumers, at least when there are no strong labor unions or enforced consumer rights for balance. and guess who doesn't like either of those things? there's a huge difference between free enterprise (old fashioned proprietorships etc.) and corporate capitalism (with huge benefits in legal liability terms) and then global capitalism, which needs a police force (aka army) to protect its activities. perhaps this is starting to belong over in the Progressive Morality thread! something in common for sure. meanwhile, Chimneyville this weekend, what could be better.

Author
sunshine
Date
2004-12-03T18:07:15-06:00
ID
69527
Comment

Just brainstorming here.... ....How about have a law/regulation that automatically mandates break up of a company whenever they grow to more than...say 1% of the nation's GDP. There's A LOT of nuances that have to be adressed in this matter, I know. But this might be a good place from which to begin

Author
Philip
Date
2004-12-03T21:25:52-06:00
ID
69528
Comment

I believe it is apparent based on the facts, m'aam, that there is a "fundamentalist-corporate contingent in the White House." It would be difficult to try to argue otherwise. First of all, the "Now you're just name calling" was for a laugh given some of the views I have previously heard you express. Not particularly meant to take anyone to task. But, since we're talkin' here! The word "fundamentalist" is indeed arguable given the connotation that is often attached to it. If you want to go to Websterís and strictly argue the denotation of the word, any argument saying that the White House isn't fundamentalist gets a little harder to support. However, it is a label. My opinion, formed during my brief time here, is that it is intended as a negative label, my own opinions about whether or not it is a good thing notwithstanding. An example that comes to mind is if we were standing around the BP and some Stars and Bars Bubba said, "I can't believe Bush appointed a black man as Secretary of State." That Colin Powell is black is an undeniable fact (unless you are Harry Belafonte). But in the context, a reasonable person could assume that it is Powell's "blackness" that was being cast in a negative light. (Yes, I know he is resigning. But this example works for me.) In other words, blah blah blah, context and intent matter, blah blah blah. I personally am comfortable with the President's faith and the level to which it is, and isn't, expressed in the execution of his duties. Now, I have dealt with some fundamentalist folks. In fact I have described some as being "damental" as the "fun" has been completely removed. I donít think Bush is in that league. For crying out loudÖ heís Methodist. Referencing ....How about have a law/regulation that automatically mandates break up of a company whenever they grow to more than...say 1% of the nation's GDP. In this case, I don't think it is purely a matter of size. I think you have to look hard at practices. I think that it gets tough to maintain competitive forces that are vital to success if you punish that success. And make no mistake, there is a large, non-entrepreneurial segment of our society that needs large companies for employment. Not everyone has the gifts needed to run or work for a small businesses. I expect the folks at JFP can speak to the requirement that people be talented enough to do a little bit of everything. If you want to hold a company's feet to the fire, evaluate it for unfair practices. Predatory pricing in the Wal-Mart pharmacy landed them in hot water in the late 80's early 90's. Look for that stuff and enforce the law with vigor. Just happy to be here. By the way Donna, how long?

Author
JakeSlade79
Date
2004-12-03T23:45:37-06:00
ID
69529
Comment

whoa JS , you are 'comfortable with the President's faith??' hmmm. he strikes me as a poseur, but that's not the point. it's the 'execution of his duties ' part. do 'The Crusades' ring a bell? well, the "hold their feet to the fire" part is good. and - I have loved Harry Belafonte since I was about 12 or 13, so what is your point about him - didn't quite get it..

Author
sunshine
Date
2004-12-04T14:05:32-06:00
ID
69530
Comment

What, I'm a horse now? ;-) I was referring to Mr. Belafonte's remarks comparing a man I admire to a "house slave". Specifically he said, "There's an old saying in the days of slavery. There are those slaves who lived on the plantation, and there were those slaves who lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master. Colin Powell was permitted to come into the house of the master." I think it was an unwarranted insult against a man who has been an outstanding leader and public figure. do 'The Crusades' ring a bell? Yes. I slept through and awful lot of high school. But I am familiar with the period. Familiar enough to know that an attempt to construe current events as any sort of equivalent is unsupportable hyperbole.

Author
JakeSlade79
Date
2004-12-04T23:41:25-06:00
ID
69531
Comment

well, it took me a few minutes to get the horse thing..ha. And, I think Mr. Belafonte had strong feelings to say what he did, thank you for sharing that comment of his. Mr. Powell has been admirable in a very difficult role , we can all wish he had been more allowed to shine. Also - the Crusades are still perceived to be just that, by those who are experiencing a variation of it now.. memories are long in some parts of this world.

Author
sunshine
Date
2004-12-05T00:35:30-06:00
ID
69532
Comment

In case you're interested, here's an article in the most recent New York Review of Books about Wal-Mart.

Author
Ex
Date
2004-12-06T20:22:01-06:00
ID
69533
Comment

thanks, Ex, I will take time to read the article I have read the Ehrenreich book, as has my 79 year old mother in law, bless her heart. and everyone else who cares. Did see Ms. E. at a rally in St. Paul some years ago, she's great. as was Jim Hightower and Granny D. and Tom Hayden and Cornell West. let's get them all here!

Author
sunshine
Date
2004-12-06T20:42:06-06:00

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