[...] filmmaker Robert Greenwald has just unleashed a bitter documentary ("Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price") that has been shown in November in some 3,000 private homes, union halls and churches across the United States before its general DVD release. Produced with support from labor organizations (which resent their inability to unionize Wal-Mart), and endorsed by Hollywood comedian-activists Al Franken and Jeaneane Garofolo, Greenwald's film accuses the company of exploiting employees, despoiling the environment, destroying small businesses, and flooding the United States with sweatshop merchandise from abroad.As usual, there is plenty of arrogance directed at the stupid Americans in this and other Greenwald's movies.
Neither Greenwald nor his backers expect to connect with an eager mass audience; it's safe to say more people will visit Wal-Mart stores in any single day than will watch the film over the next 10 years. In fact, all the angry debates over Sam Walton's legacy occupy an elitist, abstract atmosphere utterly disconnected from the real world of shopping and spending.
"Progressive" activists may hate Wal-Mart, but they must recognize that if the company closed tomorrow it would throw hundreds of thousands out of work and make the lives of millions of customers vastly less convenient.
Critics insist they don't want the retail giant to fail: They merely want better salaries and benefits for workers. But even the most rudimentary understanding of economics indicates that paying more for employees leads inevitably to higher prices, leading in turn to less business, less growth and fewer new jobs Â particularly the entry-level jobs our economy so desperately needs.
If critics challenge Wal-Mart's business model as woefully misguided, they should be able to press rival companies to deploy their more enlightened notions, thereby displacing the Bentonville behemoth from its position of dominance.
More recently, Greenwald has focused on unabashedly left-wing documentaries, including last year's "Outfoxed," an angry exposesÃ©" of Fox News Channel Â another profoundly profitable institution that has earned enthusiastic support from the American heartland.The other column by Sebastian Mallaby entitled appropriately Progressive Wal-Mart, disputes many "facts" presented by Wal*Mart detractors in their fight against it and shows how Wal*Mart actually does a better job then governments to improve lives of so called working poor. Mallaby also makes fun of anti-capitalistic elites by pointing out that their critique of Wal*Mart is really critique of the free market system.
In fact, a consistent contempt for ordinary Americans seems to connect both poles of Greenwald's career: In his earlier, populist "Portrait of a Stripper" phase, he attempted to connect with a mass audience by insulting its intelligence; in his more-recent work as a high-minded documentarian, he has portrayed the people as helpless boobs manipulated by evil corporations, and unable to make appropriate decisions about their own long-term welfare.
One of the sponsors of the new film's premiere, Liza Featherstone of The Nation magazine, begins one of her frequent diatribes against her least-favorite company by sniffing: "Wal-Mart is an unadorned eyesore surrounded by a parking lot, even its logo aggressively devoid of flourish." Of course, most middle-class shoppers will care far more about getting decent value for their money than a logo's flourish or a store's architectural amenities.
Intellectuals have always despised the "bourgeoisie" (In the '20s, H.L. Mencken ceaselessly derided the "boob-oisie") for its hard-headed practicality, refusing to recognize that most people simply don't have the luxury to look beyond narrow notions of self-interest and affordability.
There's a comic side to the anti-Wal-Mart campaign brewing in Maryland and across the country. Only by summoning up the most naive view of corporate behavior can the critics be shocked -- shocked! -- by the giant retailer's machinations. Wal-Mart is plotting to contain health costs! But isn't that what every company does in the face of medical inflation? Wal-Mart has a war room to defend its image! Well, yeah, it's up against a hostile campaign featuring billboards, newspaper ads and a critical documentary movie. Wal-Mart aims to enrich shareholders and put rivals out of business! Hello? What business doesn't do that?Both columns underscore one very important point: Wal*Mart represents the free-market system we still enjoy in this country. Most Americans still believe in this system and are not ready to embrace socialism just yet, especially when they see the failed economic models of France and Germany. This makes them less dependent on the government and thus more difficult to control, which is the ultimate goal of the liberal elites.
Wal-Mart's critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.
These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart's "every day low prices" make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.
Set against these savings for consumers, Wal-Mart's alleged suppression of wages appears trivial. Arindrajit Dube of the University of California at Berkeley, a leading Wal-Mart critic, has calculated that the firm has caused a $4.7 billion annual loss of wages for workers in the retail sector. This number is disputed: Wal-Mart's pay and benefits can be made to look good or bad depending on which other firms you compare them to. When Wal-Mart opened a store in Glendale, Ariz., last year, it received 8,000 applications for 525 jobs, suggesting that not everyone believes the pay and benefits are unattractive.
The head of the FCC says consumers could save money if they're allowed to choose what cable channels they want. Kevin Martin says this 'a la carte' approach would also help parents keep closer tabs on what their children watch, and keep channels they don't want out of the house.Not surprisingly, however, cable companies hate this idea.
The head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said requiring the cable industry to offer 'a la carte' pricing is a dangerous idea. Kyle McSlarrow likened it to telling newspapers they have to sell the business and sports sections of their newspapers separately.But I think they have no choice if they ever want me as their customer. Of course, they fear that their existing customers may drop the channels they don't like to save money. But should they be so afraid?
In testimony this past October before the House Judiciary Committee, John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University and a fellow at the Claremont Institute, argued that the prevailing interpretation gives too much weight to place of birth than originally intended and should be changed.
Eastman argued: "Birth, together with being a person subject to the complete and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States (i.e., not owing allegiance to another sovereign) was the constitutional mandate."
Indeed, the 14th Amendment reads: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and (italics added) subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
As Eastman argues, illegal aliens from Mexico are still foreign nationals and are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction, except for purposes of deportation. Therefore, their children born on American soil should not automatically be U.S. citizens.
During debate on the 14th Amendment, Sen. Jacob Merritt Howard of Michigan added the jurisdiction language specifically to avoid accident of birth being the sole criteria for citizenship.
And if citizenship was determined just by place of birth, why did it take an act of Congress in 1922 to give American Indians birthright citizenship if they already had it?
Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia seeks to clarify the situation through HR698. It would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S. of parents who are not citizens or are not permanent resident aliens.
The current interpretation of birthright citizenship may have been a huge mistake. And, given the burden illegal aliens have imposed on our welfare, educational, health care and legal systems, it may have been a very costly one.
Becoming a U.S. citizen should require more than your mother successfully sneaking past the U.S. Border Patrol.
U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., presided at a House hearing last week entitled "Birthright Citizenship, Dual Citizenship and the Meaning of Sovereignty." It's unfortunate that this important subject received little media coverage.I wonder why my local paper is not talking at all about the costs of illegal immigration. There is so much discussion going on about how Wal*Mart ruins communities around the country and not one word on how illegal aliens affect our schools, health care and crime.
The statistics are shocking. At least 383,000 babies are born in the United States every year to illegal immigrants; that's 10 percent of all U.S. births and about 40 percent of indigent births.
The cost to U.S. taxpayers is tremendous because all those babies, called anchor babies, claim birthright citizenship. Their mothers and other relatives then sign up for a vast stream of taxpayer benefits.
Conventional wisdom says immigrants are not a financial burden to taxpayers because they work hard, pay taxes and rarely go on the dole. But it's a myth, and a new study blows another hole in it.I said in this post that this issue would most likely cost Republicans dearly in 2006.
The University of Florida finds that immigrant families have been costing that state a net $1,800 per household per year, a financial burden much larger than previously thought.
The findings surprised the study's author, who is a pro-immigration Democrat. After crunching the numbers, economist David Denslow discovered immigrants Ã legal and illegal Ã were consuming much more in public services and paying much less in taxes than the average resident.
Chief among the government services they were consuming were education and Medicaid.
But wait a minute. Didn't last decade's welfare reform push a lot of immigrants off the dole?
Yes, but the decline in immigrant cash aid and food stamps has not resulted in a significant savings for taxpayers, because it has been almost entirely offset by increases in the cost of providing Medicaid to immigrant households.
In fact, a recent study by the Center for Immigration Studies found that the average welfare payout to immigrant households, both legal and illegal, has changed little and remains about $2,000 a year, which is 50% higher than the payout for natives.
In 1996, 22% of immigrant households were on the dole (compared with 15% for natives), according to CIS. By 2001, the share rose to 23%. Over that period, average Medicaid payments to immigrants jumped to $1,495 from $1,203.
Immigrant households account for a growing share of the welfare caseload.
The number of immigrants using at least one major welfare program has steadily increased, with the exception of a small drop in 1997.
Between 1996 and 2001, the number of immigrant households using the welfare system grew by 750,000 to more than 3 million Ã accounting for almost 18% of all U.S. households on welfare. That share is expected to rise with continued high rates of immigration.
And if you think immigrants, most of whom are poor Mexicans, will stop depending on U.S. welfare as they settle into jobs and even careers here, think again.
CIS found that welfare use actually increases significantly with duration of stay in the U.S. Not until they have lived here more than 20 years does it start to go down on average.
"To some extent, assimilation for many immigrants means assimilation into the welfare system," the report said. "This is the case for both immigrants in general and for legal immigrants."
The Florida and national studies show that immigrant use of the welfare system remains well above that of natives and creates a significant cost to taxpayers. Their findings tip the debate over the cost of immigrants in favor of immigration reformers.
The Portland Community College Skills Center on Monday received a $150,000 state grant to expand training and apprenticeship opportunities for women and minorities interested in pursuing careers in heavy highway construction.
Rep. Chuck Riley represents Western Washington County and is being targeted by the Republicans who want desperately to take back the Oregon House of Representatives. He needs help from all of us and he deserves it, considering the way he votes. Below is a notice of a fundraiser but don't be discouraged by the "lowest" figure on this notice; I'm sure that smaller donations will be appreciated.
-- Lee Coleman
Representative Chuck Riley Invites you to join him at Moe's Billiard Hall in Forest Grove for the 2nd annual Chuck Riley Invitational Pool Tournament
Tuesday, November 15, 8-9:30 pm
Moe's Billiard Hall
2036 Pacific Ave.
Forest Grove, OR 97116
Gold Sponsor: $2,500
Silver Sponsor: $1,000
Bronze Sponsor: $500
Individual Attendance: $100
[The minor parties are] demanding a boost in social spending, an increase in the minimum wage and a renegotiation of terms with the EU over farm subsidies [...].
Investors are worried about the comments of new Finance Minister Teresa Lubinska who has said that large, foreign-owned supermarkets are not needed in Poland and has called for an increase in the budget deficit by PLN 2 bln (over the proposed PLN 30 bln by Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz).
These worries are reflected in the fall of the zloty against the dollar and euro in the past two days.
The budget deficit may rise in 2006 if PiS has to compromise with LPR and Samoobrona in return for their support in the vote of confidence.
October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 May 2013 July 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 May 2015 September 2015 November 2015 December 2015 March 2016