Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Radicals Upset They Can't Control Supreme Court

I love this. While I'm no fan of President Bush (I think he's an idiot through and through), I'm chuckling at the howling coming from religious conservatives over Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers. What's the hubbub? Well, many are simply saying she's not qualified since she's never been a judge before. Funny, William Renquist wasn't either and he served as Chief Justice for, what 20 years?. No, this is all about the smoke and mirrors abortion game. Ms. Miers is a known born-again Evangelical Christian. So, logic would follow that she'd be a shoe-in for these right-wing fanatics. But, no. It's not that simple apparently. Why? Well, a good friend of hers this week said while she holds certain personal views regarding issues like abortion (of which the government should have absolutely NO say and should never be an issue in politics) she would uphold the LAW instead. So, right-wing radicals are crying foul. Hey, assholes, that's what a Supreme Court judge is SUPPOSED TO DO!!

The Supreme Court is not supposed to be used as a tool to push some radical social agenda. It's not to be used to prevent people who love and care for each other to get married. It's not to be a tool to supress women's rights. It's not supposed to be a tool to force theocracy on the rest of the nation. The Court's job is to UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Get over it.

If Ms. Miers happens to follow in the footsteps of Judge O'Connor, then all the better. The woman is a voice of REASON on the court, unlike the radical schmucks like Scalia and Thomas who openly push a far right-wing agenda. So, to all you Bible-thumping morons who cry and yell about this nominee, wake the fuck up and smell the coffee. This is a free country and isn't for you to control or impose your backwards agendas on.

Friday, October 07, 2005

WalMart - the Most Anti-American Company in the World

Wow. What a brilliant piece by Leo Hindery Jr. of BusinessWeek Online today. He published a column this week on a subject I've been wondering about for some time. It's WalMart; one of the most anti-American businesses I can think of. Read for yourself, because I couldn't put it any better than this. If you wonder why China is becoming such a powerful economic giant and small town America and lower-misddle class workers are getting shit on, you can thank WalMart. Walk into one of their stores and I challenge you to find a product made in the USA. Really. Good luck. And then ask yourself, "Why am I supporting a company that has taken millions of jobs away from Americans and one that has devastated so many businesses?"

Using a multimillion-dollar ad campaign, Wal-Mart's executives are defiantly blasting back at opponents who have criticized the retail giant's shoddy labor practices. But most people and even Wal-Mart's critics are missing the real crisis, which is that the behemoth from Bentonville, Ark., with its nationally destabilizing business model, is a dangerous detriment to America's local and national economies and to the middle class.

When H. Ross Perot ran for President back in 1992, he coined a memorable political phrase. The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said, would create "a giant sucking sound" -- the sound of jobs escaping out of the U.S. and into Mexico.

Today, if you listen carefully, you can hear a second giant sucking sound: Wal-Mart sopping up the vitality from middle-class American families, local communities, and the national economy.

EMPTY DOWNTOWNS. This happens in three different but related ways. First, there's the clobbering of Main Street: Wal-Mart moves in on the edges of towns, and the much smaller downtown merchants, unable to match its prices, soon go under. Second, there's the miserable wage and benefits package offered by Sam Walton's creation. And third, there's Wal-Mart's purchasing strategy, which seems to be about buying American-made products only as a last resort -- to the point that today Wal-Mart, by itself, is China's eighth-largest trading partner!

You could make the case that we are well on our way to becoming "Wal-Mart Nation." But maybe we don't have to be. Consider Costco (NasdaqNM:COST - News), Wal-Mart's most notable competitor --- whose much more sensitive and noble business model actually serves as a boost to the national economy and to its shareholders.

Costco's pay scale begins at around $10 per hour and averages $16. After four years, a Costco cashier can earn $44,000 (counting bonuses), which is significant purchasing power. In comparison, Wal-Mart's average hourly wage is a miserly $9.68. To appreciate the impact of this 65% difference in average wages, University of California at Berkeley researchers recently concluded that in 2003 Wal-Mart's low wages and benefits for its employees in California compelled taxpayers there to give these employees $86 million in food stamps, health-care, and housing subsidies just to stay above water.

UNCOVERED WORKERS. Overall, only 38% of Wal-Mart's nonsupervisory workers receive health-care benefits, according to the United Food & Commercial Workers Union. The company won't disclose how much of its total workforce receives company benefits. It does say 56% of employees in the core U.S. Wal-Mart unit, which excludes operations such as Sam's Club, receive company benefits. Judging by any reasonable standard, it's clear Wal-Mart has left American taxpayers the burden of picking up a huge tab for its uncovered health-care costs.

Wal-Mart has gone so far as to actively instruct its employees on how to apply effectively for government health-care programs like Medicaid. Costco, on the other hand, covers 85% of its employees' health-care costs. Costco is even pilot-testing a program offering discounted health-care plans to its customers in California who are either self-employed or cannot get coverage at work --- about 1.5 million people.

Not surprisingly, Costco's employee turnover is only about one-third that of Wal-Mart's, and Costco's customers are loyal almost beyond measure.

And yet Costco has operated this way while also satisfying Wall Street investors. Wal-Mart, of course, dwarfs Costco in size --- heck, it dwarfs even General Electric (NYSE:GE - News) and Microsoft! (NasdaqNM:MSFT - News) --- but Costco may in fact be the much better-run company. Wal-Mart operates 5,332 stores with annual sales of $288 billion, or $54 million per store. Costco has 452 stores with annual sales of $48 billion, or $106 million per store.

WAKE-UP CALL. Costco is a living example that a company can be extremely profitable and competitive and at the same time not destroy everything and everyone in its corporate path.

Wal-Mart's success has come at an enormous and painful cost to our national and local economies. From its boarding-up of Main Streets to its failure to pay workers fairly, to its imposing on taxpayers welfare costs for its underpaid employees, to its material contribution to our obscene ballooning trade deficit with China, this "Wal-Martization" of America is leaving us with an economy increasingly characterized by a gaggle of cheap imported consumer goods, shoddy employee practices, and insensitivity to communities.

It is beyond time for all Americans to wake up from this nightmare and support those companies --- Costco, for example --- that believe that companies and their CEOs have as much responsibility to employees, customers, and the nation as to shareholders. And it is way beyond time for us to take our support away from those companies that believe otherwise and do more to aggrandize management than to serve employees and their communities.