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Wal Mart is a leader in what's wrong with American retail

By Mark Barroso
Posted Thursday, September 21, 2006

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Chatham County, NC - As a leader of the Chatham anti-Wal Mart group, I must respond to ChathamResident's defense of the Beast of Bentonville. They made some good points; but as is often the case here, it boils down to really hating the people (who go to "hippie music festivals, overpriced natural food stores and trendy cafés...") who have a different point of view.

Well, I'll never persuade CR's or others who personalize complex issues, but I would like to direct the rest of you to our website, We haven't updated it in about a year, but the information and arguments against Wal Mart are still valid.

I admire ChathamResident's concern for the working poor of Chatham County and acknowledge that for some, Wal Mart's prices are an attractive solution to their every day needs. I would be the last person to tell a single mother to pay more for diapers when she can't afford her rent.

But Wal Mart is not the long term solution for poor folk in Chatham, or elsewhere. Yes, Wal Mart is not the only culprit, but they have pioneered pressuring American manufacturers to move jobs to China; weakened or killed local ownership of retail businesses; suppressed wages in the retail sector; asked taxpayers to subsidize their construction and operation of stores; and transferred wealth out of communities. And on it goes.

The tax revenue argument is a false one. Whether you buy underwear at Wal Mart or another store the same tax dollar goes to the county coffers. And nice try on the environmental (shorter drives) front: Did you ever wonder why there aren't more alternatives to shop nearby? Could it be that the regional Goliaths put them out of business?

Did you know that Wal Mart ranks near the bottom of philanthropic giving, as a percentage of their profits?

Finally, CR, take it from someone who saw all his daughter's worldly possessions swept away by runoff in a flood, it's pretty ignorant and cruel to say that poor people shouldn't concern themselves with such matters as a wall of water washing themselves down the creek.

To argue that Wal Mart is the answer for poor folk in Chatham is like saying moonshine is a cure for a toothache. It may make you forget about it for awhile, but in the long run, it ain't going to help much.

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