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Philosophy & Action Essays
Volume XI - Essay #94: May 2011

"Wal-Mart Bad, Local Businesses Good"

        Radio entertainer and author Garrison Keillor said awhile back that "Wal-Mart kills small towns like we used to kill the buffalo", and Wal-Mart has not stopped.
        The imminent closing of the Alco store in Belén, New Mexico is directly related to Wal-Mart's policies. The Alco store in nearby Socorro closed just months after the Wal-Mart opened there in 2005.
        We can't blame Wal-Mart for everything, though. The three car dealers in Belén disappeared two years ago – Baca Auto shut down, Auge Brothers sold their showroom and service building to the school district, and Tillery moved from Rio Communities to Los Lunas on the I-25.
        But empty store fronts do indeed abound in Valencia County, due to the economic policies of Wal-Mart and the Bush administration. Family-owned businesses teeter as county residents patronize the enemy – to the detriment of their friends and neighbors. And the local stores that are still open rarely have full parking lots.

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        Why is Wal-Mart under constant attack or resistence by pro-labor, pro-America, and pro-fair deal folks? Here is a sampling:

••       Wal-Mart imports often-shoddy goods from China, made by slave labor, which intentionally eliminates jobs for American workers.

••       Wal-Mart's policy is to play King Kong and demand special incentives from local governments to build facilities. That all took place in Valencia County before I moved here, but whichever city and county officials gave away our local tax revenues should be ashamed.

••       When opening new stores, Wal-Mart policy is to undercut prices until local businesses collapse, then pull their advertising from the local paper so that it too folds, preventing the people from having access to freedom of opinion. (That likely did not happen here simply because there is no local radio and TV media in Valencia County for Wal-Mart to bully by threatening to cancel their ads.)

••       Wal-Mart's labor policies are notorious, and readers here have no doubt heard tales from their neighbors and family of the workers fired for saying the word 'union' or because they had too many raises. (Wal-Mart practice is to fire longtime loyal employees and replace them with untrained and scared new employees at minimum wage and zero benefits.)

••       One Wal-Mart policy that is seldom understood is that each and every Wal-Mart store sucks money out of the local economy. The recent hoohaw about New Mexico Gov. Martinez and film production incentives pointed to the residual effects of movie dollars spent here, with the usual statistic being that each dollar spent repeats thru the economy 10 to 12 times. Wal-Mart policy is that the local economic effect of store revenue repeats zero times.
        Every dollar paid at the counter at every Wal-Mart store on all 365 days of the year is sent by pouch to headquarters in Arkansas. Every day, every store, every dollar. Bills like electric and water and taxes are paid from Arkansas. Payroll checks draw on Arkansas banks. (Readers who have paid Wal-Mart by check can read the bank of deposit on the back of each cancelled check.)
        The intention is that all revenue is kept out of the local economy. As local businesses dry up, Wal-Mart expects to rule more and more of the economy.

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        It is always sad to see a local gas station or clothing store or restaurant close, especially if one knows the owners or employees. But the larger problem is that Wal-Mart is only the locally most visible of the robber baron corporations.
        The national economy is likewise being sucked dry. The price of gas for every reader's car has given the oil companies record-breaking profits – extortion without representation.

        There is a pile of three trillion dollars in cash (likely invested in gold and eurodollars) sitting in European banks, keeping American wages low and keeping loans tight and keeping taxes unpaid.
        One trillion belongs to the insurance industry, another trillion belongs to the pharmaceutical industry, the third trillion belongs to the financial industry (banks and Wall Street hooligans.).
        The last such 'tax holiday' was in 2004, when U.S corporations were allowed to pay a mere 5¼% levy (instead of 35%) on $362 billion in repatriated foreign profits. The 80% tax reduction cost U.S. tax payers $70 billion.
        These trillions of offshore dollars are being held hostage while lobbyists and the fascist U.S. Chamber of Commerce pressure Congress to reduce taxes paid on cash brought to America by corporations. Their record-breaking unearned wealth is swelling on the backs of labor, and all that ill-gotten gain is not enough.

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        The invisible managers of the Belén Supercenter Store #1414, the Los Lunas Supercenter Store #3596, and Distribution Center No. 6084670 in Los Lunas may choose to rebut this letter (in the local newspaper), but they had better supply verifiable facts. "We never do that" statements are merely public relations spin in the face of cold, hard facts, which we can expect to be supplied by fellow readers.. (What do you want to bet: The newspaper will receive a P/R letter from Arkansas with no factual content.)

        Meanwhile, the best thing that Valencia County residents - and others across America and across the Planet - can do for the local economy is to boycott Wal-Mart – that is, not set foot in their stores – and buy from local businesses. The dollars can then percolate 10 to 12 times thru the local economy and increase tax revenue and create jobs, all of that.

        Wouldn't it be cool if Wal-Mart shut down and Alco and Bealls and all the rest re-opened?

[copyright 2011 by Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved]


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