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Montana may stop subsidizing Wal-Mart's profits!
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Feb 16, 2005, 01:28 PM
 
The legislators of Montana get it!

http://money.cnn.com/2005/02/16/news...ex.htm?cnn=yes

Montana to levy tax on Wal-Mart?
Lawmakers debate whether behemoth retailers should pay to offset welfare costs for low-paid workers.
February 16, 2005: 7:45 AM EST

MISSOULA, Montana (Reuters) - Montana's state legislature is targeting the big-box megastores that have taken the place of the old Western general store, weighing a special tax to offset welfare costs for low-paid employees of the retailers.

A bill up for debate Tuesday calls for taxing retailers like Wal-Mart (Research), Target (Research) and Costco (Research) for each store with more than $20 million in sales.

State Sen. Ken Toole, D-Helena, the bill's sponsor, says Montana residents are tired of subsidizing big-box stores whose low prices -- and high profits -- depend on paying workers low wages.

"When you don't pay workers, they get public assistance," he said. "Guess who pays for that?"

The measure would impose a 1 percent tax on stores with more than $20 million in sales. It would rise to 1.5 percent for more than $30 million and 2 percent for sales of more than $40 million.

The tax would apply to 160 stores, accounting for about half the state's total retail activity, and funnel about $20 million a year to state coffers, Toole said.

A state Senate tax panel is scheduled to hear the bill, which has irked retailers and prompted Costco to postpone plans to build a larger store in Kalispell, population 13,000, in the northwest corner of the state.

"We're waiting to see how the legislation shakes out," said Doug Schutt, head of operations for Costco's northern division. "The bill singles out retailers, and we think that's unfair."

The proposed levy -- in a sparsely populated state with no sales tax -- would apply to stores whose part-time employees make up more than a quarter of the workforce and whose full-time workers earn annual compensation of less than $22,000.
Heated debate

Foes of the legislation say it discriminates against high-volume merchants. "It's not the government's job to pick winners or losers in a competitive marketplace," said Wal-Mart spokesman Nate Hurst.

Although Toole didn't know how much the state was paying to provide services to Wal-Mart workers, he pointed to a study released last February by Rep. George Miller that concluded taxpayers pay about $421,000 a year for every Wal-Mart store with 200 employees.

Wal-Mart's Hurst said the discount chain pumped millions into the Montana economy last year and bought more than $39 million in goods and services from local suppliers.

University of Montana economist Thomas Power said claims by retailers that they would have to scale back operations or raise prices are exaggerated. "Big-box stores are fighting to get into these markets," he said.

The proposed tax met mixed reviews from shoppers at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Missoula, a city of about 60,000 in western Montana. "If prices have to go up, so be it," said Mary Karen Caraway. "These stores should be taking responsibility for their own employees."

But another shopper, Bob Rasmussen, said retail chains should not be singled out: "You can't just go after the big ones when you have small businesses that aren't paying much and don't have benefits."
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Feb 16, 2005, 01:53 PM
 
Interesting idea, but why not just raise the minimum wage?
     
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Feb 16, 2005, 03:38 PM
 
Originally posted by KarlG:
The legislators of Montana get it!
...
But another shopper, Bob Rasmussen, said retail chains should not be singled out: "You can't just go after the big ones when you have small businesses that aren't paying much and don't have benefits."
How do you reply to this concern? It seems unfair.
     
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Feb 16, 2005, 04:42 PM
 
This particular implementation is bad, as it simply punishes stores for making money. A better alternative would be to link the tax not to sales, but to employee pay rates. If employees are paid below a certain amount, tax the company according to the number of employees who are paid that little.

The reasoning is fairly sound, but this implementation is poor. I'm not a fan of punitive taxation in any case, but if it must be done then make sure you are actually targeting who you say you're going to target. Of course, this would give Wal-Mart the ability to avoid the tax by paying their employees more, but how exactly would that be a problem?
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Feb 17, 2005, 09:04 AM
 
Originally posted by BRussell:
Interesting idea, but why not just raise the minimum wage?
That's a good point. Will everyone paying minimum wage have to do this? If not, it is a bad idea.
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Feb 17, 2005, 10:49 AM
 
Originally posted by Agent69:
That's a good point. Will everyone paying minimum wage have to do this? If not, it is a bad idea.
At least according to the article, the tax is based on the amount of sales you make, not the amount you pay employees. That's why I say it's badly implemented; it does not target the behavior that is being discouraged, but simply punishes businesses for making money.

I'm not a fan of punitive taxation, but I have to admit that I kind of like the idea of using a tax to rather than actually raising the minimum wage itself. In essence, this creates a "hard minimum wage" (that is, the minimum mandated by law) and a "soft minimum wage" (below which one must pay a tax). In regions where the cost of living is so high that minimum wage still puts a single person below the poverty level, this helps offset the costs of welfare while avoiding the whole "the minimum wage causes unemployment" argument.

I still think that the welfare state as we know it needs to be phased out as unsustainable, but this would at least help defray the costs while that was happenning. Otherwise the only outcome can be be a sudden collapse, which nobody wants.
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Feb 17, 2005, 10:51 AM
 
This is crap. Not just the implementation, but the whole damn solution.

Wal Mart should just pick up and leave. Surely those workers who receive "assistance" will be able to find another job. I'm sure the local economies will not miss the $39 million Wal Mart spends on goods from local suppliers, either.

I agree with the "raise the minimum wage" post in the sense that it will apply equally to all businesses in the state.

My guess is that some prominent state legislators are businessmen, or are friendly with businessesmen, who definitely don't want to see the minimum wage raised, and whose business has been affected negatively by Wal Mart's presence.
     
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Feb 17, 2005, 12:41 PM
 
Originally posted by Millennium:
This particular implementation is bad, as it simply punishes stores for making money. A better alternative would be to link the tax not to sales, but to employee pay rates. If employees are paid below a certain amount, tax the company according to the number of employees who are paid that little.

The reasoning is fairly sound, but this implementation is poor. I'm not a fan of punitive taxation in any case, but if it must be done then make sure you are actually targeting who you say you're going to target. Of course, this would give Wal-Mart the ability to avoid the tax by paying their employees more, but how exactly would that be a problem?
Or just close down the stores in that state and say they cant make a profit. That would result in a backlash towards the government from all the out of work walmart dudes.

Store in Quebec got close to unionizing there wal-mart. They closed it down.
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Feb 17, 2005, 02:19 PM
 
Originally posted by Athens:
Or just close down the stores in that state and say they cant make a profit. That would result in a backlash towards the government from all the out of work walmart dudes.
Either that, or they'll find jobs when all the small businesses that Wal-Mart displaced start coming back, which is likely to happen fairly quickly if Wal-Mart pulls out.
Store in Quebec got close to unionizing there wal-mart. They closed it down.
True, but at the time there was only one store there. Although I don't know for certain how many Wal-Marts there are in Minnesota, I think it's a safe bet that there are many more than one. A chain like Wal-Mart can arbitrarily close a single store without feeling much damage to its bottom line, but closing a whole state's worth of stores -even in Minnesota- is going to hurt. It won't kill them, but it'll do enough damage that they'd have to think twice about doing it.
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Feb 17, 2005, 02:32 PM
 
Originally posted by BRussell:
Interesting idea, but why not just raise the minimum wage?
Because Montana has no legislation in China.
     
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Feb 17, 2005, 02:52 PM
 
Originally posted by TETENAL:
Because Montana has no legislation in China.
True, but it's kind of hard to sell things to Montanans from a Chinese storefront. Wal-Mart has a Web presence, but their bread and butter is retail. They need physical presence in order to continue; their business model is not set up for the Web.
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Feb 17, 2005, 03:05 PM
 
Originally posted by Millennium:
They need physical presence in order to continue; their business model is not set up for the Web.
I wasn't talking about "web stores".

Their business model is based on selling cheap imports from low wage countries at high profit margins. That is the real problem with WalMart; they are destroying jobs at local (American) manufactures. Which in turn is the reason why more and more people have to work for low wages at WalMart in the first place.
     
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Feb 17, 2005, 04:18 PM
 
Originally posted by TETENAL:
Because Montana has no legislation in China.
As I understand the motivation for this proposal, it's that Montana has to supplement the wages of Walmart employees in Montana because they're underpaid. I actually kind of find that hard to believe, but the point is that this is about the wages of Montana workers, not Chinese workers.
     
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Feb 17, 2005, 05:01 PM
 
Originally posted by TETENAL:
Their business model is based on selling cheap imports from low wage countries at high profit margins. That is the real problem with WalMart; they are destroying jobs at local (American) manufactures. Which in turn is the reason why more and more people have to work for low wages at WalMart in the first place.
Yeah, people should be forced to pay ridiculously high prices for everyday items. American industry should not have to learn how to adapt and compete. Just legislate, or better yet - find a looney, kookie left-wing judge to rule that WalMart is unconstitutional, and order their immediate closure.

It's telling when we see the tribe jump down WalMart's throat for selling goods made in Asia while their precious Apple Inc. is cranking out iPods, Powerbooks, etc. in the factory right next door.
     
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Feb 18, 2005, 09:29 AM
 
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Feb 18, 2005, 02:50 PM
 
Originally posted by TETENAL:
I wasn't talking about "web stores".

Their business model is based on selling cheap imports from low wage countries at high profit margins. That is the real problem with WalMart; they are destroying jobs at local (American) manufactures. Which in turn is the reason why more and more people have to work for low wages at WalMart in the first place.
What about WalMart's customers? I don't see folks complaining that WalMart has lowered consumer prices? (Along with quality.)

People get what they pay for. Consumers want big-box retailers, and they don't want to pay for towels that last 5 years -- they WANT Chinese products.

Tell consumers they're not doing the right thing. It ain't Wally-World's fault.
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Feb 18, 2005, 03:05 PM
 
Come to think of it, how rxactly is Montana "subsidizing Wal-Mart's profits" right now anyway? By allowing them to exist, and treating them as equal to other businesses under the law?
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Feb 18, 2005, 03:44 PM
 
Originally posted by spacefreak:
Yeah, people should be forced to pay ridiculously high prices for everyday items. American industry should not have to learn how to adapt and compete.
Maybe people don't want to compete. I guess you missed the thread about ecologic sustainability, but China was pretty much at the bottom of the list, and Taiwan from which we get a lot of our cheap everyday items was the last but one (only North Korea treats its environment worse). America wasn't at the top of the list, but even there people probably don't want to exploit the environment that much to save a few pennies. Maybe Americans don't want to work 16 hours a day without health care and a pension scheme. Maybe Americans like a high standard of safety at their workplace. etc.
So American companies with American workers can not compete with cheap imports, because that's the people's choice. WalMart takes away that choice and this is bad.

You know, a standard of living is defined by more than just how cheap you can buy stuff at the mall.
     
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Feb 18, 2005, 03:59 PM
 
Originally posted by Millennium:
Come to think of it, how rxactly is Montana "subsidizing Wal-Mart's profits" right now anyway? By allowing them to exist, and treating them as equal to other businesses under the law?
Because Walmart is not paying the true cost of labor. They have externalized a significant portion of their labor costs onto the public. In some states, Walmart even has documentation printed on Walmart letterhead stationery explaining how to apply for public assistance.

Does Walmart pay for the parking infastructure needed to support their stores? Does Walmart pay for the increase in motor traffic generated by Big Box outlets?

Does Walmart pay for the drainage problems caused by massive parking lots?

Sure, its easy to single out Walmart since they are so ridiculously successful. But the facts are that Big Box retailers of all sorts externalize all kinds of direct costs onto the public sector. The most blatant and obvious of which is labor costs.

Yes, consumers are part of the problem by not voting with their wallets, but its not like they have a lot of options. How many retail outlets that directly compete with Walmart or Target are available in most communities? I've lived in several towns where Walmart, Kmart or Target were literally the only game in town.

Legislating socially responsible business practices is a longstanding (and practical) tradition. Its in the public interest to encourage positive corporate behavior and discourage hurtful corporate behavior (like pollution laws). Now that Big Box retail has been around long enough for real and thorough impact studies to be done, we realize there are other behaviors that have severre negative consequences.

While making Walmart (and other) retailers take responsibility for some of their real labor costs might drive up consumer prices, it would also lower taxes. And if consumers were presented with True Cost products (rather than subsidized) then we might see them start spending their hard earned money more wisely.
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Feb 19, 2005, 06:31 AM
 
Originally posted by Millennium:
Either that, or they'll find jobs when all the small businesses that Wal-Mart displaced start coming back, which is likely to happen fairly quickly if Wal-Mart pulls out.

True, but at the time there was only one store there. Although I don't know for certain how many Wal-Marts there are in Minnesota, I think it's a safe bet that there are many more than one. A chain like Wal-Mart can arbitrarily close a single store without feeling much damage to its bottom line, but closing a whole state's worth of stores -even in Minnesota- is going to hurt. It won't kill them, but it'll do enough damage that they'd have to think twice about doing it.
There are about 50 Wal-Marts in Quebec. Another Quebec store is getting close to joining a union too.
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Feb 19, 2005, 01:35 PM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
Because Walmart is not paying the true cost of labor. They have externalized a significant portion of their labor costs onto the public. In some states, Walmart even has documentation printed on Walmart letterhead stationery explaining how to apply for public assistance.

Does Walmart pay for the parking infastructure needed to support their stores? Does Walmart pay for the increase in motor traffic generated by Big Box outlets?

Does Walmart pay for the drainage problems caused by massive parking lots?

Sure, its easy to single out Walmart since they are so ridiculously successful. But the facts are that Big Box retailers of all sorts externalize all kinds of direct costs onto the public sector. The most blatant and obvious of which is labor costs.

Yes, consumers are part of the problem by not voting with their wallets, but its not like they have a lot of options. How many retail outlets that directly compete with Walmart or Target are available in most communities? I've lived in several towns where Walmart, Kmart or Target were literally the only game in town.

Legislating socially responsible business practices is a longstanding (and practical) tradition. Its in the public interest to encourage positive corporate behavior and discourage hurtful corporate behavior (like pollution laws). Now that Big Box retail has been around long enough for real and thorough impact studies to be done, we realize there are other behaviors that have severre negative consequences.

While making Walmart (and other) retailers take responsibility for some of their real labor costs might drive up consumer prices, it would also lower taxes. And if consumers were presented with True Cost products (rather than subsidized) then we might see them start spending their hard earned money more wisely.
Thank you. Some people (apparently too many) have a hard time grasping Economics 101, and really believe that there is such a thing as a free lunch. They also have a hard time grasping that they're subsidizing the movement of their own jobs overseas. The Home Depot has now started to use similar advertising tactics, where they announce that they're lowering prices every day (over 5,000 last year), and they are also beginning to lower employee wages and benefits as a result. The Home Depot also has a horrible safety record, as they cut corners on safety, which also costs money to implement.

Our desire for cheap towels is costing us jobs.
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Feb 20, 2005, 08:02 AM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
Because Walmart is not paying the true cost of labor.
Ah, yes; "true costs" which can never be measured, so an arbitrary amount of money can be taken away from them. Which is, of course, the whole point.
Does Walmart pay for the parking infastructure needed to support their stores?
Actually, last I checked, yes.
Does Walmart pay for the increase in motor traffic generated by Big Box outlets?
No, but neither do smaller businesses. When did popularity become a crime for which they must be punished?
Does Walmart pay for the drainage problems caused by massive parking lots?
No more or less than anybody else, and in exactly the same forms. One could argue that their proximity to the parking lots (which cannot be alleviated, that being the point of parking lots) causes them proportionally more problems, which ought to please you.
Legislating socially responsible business practices is a longstanding (and practical) tradition.
'Longstanding'? If 150 years -if it's even that long- is now 'longstanding' in politics, then things really have changed. As for practical, it's about as practical as legislating morality, which is what it really is anyway.
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Feb 21, 2005, 03:30 AM
 
The last town I lived in that built a new Walmart paid for everything to "lure the store" and its "jobs".

They built the parking, upgraded the roads, added traffic lights and even put the store on the same electrical grid as the hospitals and municipal buildings.

Not to mention all the tax credits given to the store.

The cat is out of the bad. Several cities have conducted extensive, fair, long term studies of the economic impact of Walmart and other Big Box retailers and found out they are getting screwed.

It isn't just Left-wing Loonies fighting against Walmart superstores, its fiscal conservatives and small business owners.

Want to know what the "true costs" of having such stores in your town? Do a google for the several studies on the subject. I believe the San Diego (or a suburb of San Diego) study is the one getting the most attention from other city planning groups. Not too many "Liberals" in San Diego.

150 years isn't "longstanding" in your book? Exactly what principles that predate 150 years for regulating a liberal capitalist economy would you suggest?
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Feb 21, 2005, 10:11 AM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
The last town I lived in that built a new Walmart paid for everything to "lure the store" and its "jobs".
It happens sometimes, but is very much not the norm.
It isn't just Left-wing Loonies fighting against Walmart superstores, its fiscal conservatives and small business owners.
There's no love lost between myself and Walmart either, believe me. But the battleground for such a fight should not be law, because that necessarily involves introducing unequal treatment.



Want to know what the "true costs" of having such stores in your town?
Give me a measurement. Give me numbers. Without measurement there can be no fair assesment of cost, leading to arbitrary prices, which I still say are the whole point of the "true cost" movement.
Do a google for the several studies on the subject. I believe the San Diego (or a suburb of San Diego) study is the one getting the most attention from other city planning groups. Not too many "Liberals" in San Diego.
Fascinating; I will do so.
150 years isn't "longstanding" in your book? Exactly what principles that predate 150 years for regulating a liberal capitalist economy would you suggest? [/B]
The trend I spoke of isn't liberal capitalism, it's socialism and the concept of so-called "social justice". In its current form (that is to say, attempting to use law to achieve its goals), this dates back about 150 years.

"Liberal" capitalism was still young before this, but it did exist.
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Feb 21, 2005, 04:21 PM
 
Originally posted by Millennium:
The trend I spoke of isn't liberal capitalism, it's socialism and the concept of so-called "social justice". In its current form (that is to say, attempting to use law to achieve its goals), this dates back about 150 years.

"Liberal" capitalism was still young before this, but it did exist.
Call it socialism, call it fried chicken. We've evolved several mechanisms to counter-balance inherent inequities in the system which lead to drastic social consequences. Anyone who fails to recognize how necessary such mitigating factors are in a capitalist economy has missed most of the important lessons of political economic history.

The wealthiest, most stable countries in the world with the highest standard of living, most democratic systems and most personal liberty, have all evolved similar systems to address the inherent trend of all market systems towards monopoly and oligopoly. These experiments have been wildly successful in almost every conceivable way.

Perhaps even most remarkably, most nations have found ways of evolving countervailing systems that maintain their national identity and in line with their cultural heritage and tradition. For example, US systems are unique in comparison with western european systems.
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Feb 22, 2005, 07:25 AM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
Call it socialism, call it fried chicken. We've evolved several mechanisms to counter-balance inherent inequities in the system which lead to drastic social consequences.
Indeed. All I am saying is that law should not be one of these mechanisms, because that undermines the most important safeguard against abuse of law: the fact that all people must be treated equally by it.
The wealthiest, most stable countries in the world with the highest standard of living, most democratic systems and most personal liberty, have all evolved similar systems to address the inherent trend of all market systems towards monopoly and oligopoly. These experiments have been wildly successful in almost every conceivable way.
That depends on what you believe the goal of the experiments to have been. They have not increased happiness, nor ended hunger or poverty, nor encouraged human achievement. At best, they've reduced the so-called gap between rich and poor by limiting theheights to which one can rise, which is itself inherently dehumanizing. Nothing is worth that price.
Perhaps even most remarkably, most nations have found ways of evolving countervailing systems that maintain their national identity and in line with their cultural heritage and tradition. For example, US systems are unique in comparison with western european systems.
This is not a matter of national identity. It's a matter of human identity, with all its flaws and all its strengths. To take away the ability to rise and fall by one's own achievements and merits is to undermine the very thing which makes us what we are: our existence as free-willed individuals. Nothing, not even life, could ever possibly be worth that sacrifice.
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Feb 22, 2005, 01:41 PM
 
Originally posted by Millennium:
This is not a matter of national identity. It's a matter of human identity, with all its flaws and all its strengths. To take away the ability to rise and fall by one's own achievements and merits is to undermine the very thing which makes us what we are: our existence as free-willed individuals. Nothing, not even life, could ever possibly be worth that sacrifice.
What a horrific bunch of clap-trap. Is that on the new Ayn Rand letterhead?

Please explain to me how the political economy of 1890-1910 in the US was the result of a meritocracy of some kind? That robber barons were somehow imbued with some superior quality that the the starving rabble lacked? Or that coal miners who were only paid in credit to the company store were somenow lacking in that special spark of human divinity to rise above their circucmstances without the outside interference of filthy, federal socialists?

Since when in America is there any restriction on just how rich you can get in America?
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Feb 22, 2005, 02:04 PM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
We've evolved several mechanisms to counter-balance inherent inequities in the system which lead to drastic social consequences.
In other words, give the masses what they think they want or they'll burn down society. That's the "mechanism" of choice -- the threat. Nice.
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Feb 24, 2005, 02:47 AM
 
Originally posted by finboy:
In other words, give the masses what they think they want or they'll burn down society. That's the "mechanism" of choice -- the threat. Nice.
Care to actually refute the fact that big bad dirty socialism has preserved capitalism and saved it from its own excesses?

Or would you prefer to remain morally and intellectually "superior" to the "rabble" as they march you up to the guillotine?

Inequality is unsustainable without violence. The genius of America is that we've been able to readjust as needed with a minimum of violence.
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Feb 24, 2005, 01:10 PM
 
Originally posted by Millennium:
That depends on what you believe the goal of the experiments to have been. They have not increased happiness, nor ended hunger or poverty, nor encouraged human achievement. At best, they've reduced the so-called gap between rich and poor by limiting the heights to which one can rise, which is itself inherently dehumanizing. Nothing is worth that price.
Normally I can't find fault with what you post . . . ever. But this one has got me stumped.

You seem to be implying that legislation that reduces economic inequities between the rich and poor are somehow "limiting the heights to which one can rise". There seems to be a whole lot of implied causalities here which I hope you can explain.

But tell me, do you think full human potential is only realized through economic prosperity?
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Feb 24, 2005, 04:50 PM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
Or would you prefer to remain morally and intellectually "superior" to the "rabble" as they march you up to the guillotine?
The only superiority I'll ever claim is the enhanced ability to smell ******** a longer way off. The way the "masses" work is through intimidation, and sooner or later everyone is a target. Except the leaders. As it's been said before, everything reverts to type.
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Feb 24, 2005, 05:00 PM
 
Originally posted by finboy:
The only superiority I'll ever claim is the enhanced ability to smell ******** a longer way off. The way the "masses" work is through intimidation, and sooner or later everyone is a target. Except the leaders. As it's been said before, everything reverts to type.
You're still talking nonsence.

Care to explain how Mining companies that didn't pay employees in real currency were NOT engaging in intimidation?

Care to explain how union busters and strike breakers were NOT engaging in intimidation?

Why is it that only one side of the conflict gets accused of mob rule?

What makes America special is that by and large we didn't lynch or guillotine elites engaged in blantant class warfare. Instead, our solutions were generally political.

There is a particular word for a political process that reflects the consensus of the broadest coalition of the constituency. Maybe you've heard of it?
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Feb 24, 2005, 07:29 PM
 
More BS from Wally World:

http://slate.com/id/2113954/

The Wal-Mart Manifesto
The retail giant's CEO says his company pays workers handsomely. He doesn't want you to believe him.
By Timothy Noah
Posted Thursday, Feb. 24, 2005, at 9:14 AM PT


H. Lee Scott Jr., the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, argued in a speech yesterday in Los Angeles (click here to listen to it) that Wal-Mart is a force for good in the economy. Scott is hardly the first corporate chairman to echo "Engine" Charlie Wilson's claim that what's good for General Motors is good for America. And many independent observers have noted that Wal-Mart's relentless downward pressure on overhead has been a boon to American consumers. (In a recent New Yorker column, James Surowiecki took this further, arguing that the retail economy has become a sort of dictatorship of the consumer, and that Wal-Mart, which earns only pennies on each dollar of sales, is merely doing what it must to stay alive.)

What's fairly new in Scott's speech (a related ad campaign was launched last month) is Wal-Mart's rising on its hind legs to tell the world that it is good to its employees. I'd thought it was a settled matter that Wal-Mart had achieved its miraculously low prices by squeezing its employees. Not so, said Scott:

Wal-Mart's average wage is around $10 an hour, nearly double the federal minimum wage. The truth is that our wages are competitive with comparable retailers in each of the more than 3,500 communities we serve, with one exception—a handful of urban markets with unionized grocery workers. … Few people realize that about 74 percent of Wal-Mart hourly store associates work full-time, compared to 20 to 40 percent at comparable retailers. This means Wal-Mart spends more broadly on health benefits than do most big retailers, whose part-timers are not offered health insurance. You may not be aware that we are one of the few retail firms that offer health benefits to part-timers. Premiums begin at less than $40 a month for an individual and less than $155 per month for a family.

The apparent purpose of the speech was to counter political resistance to the building of Wal-Mart "supercenters" in California. But if Scott saw much danger that Wall Street might believe his rosy picture of labor relations, he wouldn't paint it, because that would create an investor stampede away from Wal-Mart stock. What we have, then, is a unique rhetorical form: Nonsense recited by someone who is relying on most of his listeners to understand that he is spouting nonsense. Wal-Mart took the trouble to send this speech out to writers "who are in a position to influence a lot of others," according to a cover e-mail I received from Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's vice president for corporate communications. I took Williams' email as a plea to expose the dishonesty in Scott's remarks (Stop us before we kill again!) disguised as a plea to give Scott's remarks a fair hearing. I will try to oblige.

Wal-Mart's average wage is around $10 an hour.

As Tom Geoghegan, a labor lawyer in Washington (and author of Which Side Are You On?: Trying To Be For Labor When It's Flat On Its Back) points out, the relevant number isn't the average, which would be skewed upward by the large salaries of relatively few highly-paid company executives—Scott, for example, receives, by one reckoning, 897 times the pay of the average Wal-Mart worker—but the median. In the Dec. 16 New York Review of Books, Simon Head, director of the Project on Technology and the Workplace at the Century Foundation, stated, "the average pay of a sales clerk [italics mine] at Wal-Mart was $8.50 an hour, or about $14,000 a year, $1,000 below the government's definition of the poverty level for a family of three." That the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour leaves families even farther below the poverty line is a depressing topic for another day.

The truth is that our wages are competitive with comparable retailers in each of the more than 3,500 communities we serve, with one exception—a handful of urban markets with unionized grocery workers.

Wal-Marts have traditionally targeted rural areas where unions are weak, so of course the pay would be lousy at comparable retailers nearby. What Scott doesn't mention is that Wal-Mart is now so large—its workforce, Head points out, is "larger than that of GM, Ford, GE, and IBM combined"—that it drives down wages at other retailers, too. As Geoghegan observed to me,

Wal-Mart is the behemoth that forces everyone else's wages down and then says, "Hey, we're no worse than anyone else." They turn everyone else into Wal-Mart and then say, "Are we any worse than the other Wal-Mart wannabees?" Now that everyone has to play their game, they like to come across as the industry's statesman. It's disgusting.

The disparaging reference to "urban markets with unionized grocery workers" is a reminder that Wal-Mart has successfully resisted virtually all efforts to unionize its stores, even in labor-friendly blue states.

Few people realize that about 74 percent of Wal-Mart hourly store associates work full-time, compared to 20 to 40 percent at comparable retailers.

Yes, but what exactly is a "full-time worker"? Typically, full-time is defined as 40 hours a week or more. At Wal-Mart, it's defined as 34 hours a week. So of course Wal-Mart has more "full-time" workers. Fewer hours worked, I need hardly point out, means that Wal-Mart's "full-time" employees are less likely than employees elsewhere to be able to afford premiums for any health insurance they're offered. According to Head, fewer than half of Wal-Mart's employees can afford even the company's least-expensive health plan.

I won't bother enumerating the many, many times Wal-Mart has been accused of violating its own professed policies regarding child labor, working employees off the clock, promoting women, and so on, but you can find that here.

Halfway through his speech, Scott took an amazing U-turn. He stopped arguing that Wal-Mart paid its workers handsomely and instead argued that of course the pay is lousy at Wal-Mart. Pay is always lousy in the retail sector:

Retail sector wages have been about 25 percent lower than economy-wide wages for the last 15 years and this gap is at least as large in other advanced nations. Auto wages, by contrast, have been 40 to 50 percent higher than economy-wide wages.

The discrepancy, Scott argued, is due to the fact that the auto industry is capital-intensive while the retail industry is labor-intensive. But if Scott took this argument at all seriously, he'd have to concede that his own pay should be reduced drastically below its current level. In 2003, the most recent year for which I can find data, Scott sucked down $29 million (including stock-option grants). That same year, G.R. Wagoner, president and CEO of General Motors, hauled in about half that amount, $15 million. Following Scott's logic, I don't see how he can avoid knocking his own pay down to around $10 million.

And if Scott wants to argue that he works for the nation's biggest company? We all know how to answer, don't we? All together now: "Dude! It's only retail!"
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Feb 25, 2005, 01:49 PM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:

There is a particular word for a political process that reflects the consensus of the broadest coalition of the constituency. Maybe you've heard of it?
National socialism? As I recall, Hitler managed to gather the "broadest coalition." How'd that work out?

Absolute democracy is mob rule. That works out great for the folks on top of the heap, for a while.
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Feb 25, 2005, 02:13 PM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
Or would you prefer to remain morally and intellectually "superior" to the "rabble" as they march you up to the guillotine?
Are you still maintaining the fantasy of some big 'revolution' coming along to give you everything you're dreaming is owed you by everyone else, and that everyone who disagrees with you will suffer your 'Fire and Brimstone' fate for daring to have an opinion?

The leftist 'revolution' fantasy is really getting old. It's REALLY past time for someone on the left to come up with a new fantasy. How about- Gold Paved Streets? That sounds about as realistic.
     
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Feb 25, 2005, 02:36 PM
 


No one on this board can apparently advocate even the most modest of reforms to combat gross inequity without being a Trotskyite.

You guys are pathetic. Not only do you have a hopelessly naive and binary view of political economy, you have a seemingly total ignorance of US economic history.

Millenium, finboy and CRASH, I recommend you go to the next VA or American Legion meeting and explain why you think the GI Bill was a subversive communist plot, unbridled socialism or somehow placed chains on the human spirit.

Or the fact that America's largest corporations are direct recipients of federal welfare.

Or that most of our greatest technologies and their subsequent industries were all products of federal management and funding.

Again, the genius of the American system is that we employed socialized systems and welfare systems within the framework of keeping with American ideals and values without converting to a command economy in peacetime or nationalizing key industries or resorting to undemocratic methods.

We are the great country we are today because of compromise between private/public, capital/labor, employer/employee, free/regulated. Its the balancing act that makes our nation great and successful.
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Feb 25, 2005, 06:12 PM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
Millenium, finboy and CRASH, I recommend you go to the next VA or American Legion meeting and explain why you think the GI Bill was a subversive communist plot, unbridled socialism or somehow placed chains on the human spirit.
How many times will you try to float this pathetic nonsense? It's been pointed out to you before, several times the G.I. Bill has nothing to do with 'unbridled socialism'. Where do you get off trying to lump it in as such? Can YOU benefit from the G.I. bill? If so, just WHEN and WHERE did you serve? Please enligthen us.

There's a little thing you keep trying to wax over when pretending the G.I. Bill is socialist- it's called SERVICE! Friggen look it up already.

Last anyone checked, those who recieve G.I. Bill benefits didn't wait around for any leftist's bullcrap 'revolution' to grant them anything, they had to do something you seem to have never heard of, it's called: SERVE THEIR COUNTRY!
     
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Feb 25, 2005, 10:43 PM
 
Originally posted by CRASH HARDDRIVE:
How many times will you try to float this pathetic nonsense? It's been pointed out to you before, several times the G.I. Bill has nothing to do with 'unbridled socialism'. Where do you get off trying to lump it in as such? Can YOU benefit from the G.I. bill? If so, just WHEN and WHERE did you serve? Please enligthen us.

There's a little thing you keep trying to wax over when pretending the G.I. Bill is socialist- it's called SERVICE! Friggen look it up already.

Last anyone checked, those who recieve G.I. Bill benefits didn't wait around for any leftist's bullcrap 'revolution' to grant them anything, they had to do something you seem to have never heard of, it's called: SERVE THEIR COUNTRY!
By all means continue to shower us with your ignorance.

The original bill was called the Economic Bill of Rights and was supposed to be for all Americans. That, of course, met with considerable opposition and eventually led to a reasonable compromise on a GI Economic Bill of Rights extending those services to veterans only.

It provided healthcare, unemployment insurance, home loans and money for college for GI's and is quite possible the single most important peice of social legislation ever passed by the US congress. The impact on the nation is almost immeasurable.

And yes, it was pure, unadulterated socialism. At least by the definition of socialism that gets floated around in these forums--big, fat, hairy federal entitlement.

What I object to on this board is the most reactionary and resistricted forumation of political economy definitions. Any talk of compromise in labor relations or regulation is shouted down as communist subversion of some sort. Its laughable and ridiculous.

What the hell happened to all the Eisenhower Republicans? Once upon a time there were a lot of people who made sence in the GOP. I keep wondering why none of them seem to spend any time in this forum.
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Feb 25, 2005, 11:20 PM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
It provided healthcare, unemployment insurance, home loans and money for college for GI's and is quite possible the single most important peice of social legislation ever passed by the US congress. The impact on the nation is almost immeasurable.

And yes, it was pure, unadulterated socialism.


You just have an absolute hardon to mischaracterize the G.I. Bill. Your non-argument isn’t even based on political reality; it’s based on a proposal of the GI Bill, not the actual bill itself which only compensates service people! It’s not an entitlement in the ‘welfare’ sense, nor is it ‘socialism’ to compensate people who’ve provided an invaluable service defending our country. For some odd reason, you just can’t seem to fathom that military service is hard work- those that serve deserve to be compensated in any way the nation can. Duh, taxes pay for it. That’s not socialism. You have a habit of declaring anything ‘socialist’ that suits your silly arguments that socialism and big goverment nannyism is what built America.

Whatever happened to all the fiscally intelligent Kennedy Democrats- the kind that actually weren’t so leftwing nuts they could actually appeal to most Americans and even WIN an election now and then? Why is it so many of the old school Democrats left voted for Republicans this time around, and absolutely can’t stand the leftwing kooks and severe non-thinkers that have overrun what used to be their party?
( Last edited by CRASH HARDDRIVE; Feb 25, 2005 at 11:25 PM. )
     
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Feb 26, 2005, 02:29 PM
 
Let's recap.

I made an argument about reasonable compromise and social welfare to which Millenium posts some dribble that government intervention in the economy is the grossest violation of the human spirit.

I post some more about how America's ability to achieve peaceful compromise even when it entails limited the "freedom" to exploit is the reason for our success.

finboy declares that government forcing exploitative employers to compromise with labor was akin to "mob rule".

Again I argue that even if such measure were the blackest forms of socialism (their argument, not mine) they would be justified considering they were reasonable compromises between warring interests which served the general good of the nation and are largely to credit for our nation's peace, stability and success.

Now you're accusing me of mischaracterizing social programs as socialism. Read the thread again, Millenium and finboy are the ones who accused me of advocating socialism. My response was that even if you wanted call those reforms and regulations socialism, they'd still be the right thing to do.

So again. Why should we believe Millenium that any governtment interference in the maldistribution of economic power is the gravest sin against the human spirit?

Why should be agree with finboy that when government steps into a violent labor dispute and forces both sides to reasonable and mutually beneficial compromise that we are slipping into mob rule?

And if such measures really are socialism as they claim, shouldn't we just plain admit that they worked so an outright rejection of socialism (as least the kind America has dabbled with) obviously isn't the wisest course of action since social programs have been a large part of America's success?
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Feb 26, 2005, 04:59 PM
 
Government intervention into economies often does lead to violations of human rights, not always, but it certainly can. A government that unduly dictates who can earn what, is most definitely a government that’s gone too far in that direction.

Personally, I’m all for reasonable government ‘regulation’ –which I believe is really what you’re talking about- not government dictation or control.

I don’t get how you counter finboy’s mob-rule argument, with basically an argument FOR none other than your own version of mob rule. Your imagined ‘guillotine scenario’ is nothing but that. Somehow if the ‘mob’ is in your fantasies running someone you disagree with up a tree in order to grant you some socialist fantasy, that’s just fine, in fact – as per the left’s oft-repeated revolution fantasy- it seems to be something you’re expecting.

This nation already had its revolution if anyone cares to remember. It was actually about representation, LESS taxation, and more personal and economic freedoms, not anything the other way around.

The only way we’d ever have another one, is if MTV aired it as a reality show, and it was sponsored by Coke, Nike and none other than Walmart. Even then you’d have a hard time getting all those ‘progressive’ couch-potato revolutionaries to tune out American Idol long enough to watch it.
     
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Mar 2, 2005, 08:15 PM
 
I'm still stumped why advocating what is effectively the economic othordoxy of the last 80 years makes me a revoluntionary or counts as a "socialist fantasy"?

Only on this board could advocating a mixed economy that takes for granted a reasonable social component be considered revolutionary or socialist.

Maybe its not that this board's republicans are reactionaries and throw-backs. Maybe our education system is just much worse than I had thought.
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Mar 2, 2005, 10:09 PM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
Maybe its not that this board's republicans are reactionaries and throw-backs. Maybe our education system is just much worse than I had thought.
And what exactly have you done that’s so amazing that qualifies you to make a snap judgment about the education level of others? So you have all the answers eh? Exactly what then in the real world have you accomplished with all those ‘answers’ that I or anyone else should stand so in awe of and give a good squat about you thinking your level of education is so vastly superior?
     
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Mar 2, 2005, 10:23 PM
 
Originally posted by CRASH HARDDRIVE:
And what exactly have you done that’s so amazing that qualifies you to make a snap judgment about the education level of others? So you have all the answers eh? Exactly what then in the real world have you accomplished with all those ‘answers’ that I or anyone else should stand so in awe of and give a good squat about you thinking your level of education is so vastly superior?
Its ok. You're allowed to be wrong once in a while. You're right often enough and I promise not to tell too many people. No need to get so upset by it.
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Mar 2, 2005, 11:48 PM
 
Originally posted by thunderous_funker:
Its ok. You're allowed to be wrong once in a while. You're right often enough and I promise not to tell too many people. No need to get so upset by it.
I’m not upset in the least. And it’s not about being right all the time (no one is). Quite the contrary, I’m mystified by people who assume they’ve got some automagic room to dismiss everyone else as uneducated based on a disagreement over matters as intricate as the workings of our economy.

I then think its fair then to ask exactly what said person’s grand and wondrous real-world economic credentials are. Surely we must be addressing someone who has mastered the existing system so thoroughly, that they can without blatant hypocrisy, feel free to dictate from on high all the rules of a more perfect one. That or maybe (more realistically?) just admit their opinions on the subject don’t really matter a whole hill of beans more than anyone else’s.

I found your last post ironic, in that you had previously characterized someone else’s position as being: “morally and intellectually "superior" to the "rabble", and attached to it an implied threat of impending ‘gloom and doom’.

Anyway, more to the original subject, don’t like Walmart? Don’t shop at Walmart. Personally I don’t. Not to make some big statement against them, but simply because I don’t like their stores, and they don’t generally sell anything I need or want.
     
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Mar 3, 2005, 03:43 AM
 
Originally posted by CRASH HARDDRIVE:
Anyway, more to the original subject, don’t like Walmart? Don’t shop at Walmart. Personally I don’t. Not to make some big statement against them, but simply because I don’t like their stores, and they don’t generally sell anything I need or want.
I'm aloud to gloat once in while just like everyone else.

But on this we're agreed. Walmart should be avoided for a host of reasons not the least of which is their negative impact on local economies.
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Mar 3, 2005, 04:51 AM
 
All can agree, Walmart bites.

Now K-Mart, that’s another story.

Actually I don’t shop there either. Although I admit, I do occasionally park my car at the one on 3rd street in LA and walk across to the Apple store at the Grove to avoid paying the Grove’s ridiculous parking rates. The huge signs warning that they will tow my car for doing this have never once stopped me.

By the way, I missed it, when did you move to Portland?
     
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Mar 4, 2005, 07:54 PM
 
Originally posted by CRASH HARDDRIVE:
By the way, I missed it, when did you move to Portland?
About a year ago. I haven't been spending much time online since then since I actually live in a city that I love going out and enjoying.

The Grove?? I didn't realize you were a SoCal guy. I guess we missed our chance at grabbing a beer together. If you're ever up this way, let me know and we'll grab a pint.
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Mar 4, 2005, 08:03 PM
 
Originally posted by CRASH HARDDRIVE:
All can agree, Walmart bites.
Wal-Mart sales would not be what they were if some people differed on that view.
     
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Mar 5, 2005, 12:43 PM
 
I lightly skimmed this thread, but I have something to offer in the way of an oppinion.

1. Kmart - IMHO sucks. I have had nothing but bad experiences with their customer (lack of) service. A bunch of idiots who couldn't find their arses to wipe. They are morons, and the management is to blame because it was obvious from all of my experiences, it trickles downhill.

2. Walmart - Better than Kmart, but I find that they are mostly located in minority neighborhoods, and are populated by non-english speaking customers. LOADS of them! I feel as though I have entered Mehico. Sound bad? Too bad, it's the truth.

Another point. My wife and I have been in Walmart on several occasions where they had to lock down the store because a kid got lost, strayed from his folks. A few times, they found the kids in the parking lot, locked in the car with the windows sealed up tight.

There is a class of people that shop there, that makes my stomach turn. But, they have great deals!

Great deals? Sure. I'd rather shop at one of the major membership stores. (e.g., Sam's Club)

Or, we go to Target, or SuperTarget. They are the best. Never had a problem, and customer service is tops.
     
 
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