Lots of people are mad at Wal-Mart.
The AFL-CIO charges that Wal-Mart is using its lobbying power to derail security improvements at U.s. ports. “Wal- Mart, America’s largest importer, is using its clout to block new port security measures,” contends the labor federation in a recent report, “Unchecked: How Wal-Mart Uses Its Might to Block Port Security.”
It’s not that Wal-Mart is pro-terrorist. It’s just that the company is opposed to beefing up inspections and making containers more secure because such safety measures could produce a drop in profits, according to the AFL-CIO.
New York City is going to die someday, one surmises, because Wal-Mart is too cheap – and because too many of us are trying to save a buck by buying Chinese-made blinking reindeers at Christmas.
Farther below the belt, the American Family Association charges that Wal-Mart is too gay. The accusation was leveled after Wal-Mart placed posters of Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, the stars of “Brokeback Mountain,” at the front of its stores to promote the film’s DVD release.
Asserting that Wal-Mart is “trying to help normalize homosexuality” Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the 3 million-member American Family Association, asked Wal- Mart’s customers to demand that the DVD be removed from the store’s shelves.
It wasn’t even a blockbuster movie, so if Wal-Mart isn’t trying to push an agenda, why would they put it at the front door?” asked Sharp. How many copies are they going to have to sell to recoup the losses of customers who they’ve offended and will no longer shop at Wal-Mart?”
If the boycott doesn’t work, perhaps some DVDs could be ceremoniously set on fire. The American Family Association describes itself as an organization for “people who are tired of cursing the darkness and who are ready to light a bonfire.”
But where does it stop? Remember when Jerry Fal- well concluded that one of the Teletubbies was gay, i.e., Tinky Winky, the purple one with the handbag and a triangular antenna on his head? Falwell, outing Tinky, declared, “He’s purple, the gay color, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle, the gay pride symbol.” Plus the purse.
“Where they bum books, they end up burning human beings,” wrote Heinrich Heine in his 1821 play “Almansor.” Just over a century later, the Nazis did exactly as Heine had predicted, targeting, among others, those who might well prefer purple to brown when it comes to picking a national shirt color.
In any case, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jolanda Stewart replied that the company wasn’t pushing any specific lifestyles in its DVD department, just responding to consumer demand. “The fact that we are offering the movie,” she explained, “is not an endorsement of the content of the movie or any specific belief.”
In other words, a copy of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” on the shelves at Wal-Mart doesn’t mean the company is clandestinely pushing an agenda that favors bipolar rebellions.
A more widespread complaint against Wal-Mart charges that the giant retailer comes in and wipes out Main Street, putting an end to all those mom-‘n-pops that sell everything from hammers to salmon.
The other side of the story is that salmon is no longer a high-end delicacy, beyond the reach of the average household. With fresh fillets selling for $4.50 a pound in Wal-Mart’s display cases, the price for an 8-ounce dinner portion is 44 cents lower than the current price of a cheeseburger Happy Meal at McDonald’s.
The end result is better nutrition in America, especially among lower-income households, and less poverty and unemployment in Wal-Mart’s primary supply regions in southern Chile.
Altogether, Wal-Mart’s prices, according to a study by MIT economist Jerry Hausman and USDA economist Ephraim Leibtag, are saving U.S. consumers more than $50 billion a year – money that’s spent elsewhere, boosting volume at other businesses and creating new enterprises, including mom-‘n-pops.
The net effect? The director of economic policy for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, NYU economist Jason Fur- man, contends that Wal-Mart is “a progressive success story.” With Wal-Mart’s prices ranging from 8°k to 40% lower than people would pay elsewhere, the increase in buying power that Wal-Mart delivers, disproportionately to lower-income families, more than offsets any reduction that the company has allegedly produced in the earnings of retail workers.