(The original, incomplete post was not intended to be published.)
In a recent NY Times editorial, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich took on what may be the true culture divide in this country - the economic divide, which is exemplified in the debate over whether large, efficient chain stores are a good thing or a bad thing. Too often, the arguments I hear people making against Walmart, Barnes and Noble, or Starbucks, sound out of touch with reality in one way or another, and the critics come off sounding like they just don't understand the basics of market economics.
Finally, here's someone making an argument for reforms, but with a grounded, common sense approach, that doesn't come off sounding holier-than-thou. The proposals he makes are certainly debatable, but I like the way he's trying to start a rational debate on the issue. Read the whole column, and then provide any commentary:
In the eyes of Wal-Mart's detractors, the Arkansas-based chain embodies the worst kind of economic exploitation: it pays its 1.2 million American workers an average of only $9.68 an hour, doesn't provide most of them with health insurance, keeps out unions, has a checkered history on labor law and turns main streets into ghost towns by sucking business away from small retailers.
But isn't Wal-Mart really being punished for our sins? After all, it's not as if Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, and his successors created the world's largest retailer by putting a gun to our heads and forcing us to shop there.
Instead, Wal-Mart has lured customers with low prices. "We expect our suppliers to drive the costs out of the supply chain," a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said. "It's good for us and good for them." . . .
. . . Meanwhile, many of us pressure companies to give us even better bargains. I look on the Internet to find the lowest price I can and buy airline tickets, books, merchandise from just about anywhere with a click of a mouse. Don't you?
. . . (O)ur debates about economic change take place between two warring camps: those who want the best consumer deals, and those who want to preserve jobs and communities much as they are. Instead of finding ways to soften the blows, compensate the losers or slow the pace of change - so the consumers in us can enjoy lower prices and better products without wreaking too much damage on us in our role as workers and citizens - we go to battle.