Retail follytix 2004 — Wal-Mart rules

Expanded from the Sunday, 1-18-2004, Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune
1-22-2004 Comstock Chronicle

An edited version appeared in the 1-22-2004 edition of Las Vegas CityLife

Since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, too-very-short time on this earth, America has gone from oligarchy (rule by a small, privileged class) to plutocracy — basically the same thing, only with such an emphasis on money that the plutocrats border on untitled aristocracy, the royal family of which is named Bush.

The U.S. Royals know what happens where the rubber meets the road — as long as the lower classes are fighting each other, the overlords have nothing to worry about.

The Howard Dean youth crusader of 1968, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, D-Minn., told the truth about American taxes at the time: nothing was wrong with the code. It was fair. That troubled year represented the all-time peak of the U.S. economy. Corporations and individuals making the most money paid in progressive proportion. Spreading the wealth while protecting workers rights gave us the greatest economy the world has known before or since.

Then came Nixon. For the next three decades, corporations and wealthy individuals chipped away at the tax code to a point where we now resemble a banana republic. Experts from across the political spectrum have flown every warning flag in the trunk and nobody's saluting.

To replace the revenue lost by decades of corporate welfare and tribute to the plutocracy, congress and an unbroken line of presidents have piled the burden onto the middle and humbler classes. The anger of everyone laboring more hours for less is both actual and palpable.

This is how Gen. Wesley Clark can call for elimination of income tax for everyone making under $50,000 a year and not get called a dirty pinko commie. (Actually, the increase in Social Security paycheck witholding has been a much bigger budgetary band-aid since the 1980s.)

Just as in Nevada, taxophobes nationally have formed a latter day version of the 19th Century Know-Nothing Party. They refuse to believe that government must get bigger as the population increases. Worse, as long as tax inequities are perpetuated, the need for expanded government will increase faster than the population with big business privatizing profit and socializing risk. (Click here to access the Nevada study which proves it.)

There are no greater examples of toxic and chronic class division than the concurrent proliferation of organized gambling and Wal-Mart. The abovenoted study will enlighten you on the depredations of the gambling-industrial complex. Because the Arkansas vampire's virus consecrates an unholy new cathedral this week, I'll concentrate on the societal syphilis spread by the sons of Sam.

Wal-Mart is the nation's most cut-throat enemy of both workers and business competitors. Labor organizers have termed its union-busting apparatus as cruel perfection. Likewise legendary is Wal-Mart’s voracious destruction of local merchandisers large and small.

Despite grassroots opposition statewide, Nevadans face increasing infection. In northwest Reno, the surgery was successful but the patient died. Hundreds of constituents convinced the Reno City Council that the available land for a superstore was inadequate and would cause traffic gridlock for years to come. The council agreed, but Wal-Mart defeated the city in court by exploiting still-gaping loopholes in zoning laws.

That fight taught me something. Garden variety community organizing techniques can't beat an outfit as big, rich and vicious as the world's largest retailer.

Nationally, Wal-Mart's unionized competitors have been hit with strikes and demonstrations, mostly over health care benefits. Employers say that in order to compete against Wal-Mart’s low-wage, largely part-time labor force, their own workers must take a hit. Union workers respond that the companies are enormously profitable and merely use Wal-Mart as an excuse to grind their own people.

The merits of both arguments approach irrelevance. While its business and union adversaries destroy each other, Wal-Mart laughs all the way to the bank.

Why not work together against their mutual worst nightmare?

Organized labor is best at organizing. Business shines brightest in marketing and promotion. Unions have millions of motivated workers, retirees and their families. The supermarket chains have millions of loyal customers. Both business and labor can utilize their extensive databases to mobilize all these people.

I can envision publications, websites, coupons, buyers clubs and cooperative cross-promotional campaigns involving thousands of other unions and businesses.

There is nothing wrong or illegal with redirecting consumers. That’s called marketing.

So what’s not to like? There’s nothing to fear but fear itself — and there’s the rub.

When I talk about this with retail chain executives, I get one of two reactions: bravado in the face of the tank about to crush them or snooty revulsion at the idea of hitting Wal-Mart in the teeth rather than playing
by the old nice guy rules.

Nice guys finish last.

This concept is no more than an updated version of Miracle on 34th Street wherein Macy’s and Gimbel’s cooperate to provide their customers the best values.

Don’t dismiss the power of simple ideas aimed at kids. Harry Potter is full of them. The best business advice I ever got came from childhood wisdom imparted by Donald Duck’s billionaire Uncle Scrooge: "In a world of little men with their big machines, the only way to win is to build a bigger machine."

If unions and grocery chains want to survive against Wal-Mart, they’d better start constructing that machine together.

That lesson should likewise not be lost on Iowa or New Hampshire voters.

Be well. Raise hell. | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors
| BallotBoxing.US
Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive


Wal-Mart is a registered trademark of Wal-Mart, Inc.

Copyright © 1982-2004 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 35-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


Site composed and maintained by Deciding Factors (CWA signatory)
Comments and suggestions appreciated. Sign up for news and bulletins.