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The behemoth that is Walmart. Maybe not evil

Peter Suderman at Reason tweeted several counters to the progressive view that Walmart is inherently evil. Business Insider has posted them. I tend to agree. Walmart is so freaking huge that no matter what they do, it will have consequences. They currently emphasize renewable energy, cutting waste in packaging, and put compact florescent light bulbs into the mainstream – all of which can be considered progressive They also pay crappy and have lousy benefits. As do many other retailers.

We recently lived in Cedar City UT for two years. Without a Walmart there, goods and food would be much harder to find, and much more expensive. Plus, when a Walmart comes to a town of 30,000, Home Depot usually does do, and that helps even more.

And you can’t beat Walmart’s prices. Really. For example, to a family of four living on $25,000 a year or less, spending $25 less on groceries a week is a serious big deal.

Obama advisor Jason Furman:

A range of studies has found that Wal-Mart’s prices are 8 percent to 39 percent below the prices of its competitors.

That’s a huge savings for households in the bottom quintile, which, on average, spend 26 percent of their income on food. In fact, it is equivalent to a 6.5 percent boost in household income.

I am also upset by the rise of inequality and the relatively slow economic progress that the bottom 80 percent of Americans have made over the last several decades. I just think Wal-Mart is the wrong place to put the blame or to expect the solution.

  • http://www.facebook.com/criticalreading Critical Reading

    Doug Henwood pretty much blows this argument out of the water: http://lbo-news.com/2012/11/24/ezra-klein-thinks-constructively-about-walmart/

    • http://polizeros.com/ Bob Morris

      I just blogged about what he said

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Berry/646348126 Elizabeth Berry

    Whether Walmart is “evil” or not may be debatable. However, whether or not Walmart is a monopoly is NOT debatable. All you need to do is drive through the once thriving downtown areas of small cities with a Walmart located somewhere on its outskirts to see the damage that unfair competition of this monolith has had wrought on the Community. We already have a body of laws to deal with monopolies on the books. They are embodied in the Sherman antitrust act. We need to activate them against Walmart to protect the American public. It wouldn’t be the first time this was necessary. In the early part of the 20th century Standard Oil was broken up. This needs to happen with Walmart too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Berry/646348126 Elizabeth Berry

    Whether Walmart is “evil” or not may be debatable. However, whether or not Walmart is a monopoly is NOT debatable. All you need to do is drive through the once thriving downtown areas of small cities with a Walmart located somewhere on its outskirts to see the damage that unfair competition of this monolith has wrought on the Community. We already have a body of laws to deal with monopolies on the books. They are embodied in the Sherman antitrust act. We need to activate them against Walmart to protect the American public. It wouldn’t be the first time this was necessary. In the early part of the 20th century Standard Oil was broken up. This needs to happen with Walmart too.

    • http://polizeros.com/ Bob Morris

      Good point. But Obama won’t do it.Teddy Roosevelt built on what the Populists of the 1890’s started. That’s what we need again now. Populism in the White House

      • DJ

        Screw the White House – it’s been bought. What we need is populism in our communities. My county has a thriving local food movement *despite* Wal-Mart. Can we do more? Absolutely. And there’s an increasing awareness that much of every dollar spent at Wal-Mart goes to Arkansas, while what we spend at local businesses stays here.

        It’s interesting to note that Wal-Mart does what it does only with massive subsidies from the taxpayer. From oil exploration tax credits and farm subsidies to interstate highways, cheap petroleum and cheap mega-food are essential to its success.

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