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Will Will Ever Get It Right? September 16, 2006

Posted by chuckwh in Blogroll, Bush, Business, Economy & Business, George W. Bush, Gore, monopolies, News and politics, Politics, Wal-Mart.

One of the true luminaries of conservative thought is George F. Will, who likes baseball a lot, but just doesn’t quite get why Wal-Mart is about to be broken up.

Under the amusing headline, “When the people speak, liberals turn deaf,” George F. Will wrote an article the other day excoriating “liberals” for the imminent break-up of Wal-Mart (although he doesn’t actually refer to the recent FTC action in his article).

His dateline city is Evergreen Park, Illinois, a city, he notes with typical conservative statistical manipulation, that is 88 percent white, but within whose boundaries sits a Wal-Mart whose customer base, according to his report, is 90 percent black. Will doesn’t attribute either statistic to any resource, so maybe his article is actually a blog, without any of the editorial constraints newspaper reporters are said to be subject to — either that or bloggers are no longer the only ones who get a break when it comes to attribution.

Anyway, let’s look at where Evergreen Park is situated. Will says it is a Chicago suburb “contiguous with Chicago’s western edge”. According to Webster, contiguous means:

being in actual contact : touching along a boundary or at a point.

The Wal-Mart in Evergreen Park is near the hub of two major Southwest Side arteries, 95th Street and Ashland Avenue. This is an intersection that people of all races and creeds focus on when traveling within 20 miles of their homes. So, I have no idea what Will’s point is when he points out that African Americans are happy to trek a few blocks to 95th and Ashland. Evergreen Park’s demographics are a moot point when it comes to Wal-Mart demographics. Wal-Mart demographics are based on income level, not race.

I don’t think the country clubbers in DeKalb, Illinois spend much time in the DeKalb County Wal-Mart, but you can be sure that the small business owners who have been put out of business by that company have plenty of family members who shop there, if only to survive.

Will’s column gets funnier. He then describes what I guess he perceives as a typical Wal-Mart customer in the Evergreen Park store, a black woman chagrined at not getting a job at a recent hiring event at the store but who shops there anyway. “Sensibly,” Will writes with a straight face, “she compartmentalizes her moods and her money.” Will goes on to suggest that because Americans have saved so much money at Wal-Mart, liberals have some bizarre “philosophical repugnance towards markets because consumer sovereignty results in the masses making messes.” In other words, he seems to be suggesting that liberals don’t like to save money. Or something.

A devout free-marketer, Will also seems to be saying that the free market is not capable of creating an economy where consumer costs can be held down in a world without a Wal-Mart.

Will also says, “Liberals think their campaign against Wal-Mart is a way of introducing class into America’s political argument.” He conveniently forgets that “the liberals” don’t own the argument against Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s policies of extortion against suppliers and its support for conditions in Third World countries that would have Upton Sinclair blush are well documented. Centrists like myself are in full support of the FTC’s suit to break up the company. This is not a “liberal” agenda.

But Will, free market man that he is, is okay with the pillaging of the U.S. manufacturing sector, because, in the words of a Fast Company article, “There is no question that Wal-Mart’s relentless drive to squeeze out costs has benefited consumers. The giant retailer is at least partly responsible for the low rate of U.S. inflation, and a McKinsey & Co. study concluded that about 12% of the economy’s productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s could be traced to Wal-Mart alone.”

Somehow that hasn’t been enough for the Gore administration. FTC hearings begin in two weeks. I can’t wait.



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