ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dems & the Anti-WalMart Crusade

Perhaps no other corporation is as evil to the "progressives" as WalMart. Sebastian Mallaby covers the distinct break of the Dems from their traditional approach towards free markets and free trade in this article in the Washington Post:

Shopping for Support Down the Wrong Aisle
By Sebastian Mallaby
Monday, August 28, 2006

Once upon a time, smart Democrats defended globalization, open trade and the companies that thrive within this system. They were wary of tethering themselves to an anti-trade labor movement that represents a dwindling fraction of the electorate. They understood the danger in bashing corporations: Voters don't hate corporations, because many of them work for one.
To see the difference between then and now, just look at the Clintons. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Hillary Clinton sat on Wal-Mart's board; and when Sam Walton died in 1992, Bill Clinton lauded him as "a wonderful family man and one of the greatest citizens in the history of the state of Arkansas.'' Campaigning in the New Hampshire primary that year, Bill Clinton came proudly to the rescue of a local company called American Brush Co. by helping it become a Wal-Mart supplier.

Times change. Last year Hillary Clinton returned a campaign contribution from Wal-Mart, even though she had no compunction in banking a check from Jerry Springer. The nation's most successful retailer, which has seized the opportunities created by globalization to boost the buying power of ordinary Americans, is now seen as too toxic to touch. But a trash-talking TV host is acceptable.
The truth is that none of these Democrats can resist dumb economic populism. Even though we are not in a recession, and even though the presidential primaries are more than a year away, the DLC crowd is pandering shamelessly to the left of the party -- perhaps in the knowledge that the grocery workers union, which launched the anti-Wal-Mart campaign, is strong in the key state of Iowa.

For a party that needs the votes of Wal-Mart's customers, this is a questionable strategy. But there is more than politics at stake. According to a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research by Jerry Hausman and Ephraim Leibtag, neither of whom received funding from Wal-Mart, big-box stores led by Wal-Mart reduce families' food bills by one-fourth. Because Wal-Mart's price-cutting also has a big impact on the non-food stuff it peddles, it saves U.S. consumers upward of $200 billion a year, making it a larger booster of family welfare than the federal government's $33 billion food-stamp program.

How can centrist Democrats respond to that? By beating up Wal-Mart and forcing it to focus on public relations rather than opening new stores, Democrats are harming the poor Americans they claim to speak for.

Now, I submit that the anti-WalMart crusade is not beneficial to the Dems, and not just because it would cause economic harm to the consituents that they purport to champion. While it bolsters the nutroot progressives, it only harms them among lower- and middle-class swing voters. The people that are the driving force behind this crusade are not people who shop or even work at WalMart. No, it's the elite, well-to-do, NPR/AAR-listening progressives driving their expensive hybrids on their way into their upper-middle class jobs (or perhaps to their art studios & coffee houses).

These people would never set foot in a WalMart - even at gunpoint. And their objection to shopping there isn't because of WalMart's supposedly unfair labor practices, but because they see WalMart as the realm of the rube, working-class stiff. The yokels that don't know that voting for Howard Dean and seeking out a collectivist state is what's best for their interests. How provincial...

At least there is one war that the Dems are ready to fight. It's a shame that it's not against an enemy that poses the greatest danger to our country.

JayReding is covering as well...

***UPDATE 2***
This Op-Ed in the Washington-Times bolsters my assertion that the Dems are hurting their chances with the poor- and middle-class that they claim to represent:
The Pew Research Center last year found households making under $50,000 rated Wal-Mart most positively and shopped there more frequently. Of those who make $20,000 or less, an astonishing 90 percent had a favorable opinion of Wal-Mart. Minorities were also big Wal-Mart fans, with blacks and Hispanics rating the company more positively than Caucasians. Presumably these demographic groups love Wal-Mart because the retailer has helped them stretch their dollars.

Together, these poll results and academic studies demonstrate why the Democrats anti-Wal-Mart fervor could backfire as a campaign message. Most consumers don't interact directly with typically demonized companies like Halliburton. To the extent they do so, it's usually not positive. People don't like paying $3.00 for a gallon of Exxon gasoline or $300 a month in Pfizer prescription medications, even if they benefit from the company's products.

But nearly everyone has had an experience with Wal-Mart and, for the vast majority, that experience was overwhelmingly positive. Wal-Mart's "everyday low prices" have a real-world effect for many consumers, allowing them to save money on common products and greatly expand their overall purchasing power. This is especially true for those at the lower end of the economic scale.

Mr. Biden and others comments could be seen trying to defend the allegedly "abused" Wal-Mart work force. There is no indication, however, that Wal-Mart employees are treated poorly. They make competitive wages by retail standards, in some states twice the federal minimum wage. They also have access to affordable health care plans for as low as $11 a month and can take part in an attractive employee stock ownership plan, fringe benefits that few retailers -- even the much beloved "Mom and Pop" stores -- offer their employees.

And you all know what this means, right? The whole anti-WalMart crusade by the Dems is actually a Rovian ploy to hurt their chances in November.

Ssssshhhhhh.... don't tell The Architect!

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Comments (3)
Immoral Majority said...

"...voters don't hate corporations, because many of them work for one."

Those of us who work or have worked for corporations (myself included) have the most reason to hate them as we have experienced their malevolence first-hand.

I am the first to complain about the Democratic party (and self-labeled "progressive" bloggers who are really just partisan Dems). The Clintons are hardly progressive, and supporting "free-trade" is only one of many reasons why. They are only liberals as long as it is in their political interests.

This case, though, is one example where progressive interests and the interests of the Democratic party happen to coincide. While Wal-Mart may reduce a family's food bills by 25%, but they are only able to do that by reducing wages and benefits by much more.

St Wendeler said...

you seem to have failed to read the following:

There is no indication, however, that Wal-Mart employees are treated poorly. They make competitive wages by retail standards, in some states twice the federal minimum wage. They also have access to affordable health care plans for as low as $11 a month and can take part in an attractive employee stock ownership plan, fringe benefits that few retailers -- even the much beloved "Mom and Pop" stores -- offer their employees.

Also, it's interesting that you essentially state that to be a Progressive, you have to be against free-trade. Now, while you might agree with Pat Buchanan on this subject, I fear that you have no comprehension about the implications of your statements. If the US were to take your (and Patty-Patty Buke-Buke's) prescriptions regarding trade, we would ultimately end up hurting ourselves. As Adam Smith )and Ricard later refined), increased free trade benefits both parties. It is a mathematical fact on par with 2+2=4.

Read up on Ricardo...

Immoral Majority said...

I did not address that update because I had already started working on my comment when you posted it.

I used to work for Wal-Mart when I was in high school. In order to receive benefits, you have to be a full-time employee. Therefore, everyone was scheduled for one hour less than full-time. The schedule for all employees was posted in the back room, including total weekly hours, and all of the "full-time" employees were scheduled for exactly 34 hours (35 would have entitled them to benefits).

When you refer to "both parties" who precisely are you referring to? Presumably, party #1 is the US, and party #2 is Other Countries. This is a vast, complicated issue, and certainly can not be reduced to such simple terms. Of course, there will be some in each country who benefit, but what I would argue, is that the working class majority in both the US and Mexico, etc. has seen a reduction in real wages. In Mexico, there has been a well documented increase in wage disparity, i.e. those who were already being well paid are earning more, while low income workers have seen a dramatic decrease in wages [1].

And comparing me to Pat Buchanan will not get me to back off my position. This is another common tactic to avoid debate. Just because Pat Buchanan believes in something doesn't mean that everyone who believes in that one thing believes in everything that Pat Buchanan believes. Augusto Pinochet was a strong believer in free-market capitalism [2]. Of course, that doesn't mean that all free-market capitalists are murdurous dictators. For every belief, you can find some crackpot who believes in it. That is not suffiecient evidence to dismiss the entire idea.