August 23, 2006


Democrats' Shameful Wal-Mart Demonization (LA Times, August 23, 2006)

The gusto with which even moderate Democrats are bashing Wal-Mart is bound to backfire. Not only does it take the party back to the pre-Clinton era, when Democrats were perceived as reflexively anti-business, it manages to make Democrats seem like out-of-touch elitists to the millions of Americans who work and shop at Wal-Mart.

One reason the Democrats may have a tin ear on this subject is demographic. Certainly most of the party's urban liberal activists are far removed from the Wal-Mart phenomenon. The retailer has thrived mainly in small towns and exurbs, which is one reason a Zogby poll found that three-quarters of weekly Wal-Mart shoppers voted for President Bush in 2004, and why 8 out of 10 people who have never shopped at Wal-Mart voted for John Kerry. Denouncing the retailer may make sense if the goal is to woo primary activists, but it's a disastrous way to reach out to the general electorate. Or to govern, for that matter.

In his new book, Welcome to the Homeland, NPR correspondent Brian Mann tries to explain rural America to urban America and why the former has come to wield such political power over the latter. The Democrats' derangement as regards Wal-Mart--a central institution of life outside cities--suggests there's much 'splainin' to do.

Forget the World Bank, Try Wal-Mart (Michael Strong, 22 Aug 2006, Tech Central Station)

Between 1990 and 2002 more than 174 million people escaped poverty in China, about 1.2 million per month.[1] With an estimated $23 billion in Chinese exports in 2005 (out of a total of $713 billion in manufacturing exports),[2] Wal-Mart might well be single-handedly responsible for bringing about 38,000 people out of poverty in China each month, about 460,000 per year.

There are estimates that 70 percent of Wal-Mart's products are made in China.[3] One writer vividly suggests that "One way to think of Wal-Mart is as a vast pipeline that gives non-U.S. companies direct access to the American market." [4] Even without considering the $263 billion in consumer savings that Wal-Mart provides for low-income Americans, or the millions lifted out of poverty by Wal-Mart in other developing nations, it is unlikely that there is any single organization on the planet that alleviates poverty so effectively for so many people.[5] Moreover, insofar as China's rapid manufacturing growth has been associated with a decline in its status as a global arms dealer, Wal-Mart has also done more than its share in contributing to global peace.[6] [...]

An unreflective passion for social justice may be one of the biggest obstacles to creating peace and prosperity in the 21st century. While there are most certainly factory owners in China whom we would rightly regard as criminal in their treatment of their workers, it is very important not to confuse these incidents with the phenomenon of globalization. It is a good thing that Wal-Mart is encouraging more humane standards in its supplier's factories. And yet it is also important to remember that Wal-Mart's "vast pipeline that gives non-U.S. companies direct access to the American market" is a vast pipeline of prosperity for the hundreds of millions of rural Chinese whose lives are more difficult than we can imagine.

Act locally, think globally: Shop Wal-Mart.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2006 8:15 AM

It would be fun to do a poll of liberals in New York City and find out both if they hate Wal-Mart and what is it from first-hand experience they hate most about the company, since the same people have successfully battled for the past four years at keeping the retailer out of opening stores in the outer boroughs of the city.

Posted by: John at August 23, 2006 9:03 AM

"when Democrats were perceived as reflexively anti-business"

"make(s)Democrats seem like out-of-touch elitists"

Well, at least the LA Times is getting warmer, but the answer is staring them in the face and they still do not see it!

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at August 23, 2006 9:48 AM

At least the dems have an excuse for being out of touch with rural America. They're urban. The so-called Crunchy Conservatives, who supposedly represent rustic rural values and who also demonize WalMart, are totally out to lunch.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 23, 2006 2:55 PM

The crunchy cons are a party of one.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2006 3:18 PM

Jonah Goldberg's review of Dreher's book pretty much drove the stake in all the way. Rod may recover by about 2016.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 23, 2006 10:20 PM