Carol Platt Liebau: Real Political Bullying

Monday, August 21, 2006

Real Political Bullying

According to Robert Kuttner, Wal-Mart isn't the problem; it's only the symptom of the problem (which he defines as the disappearing middle class dream).

Frankly, it strikes me that the way people like Kuttner treat Wal Mart is actually the problem. Last I checked, it's a legal, legitimate American business -- which, incidentally, caters to those living paycheck to paycheck (and who have more buying power because of its prices than they otherwise would). Because Wal Mart refuses to unionize, it's subjected (as Kuttner points out) to special, onerous regulations in Chicago and Maryland, among other places.

It's not clear to me exactly when it became okay for politicians to single out law-abiding, job-producing retailers for special regulations just for political reasons -- because actually, it seems like a grave misuse of the bully pulpit, and a real example of the type of official intimidation and bullying that many Democrats seem to feel so acutely, at least when it's directed against potential terrorists.

If politicians want to argue that Wal-Mart is breaking the law, let them make that case. If they want to argue that there should be certain laws applied to retailers, let them do so. But it's wrong to single out an otherwise law-abiding company for political vituperation -- even setting aside the fact that Democrats can hardly pretend to be friends of the "working man" when they push policies that would result in that constituency having to pay higher prices.


Blogger Editor said...

And I thought Carol was well versed in Reaganomics. It also is not helpful that Republicans refuse to increase minimum wages yet, they celebrate ExxonMobils' CEO walking away with a $ 400,000 million pension.

Reagan broke the PATCO union, and that really opened the floodgates to a major effort on the part of corporate America to essentially beat labor back into a corner to a place where they haven't recovered.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

It's not helpful to increase the minimum wage, for the sake of a tiny few who think that staying at the position paying the minimum wage is anybody else's problem but the person who won't work to improve himself. Most min wage people are students, wives with little else to do, and part-timers with regular day jobs. (Also old folks who don't want to sit around at the retirement home) The rest may be struggling people, but for just them, most work at that level for only the first 6-12 months and then get increases. Very, very few stay at min wage for any longer.

CEO's who get big pensions and bonuses usually get them for making the company successful. Successful profitable companies help employees and the economy. Your envy is as bad as your BDS.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Editor said...


Min wage increase pushes other low wages higher. There is little correlation between performance and CEO compensation. It is more of the CEO packing the BOD and shares being held by mutual funds that don't hold the board accountable to the shareholders best interest.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Bachbone said...

Wal-Mart is not the first company to feel the wrath of holier-than-thou politicians. Remember Microsoft? It had no lobbyists in Washington until the Clintons decided to go after Gates & Co. It has them now, at the cost of millions of dollars, and guess who pays those lobbyist salaries. Customers.

RE: wages and CEO salaries: A well known former politician wrote an Op-Ed published in the 05/20/06 Detroit News saying Wal-Mart profits are "...less than four cents on the dollar. Raise the cost of employing people, and the company will eliminate jobs. Its business model only works on low prices, which require low labor costs."

The writer also points out, "The chief executive of Wal-Mart earns $27 million a year, while the company's average worker takes home about $10 an hour. But [if] the [CEO] got 27 cents instead of $27 million...each [hourly worker] would receive a bonus of less than $20."

Finally, the writer says,"But union leaders who still see American businesses as the enemy must update that vision."

The same could be said for politicians on both sides of the aisle. But don't look for it to happen. It's much easier to play the "class envy" and "victim" cards to try getting votes. It's easier on the psyche to blame someone else for one's problems than admit some personal responsibility.

Incidentally, the Op-Ed author is that well known conservative, former Senator George S. McGovern.

2:19 AM  
Blogger dodger said...

Some years ago I was in a restaurant and could hear a conversation between the dishwasher and a friend. Hey, I have a place to sleep and plenty to eat but better than that, I have job security. Never have to worry that someone is angling to take it from me.

Unusual motivation? You tell me. In other words people actually work where they do because they want to. And are quite happy with their pay.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Cliff said...

Editor said... "It also is not helpful that Republicans refuse to increase minimum wages..."

Question, How much should they be raised? Up to $10,
$20, $50? How High would you like them to be?

10:13 AM  
Blogger eLarson said...

Here's an alternative view to Kuttner's from Michael Strong, writing at Tech Central Station.

Strong argues that WalMart has been a great fighter against world poverty, especially in China--far more so than The World Bank.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Cliff said...

eLarson said...
"...Strong argues that WalMart has been a great fighter against world poverty, especially in China--far more so than The World Bank."
Thanks for mentioning that article, it was a good one,with a very good point about poverty.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...


Great post.


Min wage hikes lift all wages? Fine. Cut into the company profits and what will they do? The purpose of any business is to make money for the owner(s) by supplying goods and/or services to as many people as possible. Wal-mart does this legally and effeciently and employs tons of people to help them do it. When you get out of Mom's basement and open your lemonade stand, you're free to pay your employees anything you like.

10:42 PM  

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