Thursday, August 24, 2006

Okay, Cal... that guy's wrong too.

Cal Thomas writes today that it's unfair that liberal bloggers have been so hard on Virginia Senator George Allen for referring to his an Indian-American worker for a rival campaign as a "Macaca," which is a racist term that Europeans use to call people monkeys. Thomas downplays Allen's comments by removing all of the content, by the way, (he also told the young worker, "Welcome to America."

Thomas then spins to the story of Andrew Young, head of "Working Families For Wal-Mart," who said that the mom and pop stores that Wal-Mart closes down tend to rip off their customers by selling them overpriced goods, bad meats, and wilted vegetables. Young went on to say that the owners of such stores have tended to be Jewish, Korean or Arab and that they "sold out and moved to Florida." Okay, Thomas is right that Young was out of line.

But, if you put the racial stuff aside, something seemed familiar to me about Young's argument -- the notion that the "Mom and Pop" stores basically overcharge captive communities is one that has its origins at Wal-Mart. The group, "Working Families for Wal-Mart," is Wal-Mart supported. Young has since resigned his post, but had he not included the racial comments, he likely would have been fine. One of Wal-Mart's arguments in favor of itself, after all, is that the big box retailers are good for communities because they bring prices down to levels that a myriad of smaller stores just can't match.

Thomas wants to focus on the racial part. But, just as he took George Allen's comment out of context in order to minimize it, he's taken Young's comment out of context in order to ignore the fact that it's just an example of old-hat Wal-Mart propaganda that probably says less about racism than it does about what happens when a civil rights activist takes a job as a corporate shill.

*Sorry for no links, am traveling.*


At 1:54 PM , Anonymous P. said...

And it’s a valid claim by Wal Mart supporters. Why punish a company for being successful at doing what it does best—offering low prices? After all, Wal Mart doesn’t exploit its advantage by raising prices back up after the competition is decimated. If local retailers can’t compete, tough shit. You're telling me it's Wal Mart's responsibility to subsidize its competitors? It’s an open market, baby. Besides, this is a controversy that’s been raging since department stores like Sears Roebuck first appeared a century ago.

It’s a seductive argument, but ultimately naïve. It’s not even the right set of questions and assumptions. Of course, Wal Mart has a right to compete, but Wal Mart has reached an unprecedented level of scale which necessitates consideration of other costs. There’s only so many savings that can be squeezed out of streamlining the supply line. After that, you get into a hazy ethical place. If you don’t mind that your $5 t-shirt comes at the cost of exploited employees getting their health care on your tax dollar, or retail and supply jobs disappearing, or that it gets made in off-shore factories where cents can be shaved by using children and ignoring environmental impacts, then, by all means, buy that shirt. I get so tired of Wal Mart enthusiasts ignoring the social costs of their cheap products.


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