- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2006

“I’m a sick man, doc. You got to help me.” “Tell me about it, Tom.” “I’m addicted, Doc. I got addicted the first time I walked through their doors.”

“Whose doors, Tom?”

“Wal-Mart’s doors, Doc. As I strolled down the aisles I spotted a can of mushrooms for only 50 cents. I love mushrooms, doc, and at that price I can saute them every day.”

“That’s an excellent price, Tom.”

“Then I saw a bag of frozen chicken breasts — three pounds for under seven bucks. That’s dang close to eating for free, doc.”

“Good point, Tom.”

“About then I got thirsty, Doc. That’s when I really got blown away. Did you know you can get 12 cans of diet soda for under two bucks?”

“No doubt, Wal-Mart has driven down the cost of many goods.”

“Now I’m addicted. I can’t stop shopping there. No matter what I need, I know Wal-Mart will likely have it at the lowest cost. And now I’m ashamed.”

“Ashamed, Tom? Why be ashamed for taking advantage of bargain?”

“Because the Democrats say I should be. They say Wal-Mart doesn’t pay their workers enough or provide enough of them with health insurance. They suggest Wal-Mart passes along low prices to me by taking it out of their employees’ hides.”

“Tom, Tom, Tom. Will you relax? It’s the political season. Democrats are pandering to the union groups and anticapitalist elements within their party. They raise a lot of dough from these people by bashing Wal-Mart.”

“They do?”

“Sure, Tom. The truth is Wal-Mart is being targeted because of its success. It’s the largest employer in America — it earned a staggering $11 billion in profits last year. Their continuous drive to improve efficiency and drive down costs has dramatically changed the way retail business is done.”

“But critics say this is a bad thing — that Wal-Mart uses its size to beat up its vendors and that its competitors are forced to lower their prices, too, which causes them to pay their employees less. Isn’t that bad for the middle class?”

“No, Tom. Ultimately, it is good. It’s true Wal-Mart is giving its competitors and suppliers a lot of heartache, but that forces them to dramatically improve their own productivity in order to compete. They must cut out waste and inefficiency, so they can still make a profit selling their products for less.”

“But doesn’t improving productivity often mean replacing people with computers and automated processes? Wal-Mart even has automated check-out machines. Every time I use one, I feel like I’ve cost a cashier his or her job.”

“You have it backward, Tom. Every time you use an automated check-out machine you are creating better jobs. The company that makes those machines hires other employees to engineer, manufacture and transport their products, and those employees surely earn more than a Wal-Mart cashier.”

“You’re saying that at the same time I get to enjoy the savings that Wal-Mart produces, I am actually helping to create more good jobs?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying, Tom. Wal-Mart saves the average American family more than $2,000 a year or more. While consumers benefit from low prices, Wal-Mart succeeds. And as Wal-Mart succeeds, lots of people and industries succeed along with them.”

“How so, Doc?”

“Think of the welders, carpenters and plumbers who build the Wal-Mart stores. Or of the skilled employees who design and build the trucks Wal-Mart buys to ship its products. Wal-Mart cannot succeed without other people and companies also succeeding.”

“You make sense, Doc, but if what you say is true —that change may be painful but that Wal-Mart is ultimately good for most — then why would Democrat politicians demonize Wal-Mart?”

“That’s an easy one, Tom. The Los Angeles Times points out most Wal-Marts are located in small towns or rural areas. According to a Zogby poll, 3 in 4 Wal-Mart shoppers voted for Bush in 2004.”

“Your point, Doc?”

“As a general rule, Tom, Wal-Mart shoppers are Republican and Wal-Mart bashers are Democrats.

TOM PURCELL

Tom Purcell writes a weekly political humor column. Visit him at www.TomPurcell.com or contact him at [email protected]

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