The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I would really like to see change in Washington -- two strong and responsible political parties, and the emergence of two solid philosophies that would move the country forward regardless of the one chosen by the electorate. The Republicans are the party in power. Therefore, it’s encumbant upon the Democrats to stop hating President Bush long enough to clearly enunciate how they would lead the USA into the future.

And so, it is with a mixture of dismay and amusement that I read an article, written over a month ago in The New York Times. It begins: “Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, a likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, delivered a 15-minute, blistering attack to warm applause from Democrats and union organizers here on Wednesday.” Who or what was Biden attacking? No, it wasn’t the Bush Administration, or the War in Iraq, or our lack of energy independence. It was Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart!

The NYT article continues quoting Biden:
“My problem with Wal-Mart is that I don’t see any indication that they care about the fate of middle-class people,” Mr. Biden said, standing on the sweltering rooftop of the State Historical Society building here. “They talk about paying them $10 an hour. That’s true. How can you live a middle-class life on that?”

Now, I’m not trying to defend Wal-Mart’s wage policies or their medical insurance coverage or any other aspect of their business. It would be nice if they paid $25.00 an hour and provided full, company paid medical insurance to all full- and part-time employees. But then, it’s likely that their prices would have to be significantly higher and their business income and growth would shrink. But who cares?

The very people whom the Democrats purport to care about. That’s who cares.

When a new Wal-Mart opened outside Chicago (yes, the same Chicago whose Democratic city council passed a resolution to force Wal-Mart to pay higher wages and better benefits, only to be vetoed by Democratic Mayor Richard Daly), 25,000 people applied for 325 jobs. You can bet your life that the majority were “working people” who somehow felt that Wal-Mart was a decent place to work.

And yet, the Dems seem obsessed with Wal-Mart. The NYT continues:
The focus on Wal-Mart is part of a broader strategy of addressing what Democrats say is general economic anxiety and a growing sense that economic gains of recent years have not benefited the middle class or the working poor.

Their alliance with the anti-Wal-Mart campaign dovetails with their emphasis in Washington on raising the minimum wage and doing more to make health insurance affordable. It also suggests they will go into the midterm Congressional elections this fall and the 2008 presidential race striking a populist tone.

But is the Dem’s criticism of Walmart “populist” or elitist?

I submit that the vast majority of political leaders who castigate Wal-Mart rarely, if ever, shop there. I further submit that Wal-Mart’s real customers shop there regularly because of its low prices – prices that help low income households (a significant percentage of the Wal-Mart demographic) make ends meet.

George Will suggests the following about Dem’s campaign against Wal-Mart:
Liberals think their campaign against Wal-Mart is a way of introducing the subject of class into America's political argument, and they are more correct than they understand. Their campaign is liberalism as condescension. It is a philosophic repugnance toward markets because consumer sovereignty results in the masses making messes. Liberals, aghast, see the choices Americans make with their dollars and their ballots, and announce -- yes, announce -- that Americans are sorely in need of more supervision by ... liberals.

Wills’ comments may be overly harsh, but there is a condescending tone to the Dems comments about Wal-Mart. There’s nothing wrong with the party of the people striving the better the lot of “working people.” But there’s a lot wrong with demonizing a major company that has created 1.3 million jobs—most of them for the very people that the Dems sympathize with.

In the final analysis, Wal-Mart's employment practices are hard-nosed and not all that generous for its employees. But the company saves an estimated $200 billion for its tens of millions of customers. That’s $200 billion that working families can use to better their lot in life. It seems to me that the Dems would be better if they stopped trying to find villains and made a real effort to define their path to the future.