Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton called the retail giant a “mixed blessing” in Saturday’s debate, Wal-Mart is unquestionably good for both America’s economy and America’s people. The discount super-store is unfairly singled out as the symbol of “corporate America” and all of its evils.
In reality, Wal-Mart’s greatest evil is its own success, which has made the company subject to the forces of union politics and has allowed politicians, ideologues and academics to capitalize on the retailer as a political asset as an effective scapegoat for haters. Although in the age of globalization and Enron, a degree of corporate distrust may be warranted, in this case it is certainly misdirected.
How does Wal-Mart generate its millions? By constituting such a huge market share, Wal-Mart is the only retailer capable of delivering the products and services they do at the low prices that make them affordable to the low- and middle-income individuals the company caters to. To blame the corporation for its decision to continue improving itself and its efforts to achieve its aim fully and efficiently is to spit on the American dream.
Further proof of its virtue comes in health care. The retailer has just announced its plans to install health clinics for low- and middle-income families in its stores. By 2014, the company plans to be running about 2,000 such clinics, offering a range of services at low prices with high efficiency and uncompromised quality.
Now, it is true: Profit is a motive. And it should be. It is not wrong for individuals with bright ideas to be rewarded for their efforts. The desire for profit does not negate the positive effect a company, entity or individual can have. The CEOs at Wal-Mart and many other successful companies are being handsomely rewarded, it is true… but so are the millions of people who can now afford a wealth of consumer goods that were previously out of their price range or mobility range.
For as much as you have undoubtedly heard of their unfair labor practices or poor benefits, you must also acknowledge that the company is the largest, private-sector employer in the history of the world.
Furthermore, a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that Wal-Mart is actually having a substantial effect on keeping inflation down, by as much as 15 percent or more. The study also concluded that about 12 percent of the economy’s productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s could be traced to Wal-Mart alone.
People who bought their groceries from the store – which accounts for about 20 percent of grocery sales – saved an average of 17 percent. A McKinsey & Company study determined that Wal-Mart saves shoppers as a whole more than $200 billion – an amount that far surpasses the benefits from federal programs like the Food Stamp Program, which provided $30.2 billion in fiscal year 2006, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provided $34.6 billion in 2005. These programs are aimed at the same constituency that Wal-Mart benefits most.
Could John Kerry have meant “success” when he stated in 2004 that Wal-Mart represents everything that is wrong with America? If this information comes at all as a surprise to you, you must consider whose leash the Democratic candidates are on – the unions. Because the grocery store unions are among the strongest, it makes more sense that in having to compete with Wal-Mart, they have become resentful of the massive retailer and they have not hesitated to convey that resentment to the folks in office who do their bidding.
We are educated individuals, so let’s stop playing “Blame Wal-Wart.” Wal-Mart has never put another company out of business. Never. We, as consumers, must bear responsibility for any such occurrences when we choose to pay less at Wal-Mart than next door. You need not feel too guilty, however, because according to McKinsey & Co., for every 50 retail jobs Wal-Mart might cost an area, it generates 100 more.