Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wal-Mart as a Political Diversion Wal-Mart as a Political Diversion

Economist Robert Samuelson in: Wal-Mart as a Political Diversion makes some more points about the silliness of so many Democrats attacking Wal-Mart. He points out some of the economic benefits that the company has provided our economy, and then concludes with:
No company should be above public scrutiny. But much of the political criticism of Wal-Mart is shallow and, if followed, undesirable. Wal-Mart doesn't pay high wages and benefits mainly because it's in an industry (retailing) where those are rare. In 2005, average hourly wages were $10.85 for food stores, $10.63 for clothing stores and $10.84 for department stores. As General Motors and Ford are now discovering, companies that pay above-market labor costs ultimately shrink and destroy jobs. The efforts of some local governments -- notably the Maryland Legislature and Chicago City Council -- to mandate higher labor costs on Wal-Mart are shortsighted.

There may even be political pitfalls to this crusade. By Wal-Mart's estimate, 85 percent of Americans shop during the year at the chain; in opinion polls it generally receives high ratings. People are voting with their pocketbooks. On any list of major national concerns, the "Wal-Mart problem'' would not rank in the first 50. Why, then, are some leading Democratic politicians spending so much time talking about it? People who ask that question may conclude that Wal-Mart, though a tempting target as a symbol, is mostly a diversion from weightier issues where what politicians do really matters.


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