PBS: One sided view of Wal-Mart

Monday, August 16, 2004
I have a problem with the media presenting one side of an argument as facts.

I am watching a PBS special on Wal-Mart and the effects it has on a community. Now for the record let me state that I do not shop at Wal-Mart. I do that as a personal choice but don't expect others to do as I do even if I think I am right.

That being said the PBS documentary came down on the side against Wal-mart. It argued that although Wal-Mart has lower prices it really has a hidden cost. This hidden cost is born from the fact that it does not offer most of its employees affordable health care. This causes them to seek public health care and thus puts a burden on the tax payer.

I don't necessarily disagree with them but I believe this does an incredible disjustice to economic theory. The fact is Economist are split about the overall effects that a store such as Wal-Mart has on the economy. Does the fact Wal-mart not provide affordable health care really hurt the general populace? You can't argue it 100% either way. Having a documentary as such appears that their is no disagreement but there really is.

To play devil's advocate I am here to say no. It can only be fair to say that the effects are unknown. As a consumer, am I going to pay up front or later? If the employees get health care I face a higher cost of goods, if they don't I face higher taxes. And can Wal-mart be blamed for the latter. I don't think so. We as a society have determined we want to provide public health care. We could just as easily say no to that. Wal-mart is playing the game by the rules society has set and now people are upset. If we are going to say we are our brother's keeper shouldn't we just do it? If you don't like the game Wal-mart plays with YOUR taxes don't shop at Wal-mart. If you don't like your taxes being used for public health care vote against it.


Amanda said...

Wal*Mart - I don't think its a necessary evil, and I don't think it plays fair. Maybe it's the experience of seeing first-hand what Wal*Mart has done to rural America - I went to one Missouri town where the main street was dead, but the Wal*Mart was packed. The manager in the bakery section had used to own the town bakery, before Walmart. The guy in the pets section had owned the town feed store. Both people had had a good living before, and now they were barely getting by.

As far as the big picture goes, WalMart deliberately uses its massive size to push smaller businesses out of business. It does some good in that it allows poor Americans to have more and better material goods than they could otherwise afford, but at the cost of third world labor. Walmart constantly pushes suppliers to reduce their prices, which then prompts the suppliers to move from one third-world coountry to another in search of cheap labor and lax environmental standards. Of course, US laws allow WalMart to get away with this, and it is the laws that will have to change before WalMart does. Also, if there were more quality jobs in the US, employers like WalMart would have to offer more benefits. Though, if WalMart weren't pushing factories out of the US and into the third world, there would be more quality jobs...