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Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Wal-Mart card

Democrats across the country have decided to seek votes by calling out Wal-Mart, according to today's New York Times. As fine an idea as that may be in the blue states, do you think it will play well in the heartland?

I don't.

So many businesses and politicians are responsible for the impending disappearance of the U.S. middle class. To scapegoat one big corporation -- especially one at which many lower-income folks shop religiously and find the lowest prices -- doesn't seem like a good strategy to me.

I am well aware of Wal-Mart's many shortcomings. But I am tired of being right and losing elections, and that's just where the Democratic Party seems to be heading. Again.

It's fun times for Hillary. She used to be on the Wal-Mart board of directors, from 1986 to 1992:

The Clintons also benefited financially from Wal-Mart. Mrs. Clinton was paid $18,000 each year she served on the board, plus $1,500 for each meeting she attended.

By 1993, she had accumulated at least $100,000 in Wal-Mart stock, according to Mr. Clinton's federal financial disclosure that year. The Clintons also flew free on Wal-Mart corporate planes 14 times in 1990 and 1991 in preparation for Mr. Clinton's 1992 presidential bid.

Even then, she was a big Yankee fan, though.

Comments (1)

With all of the issues available for Democrats to run on, why this? I hope your thought about being right, and losing elections, doesn't happen again.

Posted by: jimbo at August 17, 2006 01:46 AM

The Dems or in this case it may end up being the "Dums" need to be careful. Lots of elderly buy their drugs at WalMart and the elderly may not appreciate the attack and, of course, the elderly vote in bigger numbers than any other group.

Posted by: Michael Wilson at August 17, 2006 05:12 AM

It's hopeless. Even if these morons are elected, what can we expect from them?

Posted by: Allan L. at August 17, 2006 06:47 AM

The Dems should spend less time chastizing Wal-Mart and more time chastizing Al Qaeda.

The lefty/green anti-WTO/NAFTA/Wal-Mart voters were unlikely to lean Republican anyway. It might energize their lefty-base, but they're just as likely to alienate the largest customer base in the nation.

Any talk of "breaking up" Wal-Mart's "monopoly" is likely to energize the large number of consumers and employees that benefit from Wal-Mart's dominant market position. I'm guessing that Wal-Mart executives might form their own PAC (if they haven't already done so).

Posted by: Mister Tee at August 17, 2006 06:47 AM

Divided loyalty?

The National Pension and Housing Ponzi Scheme Will Eventually Fall, they always do.

Conclusion: "I expect the debate to become even more shrill and illogical before the dream of easy riches and what is today called 'wealth' is revealed as just illusory, where we get to re-recognize at some point that the only game is 'relative' wealth."

Folk's like Kari (at BlueOregon) will have the floor to communicate their message for perhaps a couple more years; before the X-PAC'ers ultimately figure out that they are the unwitting victims of their own lack of wisdom that comes only from age and experience. But by then, it will be too late.

(Mister Tee, the anti-capitalist's are less anti-monopoly than they are eager to become the monopolists themselves. It is the very goal of Social Investing. Wal-Mart is smaller than the present collective, and will be swallowed up before this is all over.)

Posted by: Ron Ledbury at August 17, 2006 06:59 AM

A lot of people went to their graves predicting the death of capitalism. From the gold-standard bugs to the trade-deficit hawks, they keep saying that we'll go over the economic cliffs if we don't change our ways.

It still hasn't happened. That doesn't mean individual real estate investors won't get burned in the current real estate correction, but it doesn't presage a national economic crisis. A mild recession, perhaps, but not cataclysm.

Posted by: Mister Tee at August 17, 2006 07:32 AM

A lot of people go to their graves predicting the capitalism can be managed via the political process. It can only be managed to a point, then reality and the business cycle prove to be the winner.

I do not consider a restoration of a natural equilibrium a cataclysm, and certainly not a refutation of capitalism, but a triumph. The risk with each cycle is that some folks always gain more power, otherwise classically called further concentration and centralization. Thus, I direct proposed remedies upon decentralization.

The jury is still out on whether the two prior, and still living, Federal Reserve Chairmen will witness the futility and inequity of their pro-banker manipulations to subdue risk-based-capitalism.

Posted by: Ron Ledbury at August 17, 2006 07:46 AM

If Walmart is so bad, why do enough people shop there for them to make so much money?

Yes, their workers are poorly paid, but their low prices mean that others can by more goods for the same amount of money. That's a benefit for a lot of working class people - perhaps a reason why so many shop there.

The best strategy against Walmart would be to allow them to build their stores, and THEN boycott them, trying to convince people not to shop there. That would have a far greater impact on Walmart's bottom line. As it is, trying to stop Walmarts from moving in is elitism personified (are you reading this, Sam Adams?).

Posted by: Gordon at August 17, 2006 09:18 AM

> The Dems should spend less time chastizing
> Wal-Mart and more time chastizing Al Qaeda.

Yeah, because Lamont and Dean have been in league with OBL for years now. What a dittohead. Pass the kool-aid please.

How about the Repubs? Mr. "I-don't-think-much-about-Osama" Bush is creating 1000 new terrorists per day with Iraq and his hamfisted Lebanon/Israel policies. Meanwhile UK citizens are forming cells in Shropshire while we "take-it-to-them-there" in Iraq.

Next time try thinking for yourself, your buddies at the gun club don't think things thru...

Posted by: gene at August 17, 2006 09:24 AM

Personally, I refuse to do business with a company that refuses to condemn the communist country where all its products are made for forcing its citizens to have abortions. I find it surprising that more conservatives won't join me in this.

Posted by: Dave J. at August 17, 2006 09:56 AM

"If Walmart is so bad, why do enough people shop there for them to make so much money?"

Well, having democratic candidates foolishly oppose them doesn't exactly make them good. People shop there because the prices are low. Walmart profits in part by externalizing many of their costs. That's not a good thing for anyone other than Walmart executives and shareholders.

Posted by: Allan L. at August 17, 2006 12:07 PM

OK, then my counter is to be consistent and go after all the mom-n-pop places that pay min wage and no benes. I think you'll lose count after the first, 6 million or so.

Man, the Republicans are handing this election to them with a gift wrap and they are still blowing it. I am so glad the Deaniacs are doing strategy now.

Posted by: Steve at August 17, 2006 12:08 PM

Exactly Steve. What about all the nurseries, landscapers, contractors, restaurants and janitorial services who pay crappy wages and provide no bennies? The anti-WalMart crowd would have to subsist on roots and twigs and live in grass huts if they were to boycott all industries who pay substandard wages.

Of course, if WalMart had union labor, Dems wouldn't be jumping all over them.

Posted by: Chris McMullen at August 17, 2006 12:29 PM

Yes, their workers are poorly paid

Based on what? I know someone who works at the Klamath Falls Walmart as a checker. She makes $13.50/hr plus full bennies that cover her and her daughter. Pretty darn good pay for someone with just a HS diploma in Klamath Falls. Hell, for just about anywhere.

Posted by: Jon at August 17, 2006 12:34 PM

I do agree with some of you say "If Walmart not good why people going there to shop" I think Walmart can go on either way middle class or.., some area againt walmart to build there store maybe their price will effect other store in this areas. In business you never know.

Posted by: trung at August 17, 2006 01:10 PM

All this griping about WalMart. So how does Freddy's compare? Last I heard not much better, but I'll let someone fill me in.

Posted by: Michael at August 17, 2006 02:15 PM

Not that I think very highly of Wal-Mart, but this article is citing Dem politicians that aren't regarded very highly with informed Dem voters. Joe Biden?? Evan Bayh?? Hillary Clinton?? I hate to tell you people, these guys are the furthest thing from "Dean Democrats"... They actually resemble triangulating Lieberman Dems. Fox News Dems, if you will (except Hillary)...

I pay close attention to the national political picture via blogs and news sites, and this was the first time I'd heard that Dems would make Wal-Mart an election year issue. Color me suspicious.

Also... most people who dislike Wal-Mart understand they're not the only corporation guilty of shipping our jobs overseas, killing small biz, or paying a low wage. This does not undermine the fact that Wal-Mart is a very deserving lightning-rod for everything wrong with our retail economy at this present time. They know exactly why they have a giant target on their back, and that's exactly why they have assembled a massive PR machine. See, paint Goliath as a victim to David's terrorism. Come on America, let's shed a tear for poor Wal-Mart!

Posted by: TKrueg at August 17, 2006 03:29 PM

I've never gotten around to shopping at WalMart, but I will now.

Posted by: Cousin Jim at August 17, 2006 04:21 PM

I've never gotten around to pulling my hair out, but I will now.

Posted by: TKrueg at August 17, 2006 04:30 PM

An incongruency:

Wal Mart products = come mostly from China
IKEA products = come almost exclusively from China

Wal Mart = low pay
IKEA = low pay

Wal Mart = bad because it causes traffic
IKEA = bad because it causes traffic

(When an IKEA opened in April 2000 in Emeryville, California, the traffic was so severe that traffic lights had no effect. Emeryville police were forced to manually direct traffic daily for three months. Also, when an IKEA opened in Tempe, Arizona in November 2004, the traffic jams on Interstate 10 were so severe that the Arizona Department of Public Safety had to close the nearest off-ramp to the store just to spread out the traffic among other nearby off-ramps).

So why all the IKEA worshipping and not Wal Mart?

Posted by: got logic? at August 17, 2006 06:31 PM

"This does not undermine the fact that Wal-Mart is a very deserving lightning-rod"

This whole free market thing realy bothers you doesn't it? I apologize in advance for the unwashed masses having a choice in where they buy.

Posted by: Steve at August 17, 2006 07:08 PM

IMHO what bothers some is what Wal-Mart symbolizes, a decline in the greatness of America. In the 50s and 60s, the great companies of America were ATT and General Motors, but now, going by the numbers, it's Wal-Mart. For the idealists, it is a sorry replacement.

Wal-Mart is big and efficient, employing lots of Americans at low wages. Each of its cash registers functions as a portal for the wealth of American to flow to a certain few foreign countries, ever raising our trade deficit.

The Dems are stupid to pick on Wal-Mart. The company is not intrinsically bad; it's just doing what stores of this type, the heavy discounters, do. They have always been around, but never consolidated to Wal-Mart's proportions.

K-Mart, Target, and Sears work the same way.

Posted by: Matt Jusinski at August 17, 2006 08:06 PM

As I said before, Wal-Mart is the deserving lighting rod... Target and Ikea operate on quaint economies compared to Wal-Mart, so obviously they don't get as much scrutiny. Wal-Mart has over 6600 stores worldwide, compared to Target's 1447, and IKEA's scary 235. Their revenue is just 16% and 5% of Wal-Mart's, respectively. IKEA is a furniture and housewares retailer, Wal-Mart is a monster in that category and every other retail sector. They own 9% of all retail sales and 20% of all Grocery.

I'm really amused with the idol-worship of Wal-Mart, and the gleeful and frequent use of this "model of automated efficiency" talking point. It's like the collective "F--- You" from shareholders has been adopted by Wal-groupies as a anti-union screed. Sure they hire a lot of people, but what do you expect, it's a worldwide empire. Most aren't living wage jobs anyway. But hey America, you've picked one hell of a sacred cow.

Every Wal-Mart is a 800lb gorilla in every community it operates... In many parts of this country, a store may be the only place a family shops, because Wal-Mart does business in so many sectors. Anything that monolithic (or mono-POLY) deserves some scrutiny and criticism, if it's bigger than the GDP of most countries...

Posted by: TKrueg at August 17, 2006 10:12 PM

"Anything that monolithic (or mono-POLY) deserves some scrutiny and criticism"

That is your best argument, they are big and we need to scrutinize them? Now you are sounding like the right wingnuts - "There are lots of illegal aliens, Muslims (fill-in-the-blank), I really think we need to scrutinize them."

If WalMart is breaking the law, go after them hammer-n-tongs with my blessing. They happen to run business more efficiently and better than a lot of stores.

If its Walmart's 'tude (in your eyes), then go to CoP BDS and try to get a permit and they'll shovel it out by the truckload.

They are the shopping place of choice for a lot of lower income people. They give people jobs instead of letting them sit on welfare or working for mom-n-pop outfits at min wage and no benes.

I am not really understanding why you/Mr Adams have such an animus to WalMart in particular. Give me something unique to WalMart that justifies this villification.

Posted by: Steve at August 18, 2006 07:44 AM

The sheer size and reach of Wal-Mart requires some scruitiny... some want to say it's punishment for being successful, but I see it as responsibility and accountability. They are the sole provider of most goods to a large part of the country, so their business practices are going to be under the microscope.

If you believe in a free market, you appreciate choices and options to create competition. Wal-Mart isn't the shining example of this, as much as the Wal-groupies want to believe. Low prices are achieved through strong-arming and throwing it's weight around. I should know... I worked with their corporate office and closely with their suppliers such as GE and Lights of America. Most people don't see what goes on behind closed doors... manufacturers often lose money just to stay in Wal-Mart's good graces. It's like a defensive move, losing money just to ensure you have shelf space that your competition doesn't.

It's a race to the bottom for Wal-Mart, their customers, and their vendors...

Posted by: TKrueg at August 18, 2006 09:04 AM

Yeah, let's go after Microsoft too! How dare they own 97% of the computer OS market!

Posted by: Chris McMullen at August 18, 2006 10:21 AM

It's like a defensive move, losing money just to ensure you have shelf space that your competition doesn't.

Thats why they call it "competition."
If you dont like it, sell your wares someplace else, or go out of business.
With all the bitching about Walmart, its not the only place left in existence. Other chains are still in business. So I guess its not too bad.
And they operate the same way..."low" pay, limited bennies, etc. And any position lower than management is not intended to be a career.
You dont even have to graduate HS to work there, why should they pay more than $9 or $10/hr?

Posted by: Jon at August 18, 2006 10:23 AM

"I see it as responsibility and accountability."

OK, let's see WalMart:
- Pays corporate income taxes.
- Hires workers and pays them and they pay income taxes.
- They offer goods at a lower price to people who have limited budgets.

Sorry, I forgot they don't raise the dead or heal the sick. Again, give me something besides size unique to WalMart.

Times change, welcome to the 21st century. These "problems" are not caused by WalMart, if anything WM is symptomatic.

Posted by: Steve at August 18, 2006 02:46 PM

Somebody's watching and listening.

Here's in effect what Biden and NYT are inadvertenly saying to 12+million immigrants:

1. welcome to our country
2. we know some of you arrive poor (so you likely shop at Wal Mart, a successful American company who sells everything you need, without it you couldn't make it and thus it means alot to you)
3. so start working hard and help grow the company whereever it is you find work
4. because someday that lucky company might be huge (Wal Mart) because of your sacrifice and love and fearless ownership who kept taking risks in the marketplace to keep the doors open
5. but when it reaches what we deem to be "huge" status we will publicly damn your company for that success and point out faults we see while withholding any praise for not first of all not failing and secondly for actually earning the trust of milllions of less fortunate consumers
6. btw, we want your vote

Posted by: got logic? at August 18, 2006 05:48 PM

You're right... they are symptomatic of the bigger problem. In my job, I also worked with Home Depot, Lowe's, Costco, and other national retailers, as well as their lighting and electrical vendors. Home Depot acts with as much arrogance as Wal-Mart, forcing manufacturers into razor-thin margins and even losses, all because their near-monopoly on nationwide distrobution translates to a do-or-die proposition. On top of this, they force vendors to throw lavish parties for thousands, provide all-expenses paid vacations and/or golf trips, purchase arena skyboxes, or participate in ambitious co-sponsorships with little or no return.

This isn't my opinion, this is my sanitized account from EVERY vendor who works with these guys. And every indication is that I'm only scratching the surface here...

Why does size matter? Because when you're THAT big, you have incredible sway in the international market and in your lobbying power. The natural forces of the free market give way to something artificial, contrived, and detrimental to the general economy. That $2.65 you just saved on a new dining chair? Congratu-effing-lations... some company had to lay off a thousand people because of that. Or send the jobs overseas. Now Target, Kmart, Costco, and every other big box store has to source their crap from the same Chinese factories just to keep up.

Hooray for capitalism and the free market? Nah, this isn't what anyone bargained for except the 2% who count on profiting at everyone's expense...

Posted by: TKrueg at August 18, 2006 05:59 PM

..."This does not undermine the fact that Wal-Mart is a very deserving lightning-rod for everything wrong with our retail economy at this present time."

So, other companies do all the same Evil Stuff (c) WalMart does, but you persecute WalMart alone because... well, because they're WalMart.

Thanks for providing a neat encapsulation of most WalMart haters' motivations: "There's no reason, aside from bigotry. We just hate WalMart."

Posted by: Sasquatch at August 18, 2006 08:26 PM


Either you didn't read the entire thread or you oversimplified my arguments to talk-radio levels. Either way, you fail to address an argument on its merits (Typical conservative response, nice try).

The tone of your post suggests an author with a emotional attachment to a cheap supply of Doritos, not one who bothers himself with unpleasant realities. Either prove me wrong or go back to your American Idol fantasy land...

Posted by: TKrueg at August 18, 2006 08:48 PM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]


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F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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