During a recent trip to Walmart, I was delighted by what I read tagged on a Coke machine outside the entrance. Right below the Walmart slogan, “Save Money. Live Better.” was the line “Drink Water” in white paint pen. Hah! Really, do we save money when we ploink seventy-five cents into a soda machine and get a twelve ounce can of colored, carbonated, caffeinated, sugar-water that likely cost Coca-Cola twenty-five cents to manufacture and ship? Do we live better with all the health problems associated with soda consumption, not to mention diet soda and the artificial sweetener aspartame? The little hoodlum and his graffiti pen got me thinking.
Might we have more money and live better by not shopping at Walmart? Lots of people loathe the place, but can’t seem to avoid it, either because it’s the only store within twenty-five miles that sells boxer shorts, bicycle chains and mini-blinds or because it’s the most affordable option. In my case, both reasons apply. It works like a tractor-beam and I’m not being overly dramatic, I’ve studied the physics of it. I live in a small town. Last week a brand new Walmart Supercenter held its grand opening here. Perched on a hill like a stucco fortress overlooking the town, it eclipses the older, regular Walmart that opened back in the nineties. Oh, you should have been there! They brought out the spotlights and everything! From a distance, you may have thought there was a film festival in town or heck, even a monster truck show. They didn’t even have spotlights for the rodeos that took place over the summer. Yes, it was the talk of the town: “Have you been to the new Walmart yet?” Yeesh.
As I shopped stealthily behind enemy lines, I realized this wasn’t just about Walmart, or soda for that matter. I shop at Walmart. I drink Coke. You might be surprised to learn that I get SNAP benefits on an EBT card and I’m one of the millions of Americans who can’t afford health insurance for my family. Didn’t you notice this is a free WordPress blog? Instead of relying on government handouts in the form of food stamps and Obamacare, I would much prefer an occupation that offered a wage to support a family on. I would like to buy my own health insurance, with my own money. I don’t want to take from the haves to give to the have nots.
For my parent’s generation it was possible to find an entry-level job with training right out of high school. All you had to do was show up and work hard; you could move up the ladder, make decent money and retire after forty years with a nice pension. My folks both got two week paid vacations nearly every year and health insurance too. It’s not that they worked harder; the opportunity they had as young adults has disappeared for my generation. My generation has had to go back to college and rack up tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, in a desperate effort to earn a degree that still doesn’t guarantee a job allowing one to buy a home or put one’s kids through college. I have a college degree, work two jobs and struggle to put food on the table and keep the power on. That’s how much this country has changed.
The debate over whether Walmart is a boon or bust to local economies has been raging for years; it’s not exactly news. The retail chain is notorious for treating its employees like dirt, offering mostly temporary and part-time positions, low wages, crappy benefits, forced overtime, etc. It’s also not a mystery that a majority of products (especially electronics, toys, clothing and housewares) sold at Walmart are manufactured very cheaply in other countries like China and India where the company can capitalize on cheap labor, cheap components and minimal safety regulations. Furthermore, because the chain is so large, they have massive buying power, allowing them to rake in more profit by buying already cheaply produced products at bulk discounts. The Supercenters also offer groceries, which means the grocery stores, delis and bakeries in town also suffer. Don’t go to Napa Auto Parts for seat covers, go to Walmart. Don’t go to Safeway for Frosted Flakes, go to Walmart. Don’t go to Les Schwab for tires, go to Walmart. And they ad-match too, so even if a local store dares to compete by having a really good sale, forget it. At Walmart, it’s cheaper and it’s all in one place. Save money, save time, that’s the mantra. Some argue that’s a brilliant business model, others say it’s predatory. What’s the difference? That’s free-market capitalism, right? What is not so well known is that Walmart uses billions in taxpayer money in the form of tax breaks, infrastructure assistance, grants and other subsidies to help fund its expansion.
Is saving money the catch-all for a dependent, globalized America? As a society, we sacrifice a lot for the sake of low prices. But therein lies the key to Walmart’s success. Walmart thrives in a poor economy, where people have less and less to spend because wages are so low and good-paying, full-time work is disappearing. But, they also drive the poor economy, and so do we, by shopping there. It’s a cycle of dependence.
It’s not that folks who shop specialty marts and boutiques are all trendy snobs, but they can afford to buy all organic, sustainably-grown, non-GMO stuff. They can afford artisan, hand-crafted, American made products. The rest of us get cheap, microwavable slop, and vacuum cleaners that stop working after a few runs across the carpet. I don’t hate the people who have nice homes along the lake. They are not our enemy. Perhaps they started a successful business or made smart investments. Someday, I would love to own a home by the lake and a boat. In America, that should remain an achievable goal for all, a reminder of the opportunities that exist in our nation. The globalists want to strip away wealth and opportunity. They want to nullify success and the values that have made America strong: innovation, ingenuity, determination and hard work.
Walmart is a key molecule in the globalist paradigm. But Walmart is just one prominent example of how globalism destroys culture. The landscape of our country is changing, and not for the better. Not so long ago, individual cities had their own character and style, defined by their signature shops, stores and restaurants. They were operated by local people, families and small-business owners. Now, everything is homogenized and corporatized. You can’t go anywhere in the United States without finding an Olive Garden, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Target or PetSmart. Often, they’re all lined up together in the same shopping center.
The myth of globalism assures us that interdependence results in a more peaceful, equitable world. The reality of globalism, however, is subjugation to authoritarian control. It’s not about nations working together, caring and sharing, it’s about nations surrendering their sovereignty, wealth, resources and culture. It is the arch-nemesis of liberty and independence.
It should be no surprise then that Walmart serves as the staging ground for economic crisis experimentation. When the corporate controlled government wants to test people’s response to malfunctioning EBT cards (either when they’re rendered useless or when they’re given an unlimited balance, both of which we witnessed last month), Walmart is used to gauge the reaction. Why? Because Walmart is everywhere, and they’re still spreading. If you don’t have one nearby, you will soon. When Black Friday rolls around this year, Walmart will hire armed guards in some locations and even set up SkyWatch surveillance towers in the parking lot. Nobody complains. It’s there to keep everyone safe while assaulting each other over cell phones and Furbys. When the economy collapses, will the military use Walmart stores as distribution centers for your weekly ration of food, water and clothing? Of course they will, because they know you’ll be there.