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Walmart and Chatham

By Chatham resident
Posted Thursday, September 21, 2006

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Chatham County, NC - I find it interesting that the conservatives in the community should get upset at Wal-Mart for the "benefits" that we supposedly have to pay out via government subsidies when those benefits are provided thanks to liberal government policies. Wal-Mart did not institute the social welfare system that we have today, nor should they be faulted if there is something wrong with it. Quite convenient for your own conscience to shift the blame from the face in the mirror to the faceless "evil" corporation for the cost of all of those entitlements. Along the way, Wal-Mart saves the average family over $2,000 annually due to their mere existence in the marketplace. By my math, for someone living on "minimum" wage, that works out to a 16.6% raise thanks to the Waltons.

But to keep this Chatham-centric, the state and local governments are responsible for a large portion of those social welfare benefits whether it is via childcare subsidies, food and housing assistance, non-profit funding (majority of which is for the benefit of lower-income households), schools, etc. The major portion of Chatham's budget goes to these functions, and a significant portion of our budget is funded by the sales tax. Now, we can be all high and mighty and blame our perpetual budget shortfalls on the evil developers building $300,000+ golf course homes for retirees (who don't have kids in public schools, don't significantly increase the burden on law enforcement, and won't demand most of the other tax-supported social services), or we can actively pursue/support a business coming to the county that will increase the property tax base, the sales tax base, and will lower our cost of living to boot!

Whenever the Wal-Mart (it's never Target (1444 Stores in 47 States), or Whole Foods (78 new stores in just 2006 totaling 4,409,000 square feet!!!)) issue is raised there is a huge amount of emotional reaction and very little self reflection.

Chatham county supports a lot of social service programs, from CORA, the Partnership for Children, the library, Habitat, Rape Crisis Center, JOCCA, Orange Chatham housing, etc. and we have a lot of needy people that often fall through the cracks. Please explain to me how it is a bad thing that we give them jobs (even at Wal-Mart's above minimum wages), lower their costs (even with "lower" quality goods), shorten their commute to buy their necessities (even if they have to sit in traffic), simplify their lives (everything in one place, more time with work, kids, community, etc), and increase the tax base to better the services they do receive? Are you telling me that antique shops and art studios and yoga centers will top those benefits? We need more farms paying farmer wages, benefits, and taxes?

What a lot of you take for granted as quality of life in Chatham; the rural character, nice houses on big lots, arts, education, long drives in the country, hippie music festivals, overpriced "natural" food stores, trendy Cafés; is not quality for the poor, it is a dream far out of reach, often seen as wasteful luxury, and of no consequence whatsoever to their daily lives.

They don't have time to worry about the issue of mom and pop stores going out of business...they never worked for mom and pop and if they did, it was without any benefits and usually at minimum wage. They don't have time to worry about run-off, unless it's being "runned-off" their land by their landlord because they couldn't pay the rent.

If we're all about equal representation in this county, then what about their needs and feelings, wants and desires. Good intentions and high and mighty ideals don't fill bellies today, or pay the rent by the end of the month, or put gas in the car this week. Low prices, jobs, and convenience do.

 
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