Same job, different uniform.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

De gustibus non est disputandum.

About taste we cannot argue.

I dislike Wal-Mart. I am enamored with quirky, quality and vogue, none of which Wal-Mart offers. I have little patience for the mammoth-sized stores, the crowded parking lots and cheap wares. Even Wal-Mart's appeal to the masses is a turn-off to me.

But this is no reason to protest the launch of a Wal-Mart in my community especially in light of its obvious benefits, namely jobs and affordable groceries.

Ken Blanchard, an Arkansas native, at South Dakota Politics remembers his childhood haunt before there was a Wal-Mart.

"...I admit that I don't know much about how Wal-Mart affects "organic urban communities." I have no experience of inner city poverty. But I know small town poverty reasonably well...Most summers for the last 30 years I have gone camping and back-packing in the Ozark National Forest, in North Central Arkansas. The last sizable town before Highway 14 climbs up into the pines was Mountainview. When I began that habit, in my teens, it was a small hole in the cliff-face with a small claim to fame: it was the site of the Ozark Mountain Folk Festival. There were two small stores there where we could stop for batteries, ice, and other essentials. They were expensive, and there wasn't much to choose from. When Wal-Mart came in it very quickly drove them out of business.

But from our point of view it was an immediate improvement. The goods were cheaper, and a full range of camping supplies was available. This was the most important thing that Wal-Mart brought to Mountainview: you could get stuff in town that was formerly only to be found hours away in larger communities. I also noticed that Wal-Mart employed a lot more people than the two dollar stores had. I don't know what those stores paid, but I bet it wasn't a lot more than Wal-Mart did. I know that there were a lot of folk living in that beautiful area who would rather have stuck around if they could get any work at all, and WM provided that.

Another thing I noticed is that as soon as Wal-Mart set down, the town began to grow. Folk from a wide area came in to shop instead of going to Little Rock or somewhere else. And while they were there, they liked to get a bite to eat. Fast food joints sprouted like mushrooms after a good summer rain, and then a catfish house or two. There is no reasonable doubt that Wal-Mart was good for the town as a whole."

Like Mr. Blanchard I have to rely on outside information and very limited experience to understand inner city poverty, but I bet most Idahoans understand rural poverty.

Which is why it's a mystery that Red State Rebels, an attractive and well-written left-leaning blog, has posted a reminder that the "Ada County Dems are hosting a benefit screening of Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices at 5 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday (Jan. 29), at The Flicks in downtown Boise." (View the trailer here.)

There is too much evidence that Wal-Mart is good for low-income families to defend our local Democratic party hosting a fundraiser attacking the company.

Postscript: I have just been introduced to a handful of Idaho-based blogs. Indulge me while I link to a few of them.

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Blogger Unknown said...

My dad was a union worker. After my parents divorced, we were pretty poor. Most of my upbringing was spent with lower middle class and the working poor. I went through college and was a professional through my adult life. I worked 20 years, got laid off and was able to stay home for a while. But THEN (getting to one of my points) I went to work for Target and got to see how the other half lives. Super big retail establishments may be good for people, but things are still difficult - like affording health care, child care, etc. A job is better than no job at all and the economic picture may be better - but the workers are not interested in the 'economics' of the situation. They only know how difficult it is to pay the bills. Many, many are not full time, so don't qualify for benefits. Oh, and after working there almost a year - let me tell you - the lowest paid people in this country (minimum wage and barely above) are the hardest working. As usual, I am seeing both sides of the story.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Blogger girlfriday said...

I really value that perspective. Those are excellent points. In fact, they're so good, they illustrate one of the problems with the "Wal-Mart is the Evil Empire" school of thought: a lot of hardworking middle-class people get their start in retail.

I've been working since I was 15 and I've only held one job that provided health insurance. It must have cost my self-employed boss a small fortune. Even today I am a fairly good wage earner (read: a better job) for a single person in Idaho and I don't have health insurance. But I did start my working career in a pizza shop, then a cafe.

For better or worse, benefits are a luxury for everyone, not just the lowest wage earners.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blogger saraeanderson said...

There's a Wal-Mart considering a move to Moscow. I've been writing about it, the first part here.
I don't care if Wal-Mart is ugly or sells things that I don't want to buy. I do care if people work at living wages or have health benefits, etc.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


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