Thursday, August 24, 2006
A Political Problem in Aisle 5
As anyone who lives in the ‘burbs knows, the all-American pastime on Saturdays isn’t necessarily a trip to the baseball diamond. For many of us, it’s a trip to the local Wal-Mart. This is particularly true as the back-to-school season is in full swing.
So, it’s a little bit disconcerting to know that, as families across the U.S. are loading up their shopping carts, the elite in the Democratic Party are scowling. While many of us are concerned about al Quaida, a number of Dems have identified Wal-Mart as public enemy number one this political season.
As far as I know, the CEO of Wal-Mart isn’t running for President, but don’t tell that to Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. of Delaware, a presumed Presidential contender. In Iowa recently, Biden delivered what the New York Times described as a “blistering attack” against Wal-Mart.
In addition to serving America’s need for clothes, toothbrushes, and other luxuries, Wal-Mart happens to be the nation’s biggest private employer. In other words, the company now has more than a million people on its work force. This is a business that is giving jobs to folks—but, according to the bizarre calculations of Democratic leaders, Wal-Mart is bad news for the economy.
Senator Biden suggests that Wal-Mart doesn’t care about “the fate of middle-class people.” But Wal-Mart does business with middle-class people everyday. I don’t know how often the Washington elite shop at Wal-Mart, but the average-income families that I know shop there all the time, because that’s where they can get the best deals for their dollars.
Granted, chances are you won’t earn a six-figure salary at Wal-Mart. But you can earn a paycheck. And you can gain the type of experience that will help you apply for jobs in the future which require more responsibility and will earn you more money. That is, after all, the American way—to start out on the first floor of business and work your way up to the boardroom.
And, speaking of boardrooms, isn’t it curious that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was a member of Wal-Mart’s board, returned a campaign contribution from the company to protest Wal-Mart’s health benefits? That, apparently, was the start of the unofficial Democratic campaign against the company.
Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana has claimed that the anti-Wal-Mart effort is not anti-business. But, when you attack one of the nation’s biggest businesses, it stands to reason that people are really going to wonder whether you have the best interests of business at heart.
No one can be in favor of corporate corruption…bad management decisions…and mistreatment of employees. But the fact is that, without business, many of us would not have jobs. Of course, that concept is mystifying to career politicians who do not have to meet a weekly payroll or deal with constant competition. Their jobs may be safe—but the average taxpayer’s job isn’t.
I may not agree with every corporate decision made at Wal-Mart headquarters, but there can be little argument that the company is a business success story. If it were not so successful, it wouldn’t be under attack. In fact, a national poll showed that Americans generally support Wal-Mart—an attitude which seems to be borne out in the company’s sales. The company posted an $11 billion profit last year.
In a letter written to Iowa Wal-Mart workers, company officials said they “would never suggest to you how to vote, but we have an obligation to tell you when politicians are saying something about your company that isn’t true. After all, you are Wal-Mart.”
And a lot of us are Wal-Mart shoppers—whether we want to admit it or not.