The Democratic Party's obsession with bringing down Wal-Mart has always reeked of electoral vote-counting and donation-gathering, with nary a principle in sight. Why in the world would these champions of the downtrodden (more on that later) try to bring down a chain that employs hundreds of thousands, and provides goods and services at a deep discount rate?
First, a few facts from Sebastian Mallory in today's Washington Post:
The nation's most successful retailer, which has seized the opportunities created by globalization to boost the buying power of ordinary Americans, is now seen as too toxic to touch...
...the idea that Wal-Mart pays below-market wages is false. Otherwise nobody would work there...
Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry have attacked Wal-Mart for offering health coverage to too few workers. But Kerry's former economic adviser, Jason Furman of New York University, concluded in a paper last year that Wal-Mart's health benefits are about as generous as those of comparable employers...
...According to a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research by Jerry Hausman and Ephraim Leibtag, neither of whom received funding from Wal-Mart, big-box stores led by Wal-Mart reduce families' food bills by one-fourth. Because Wal-Mart's price-cutting also has a big impact on the non-food stuff it peddles, it saves U.S. consumers upward of $200 billion a year, making it a larger booster of family welfare than the federal government's $33 billion food-stamp program.
How can centrist Democrats respond to that? By beating up Wal-Mart and forcing it to focus on public relations rather than opening new stores, Democrats are harming the poor Americans they claim to speak for.
So why beat up on Wal-Mart?
- The Democrats are in favor of maintaining and increasing the government's public assistance programs. With Wal-Mart's pricing policies making government hand-outs less necessary, the left loses a key rallying point. So re-create it by destroying the private institutions that are aiding the poor by demonizing them as (gasp!) "capitalists"!
-The more folk that are employed, the less that are in need of unemployment and welfare benefits. So convince folks that working for minimum wage is more embarrassing than not working at all, and tell them to just sit there and wait, while collecting welfare, because eventually that six-figure corporate job is going to fall right off of a tree. Ignore the fact that nothing helps you get a better job than having...a first job to begin with. Roll out Al Sharpton to impress the media and distract from the facts.
-Elitism - it's OK for you and I to have a DVD player in every room, but give the poor an opportunity to buy one for $39.95? No, the Democrats know better, you need that money for the "basics", and besides, they're made in China!
-Simple head-counting - if the poor move up the ladder, they might start to vote Republican! So shut down Wal-Mart, put thousands of gainfully employed citizens on the public dole, and keep them voting for the Democratic programs that they will need to survive...and God forbid we lose the (primarily white) Union vote! They represent 15% of the country, you know! Better for them to stay in the fold, and if the poor must remain so, well...so?
- Straw Man Theorem - The Democrats know they have zero credibility on the key issue to the American voter, the War on Terror. So they take on a foe they believe they can knock down - Wal-Mart! - and try to convince the rest of us dupes that a discount retailer is of more danger to the American way of life than Islamofascist terrorists.
Am I being cynical? No more than the big shots in the Democratic party who line up to destroy the dreams of the innocent so that they may survive in office a few more years...
And speaking of liberal hypocrites, I cannot help but present E.J. Dionne's twisting of history:
At its best, liberalism is about the defense of the underdog, of minority rights, of social justice, of active but restrained government, of civil liberties, of openness and tolerance.
In their own defense, those who still admit to being liberals would argue that the very fact that they have stood up for minority rights -- including, heroically, for civil rights in the 1960s -- made them unpopular, sometimes with a majority of the country.
I'll let Random Observations take 'ol EJ apart:
Liberalism, in my experience, is simply the claim to these positions.
Defending the underdog? Israel is a lone democracy, surrounded by a vast sea of people who want to destroy her. Where is the defense of that 'underdog' now? For thirty or more years, the black community has embraced 'liberal' ideas and faithfully elected Democratic leaders. How have they been helped? (The black family continues to dissolve.) And what about women in Islamic countries? Or Christians in China? Or Bahaiis in Iran? Or democratic activists in Cuba? Where is the concern?
Attempts at an in-depth examination of whether 'liberal' policies help or hurt underdogs, in my experience, generally provoke at best indifference, and at worst, anger.
When will EJ admit that being a liberal is never having to say "I've been mistaken"?