Friday, March 23, 2007

Wal-Mart: Planting flags where the sun don't shine

There are very few companies that mine the vein of pro-American, red-white-and-blue flag-waving patriotism, like Wal-Mart. Walk into any one of its thousands of stores and the pro-American, love-it-or-leave it ambience is readily apparent, right on down to the piped in redneck country tunes playing on the sound system.

Watch any local television station and your bound to have the privilege of viewing one of Wal-Mart’s hokey ads, equating their corporate theft with small town values and extolling the chain’s supposed commitment to community causes—like low-wage jobs, environmental damage and sprawl are values I desire for my little corner of the world!

What bothers me the most and is most ironic, is that the people who have the most to lose by supporting Wal-Mart, merrily drop their hard-earned money on counters in community, after community, all over the country. These duped consumers are the very people that Sam Walton’s heirs keep pitching their disingenuous marketing drivel to.

It reminds me of Thomas Frank’s book, What’s The Matter With Kansas, which came out in 2005. Frank wonders how his fellow Midwesterners—descended from free-soil, abolitionist progressives and prairie socialists—could back a candidate with an agenda like George Bush, who shows little, or no concern for the issues that ought to make these members of the working class deplore this midget of a man? Frank goes on at length about the place that historian Walter Prescott Webb called a “hotbed of persistent radicalism,” the seedbed of Social Security and agrarian reform, yet, it sided with the bosses and backed an ideology that promises the destruction of the liberal state's social-welfare safety net.

Just like Frank, I shake my head and wonder, whenever I drive by a Wal-Mart store and see the human vestiges of 20 plus years of class war, driving their run-down heaps of metal, all being drawn to Wal-Mart's smiley face like flies to shit.

On top of all the obvious reasons why consumers ought to march to their local spawn of Sam Walton and burn it to the ground, the multi-national retailer, whose motto ought to be, “profits, over people, all the time” is currently fighting legislation, which would tighten security at our ports and close some of the gaping holes in security that currently exist. Like always, Wal-Mart’s motive is profit, as if they couldn’t sacrifice a million, or two, to make sure that storage containers were properly scanned.

Since 9-11, Wal-Mart, along with its lobbying group, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, have systematically undercut security by working diligently to defeat proposals and undermine current laws that are designed to make our ports more, not less, secure. These slick lobbyists, with their expensive suits, probably with a flag pin affixed to their lapels, have been working overtime to sway Washington politicians to their position of making sure that Wal-Mart and some of their other clients—large retailers like Sears, Target, Home Depot, Best Buy—don’t have to have their foreign containers properly inspected. The primary reason—profits, at the risk of security for Americans.

Most recently, Wal-Mart, along with the RILA has been lobbying hard to ensure that their containers won’t be required to fall under recent legislation that calls for 100 percent scanning of all containers entering U.S. ports, which was part of a new U.S. House bill. Wal-Mart is claiming that it would needlessly impede the speed of imports potentially hurting Wal-Mart’s profits.

As Jerry once sang, “Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.” Wal-Mart is a master at that practice, while the cameras run—when the whir of the cameras stop, however and the lights go down, good ole’ Wal-Mart takes that very flag and sticks it up America’s hind orifice, while laughing all the way to the bank, with their loot.

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