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Wal-Mart: A Progressive Company
Wal-Mart would make the perfect New Great Satan except for one simple fact; they are force for good. As Jason Furman, an advisor to Senator Kerry's Presidential campaign explained, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story."

Why would an advisor to a liberal Democrat become a Wal-Mart supporter? Probably because Wal-Mart has done more to benefit the working class and the poor than anyone else. In fact, Wal-Mart is one of the most important forces for poverty relief in the country.

Furman, who is not on Wal-Mart's payroll and is currently a Visiting Scholar at NYU's Graduate School of Public Service, pointed out that "Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year." Furthermore, the total savings to American consumer from the retailer's discount pricing is "possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products."

Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby noted that the savings from Wal-Mart's discounting are most important to low and moderate income families who spend a high proportion of their income on basic necessities. The article explains that the average Wal-Mart shopper earns $35,000/year, less than half of the typical Costco patron's $74,000 annual income. Lower income customers need and depend on the discount prices Wal-Mart provides.

Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart is able to offer low prices only because of vigorous efforts to reduce their own costs and their tremendously competitive work ethic.

Wal-Mart is accused of suppressing wages. However, even the most extreme estimates of supposed wage reductions are dwarfed by the benefits from Wal-Mart. As the one-time Kerry advisor also explained, "the wage suppression is so small that even its ‘victims' may be better off. Retail workers may take home less pay, but their purchasing power probably still grows thanks to Wal-Mart's low prices."

It's hard to understand just how big the Wal-Mart Benefit Effect is until you compare it with much smaller federal anti-poverty programs. For example, the over $200 billion consumers save each year from Wal-Mart discounts could be compared with the $33 billion federal food stamp program and the $40 billion earned income tax credit.

As Mallaby states, if Wal-Mart is prevented from opening new stores, the poor will be the real victims.

Wal-Mart is a company that should be loved not only by hard-nosed free-market types but also genuine liberals.
  • Click here for Washington Post article


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