One Veteran's Voice

25 January 2006

If the hurricane comes to Missouri, I'm looting Wal-Mart.

We, the people of this great nation, can no longer afford to stand idly by as our nation's health is undermined by the profit margin.

I shop at Wal*Mart. Why? Because I'm a consumer, money is tight, Wal-mart has the cheapest prices on almost all items, their inventory is very good, and many items in my mid-sized rural hamlet of Columbia, Missouri are only available at Wal-Mart. I suppose I could shop over the internet, and only pay a little more, but, like most human beings, I want to visually see and hold what I am purchasing (the exceptions to this being books, music, and DVDs-- the only items I purchase online with any regularity. These are all intellectual properties, and the ideas contained within mean more to me than the packaging). So I shop at Wal-Mart. It's simple economics-- people are generally rational and self-interested. Generally. And that includes the executives over at Wal-Mart.

It's easy to be part of the urbane liberal elite, to shop at organic food stores, buy handmade clothes, scoff at the "poor mid-western American sheep" like me who continue to line the pockets of the ultra-rich; all the while secretly hating themselves because they have become the true bourgeois class-- indolent, slothful, pompous.

Then there are their suburban counterparts, the SUV driving, flag drenched soccer moms who shop at Wal-Mart and don't even know what is happening. And meet her husband, The Organization Man. Maybe the other side knows, and they hate themselves just as much. Maybe they are too busy being self-righteous about abortion, bird flu, God in schools, white girls getting raped and murdered, all the Mexicans, and whatever else FOX news and CNN are using nowadays to terrify white America, to bother with issues like the gradual decline of our great republic.

I hate myself because I know, and I do it anyway, like an addict. Self-absorbed, acting out of convenience and economy rather than principle. People are generally self-interested. What's your excuse?

These CEOs, the new kings-- they now make right around 430 times as much as the average American worker. In Japan, another CEO crazy culture, they make about 20% as much, relative to the Japanese worker's average income. Conclusion from factual data-- in America, our CEO's are especially greedy, and we don't seem to care. Maybe we should start caring, start shaming these guys into putting more of their outrageous salaries back into the companies they profess to love. Maybe we don't because we're too busy being jealous.

There are some enlightened ones, however. The Google founders pay themselves annual salaries of $1. Of course, they own stock options which are now worth billions. But it's the principal of the thing.

Check out the story of this walking antithesis of business ethics, who also happens to be a defense industry CEO. When this insane crusade in the middle-east is over, historians will trace the money made, the millionaires and billionaires created by this war, back to the very people whose foreign policy ideas spawned this war. The best case contingency plans of defense corporation boadrooms became our national reality when the CEOs became politicians. Bush is the first CEO president. His vice president was the CEO of a major company which is now doing a booming business in Iraq. Bush's previous companies usually ended of failing, propped up by Saudi money or his father's business contacts. Future historians will most likely note the supreme irony of the two Bush presidencies-- the two bold military experiments in the Middle-East, father and son quixotically fighting a mad dictator for control of the world's oil reserves, only to find out a few decades later that they were quickly running out.

These are old statistics, and I believe Wal-Mart recently surpassed Sweden.
Wal-mart, with US$274 billion in turnover, is larger than Austria with a US$251 billion GDP. Austria is ranked 20th in 2003 GDP country rankings. At Walmart's growth rate, Sweden with US$301 billion GDP is within Walmart's reach.
Wal-Mart's price is the best because they buy huge quantities of products manufactured on the cheap in China, where factory workers make about $.65 a day. And you thought the American workers had it bad.

Wal-Mart employs more people in this country than any entity other than the federal government.

Wal-Mart's workers don't make nearly as much as other blue-collar workers, like the guys on the assembly line over at Ford, who might make $26/hr starting out, and get some good benefits. That's because those guys have a union, and literally had to fight at times for the right to be part of the American middle class. And now they are out of work because Ford is doing what Wal-Mart is doing, relying on cheap Chinese labor to cut costs, all at the expense of you, me, your neighbor, and everyone else other than shareholders of Wal-Mart or Ford. The wage gap between the rich and poor is growing. The real value of wages earned by the middle class is stagnant. The working class is working longer and harder, and getting less. The federal minimum wage is $5.15. One could work 40 hour weeks 52 weeks a year and make $10,712. $10,712 is nothing. I can't imagine trying to raise a family on one income of that size. So both parents work, and work overtime, and the kids are raised by day cares, shot at day cares, running the streets, and the family is still just eeking by. Consuming like a motherfucker, kids running crazy through the aisles, then puttin on the uniform and going to work at Wal-Mart, stocking shelves, running the register. These are jobs that we need in this modern age where technology seems to do everything except the REAL work-- and we as a nation need to start providing for the segment of society that works these jobs. The fast food employee. The construction worker. The nanny. The pizza delivery guy. The Wal-Mart Associate. They are the new blue collar workers. What right do I have to say that they can't have health care because they happen to work at a company that refuses to pay for it? Everyone is entitled to life, and saving and preserving life involves health care. Docor bills are outrageous, and insurance is out of reach for the working poor. Either the doctors charge less, or the government (and ultimately the uber-rich, who should be taxed much more heavily than they are now) needs to pick up the bill. Ever hear of generic drugs? What about those dangerous Canadian drugs that our government is protecting us from? Who am I to say that a man can work "full-time" for our economy and still be below the poverty line? Maybe our government isn't really looking out for us, the people. Maybe they're really concerned with accomodating the CEOs. Maybe they are the CEOs.

Low ranking soldiers with families are often eligible for many state and federal assistance programs. Meanwhile their counterparts at Blackwell Security can make six figures.

Things are booming over in China. We're consuming as fast as they can dish it out. The CEOs are making money. The shareholders are breaking even. The workers are working harder than ever. Everyone seems apathetic. The government is corrupt. The government is always corrupt. Life isn't that bad. At least there's not a war on. Wait..

In the end, what is all the consumption worth if the spoils are hoarded by the few, at the cost of the many? I'm no commie. Trust me. I believe in our democratic republican form of government so much that I was, at one time, willing to risk death for it. No one, excepting suicide bombers and other martyrs, sane or insane, is ever really willing to die for beliefs. Risk death-- maybe. Kill-- if they shoot first. Die-- no. Ideology isn't worth dying for. It's all just a bunch of different ways to look at the world. People can be worth dying for, depending on how much one loves them.

I like the free market. It gives me a lot of choices. But the market is rigged. China bootlegs the intellectual property of American companies with impunity. I have about two dozen DVDs from Iraq that are the result of this kind of shit. I am generally rational and self-interested, and the bootlegs were cheap.

Not that I think that the Hollywood conglomerates need the money that would come their way if China started playing by the rules when it comes to copyright, but the overall boost to our economy would be worth it. Idea can be traded just as readily as crude oil. If we're going to have a worldwide free-market, China has to play fair, or we have to penalize them. Then the market isn't free, but at least it's a little more equitable. I'm not suggesting military action here, just monetary incentives.

I propose that we stop treating the corporations of this country like they always have the best interests of America at heart. An entity that is bigger than all but the largest countries, simultaneously global and completely decentralized, controlled by a few board members, maximized for efficiency-- is it The Illuminati? The World Bank? No America-- the killer is calling from inside the house. It's Wal-Mart.

What is good for Wal-Mart is NOT always good for America, sometimes it's good for Wal-Mart (and China). In the end sum game of economics, the world benefits, but we are not the world. We are still America, the land of freedom, a place where every citizen has the right to the pursuit of happiness. Unless we want to live in a future world dominated by a mega-corporations, maximized for efficient consumption, brainwashed into unquestioning mindlessness by inane mass media-- we might want to wake up and take this country, the world's supposed bastion of freedom and democracy, back.

So if the hurricane comes, I'm going to loot Wal-Mart. Who's with me? We're just acting in our own (and collective, if we give ourselves a name) interest, the driving factor of the market. People are generally self-interested and rational. The free-market is efficient, efficiency is good. It is in our interest to take Wal-Mart's capital when the reward of action outweighs the risk of getting caught. The best economic decisions are made on the margin. The hurricane changes the margin. People are generally self-interested. Wal-Mart should have hired more security. Wal-Mart wasn't interested in itself enough. Wal-Mart wasn't rational enough. People are generally self-interested and rational. The best decisions are made at the margin. The free-market is efficient, efficiency is good. I was more efficient than Wal-Mart. I was more rational than Wal-Mart. Efficiency and rationality are good. I am generally self-interested.

If we want to live in a world driven by the bottom line, that is the bottom line.

I don't want to live in that world, but I know I can.

"Evils which are patiently endured when they seem inevitable become intolerable when once the idea of escape from them is suggested."
Alexis de Tocqueville

If you are a wal-mart stooge, take this missive for what it is, social commentary and satire. Perhaps pass it up the chain to your top execs. Maybe they'll realize they are pissing America's future away, handing the torch of prosperity to china for thirty pieces of silver, maybe they can figure out a way to stop it before it's too late, maybe the CEOs will be shamed into giving some of their billions of stock options to charity, or to their workers. I do not intend to ever loot a walmart, and I am not plotting to loot wal-marts now, nor will I be in the future. Later, wal-mart stooge, we'll meet again. Think about it.

8 Other Voices:

KG said...

I hate myself because I know, and I do it anyway, like an addict. Self-absorbed, acting out of convenience and economy rather than principle. People are generally self-interested. What's your excuse?

its like eatting McDonalds' French Fries after seeing Super-Size-Me. You know you shouldn't, but when you're driving on I-80 through that long stretch of Pennsylvania, you don't have many options...

1/25/2006 06:18:15 PM  
Sara said...

Thank god I live in Portland and have the luxury of NOT shopping at Wal-Mart. In fact, I don't even know where a Wal-Mart IS around here. We do have a Costco, but they treat their employees wonderfully, have excellent benefits (including a decent healthcare package), and donate a lot of money to Democrats. We've also got Trader Joe's and an unusually large organic section at the other local grocery stores. Sometimes I have to hoof it a little farther to get what I want, but it's worth it to me. We only get to vote every so often, but we vote everyday with our dollars. I'm just really happy to live in a place where that option exists. Let's hope it stays that way.

1/25/2006 10:05:56 PM  
The Statistics said...

Wait till they have black water mercs pulling security at the Wal-Marts. We may need some heavy hardware to infil. Still worth the challenge tho. Forget looting, you could live in one of those super stores for months. Sporting goods has enough fire power to hold it if you have the right crew. Hmmmmmm FOB Wal Mart?

1/26/2006 01:13:52 AM  
Sarah said...

I am, unfortunately, one of those organic-food-and-buy-local-shoppers (although I do it mostly because I believe that it is important to support local businesses because of Peak Oil being on it's way), but I am even worse than you: I spent hours convincing my boyfriend NOT to shop at Walmart (and now he refuses to) and then I secretly went and bought some stuff there and hid the bag! How bad is that? He's so converted now though, and I am feeling so guilty now, that I think I can save myself again.

"Bush is the first CEO president."

He sure is running this business into the ground, eh? But hey, just print more money!

"China has to play fair, or we have to penalize them."

Speaking of the market being rigged, read the article below. A time is coming, and coming soon, where America will no longer be able to dictate what happens on the world market:

Petrodollar Warfare: Dollars, Euros, and the Upcoming Iranian Oil Bourse.

1/26/2006 01:37:56 PM  
Ole Blue The Heretic said...

I despise wal mart and refuse to shop there. I eat at a small mom and pop diner that is still going because people here like their home cooking.

But I am losing my grip, I can see it, like the wallet has an artery and it is cut an bleeding.

Money does not go as far, everyone has to work to barely subsist, there is something wrong in this country, there is something amiss.

1/26/2006 03:53:22 PM  
SaraH said...

Thank you Brian for not forgetting the Nanny. That is real work. I raise other people's children.

♥ You
Miss You

1/26/2006 08:45:50 PM  
gus said...

I do not shop at Wal Mart, I don't care how broke I am. I don't let my wife shop there either.
At least she doesn't tell me if she bought something there.
Not after the last time when I threw a fit and made her take stuff back.

1/26/2006 10:51:19 PM  
Mel said...

View the parody "Friends with Low Wages" by 'Garth Brooks'

1/27/2006 01:36:53 PM  

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