The Demonization Of Wal-Mart

Sebastian Mallaby in yesterday’s WaPo tries to document his belief that Democrats are all of a sudden anti Wal-Mart in an apparent shift in away from the globalization ideals that they once fought for.

While it is true that many Democrats have in fact moved away from Wal-Mart as he so deftly describes, it isn’t Wal-Mart itself that many are bashing so much as what Wal-Mart has come to represent in today’s economy. Economist’s View does a nice job of explaining what I feel many think is the effect companies like Wal-Mart have had on our economy and why Democrats are now distancing themselves from these corporate behemoths.

I think the answer to the question of why centrist Democrats have shifted their stance on globalization is straightforward – the gains from globalization have not been shared equally. The claims made in the 1990s about the benefits of globalization have not been realized and it’s no longer wise politically to assert that globalization will benefit typical households. With stagnant real wages and other economic problems such as declining health care coverage, Wal-Mart is an obvious and glaring symbol to many of the failed promises of globalization, and lower priced imported goods do not overcome the failed promises the symbol represents.

The effects on the changing makeup of the global economy had been pretty much kept quiet in the media because up until recently the stagnation in worker wages had been somewhat offset by the increasing value of the benefits they were receiving.

But that increase has all but disappeared in recent months to the point that even though worker productivity has risen consistently since 2003, worker salaries have dropped.

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity – the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards – has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.

At the very top of the income spectrum, many workers have continued to receive raises that outpace inflation, and the gains have been large enough to keep average income and consumer spending rising.

Wal-Mart, while by no means the only corporation responsible for the shift to the stagnate wage vs. increasing profit corporate movement, is a perfect example of this trend and therefore the most obvious target. Their cut-throat mentality when dealing with vendors, lower end wage structure, and poor to non-existent employee benefit offerings typify the results of globalization that was once touted as the next big thing.

The Democrats have come to the realization that the winners in this new global economy are the big corporations like Wal-Mart that are seeing huge growth and increasing profits while at the same time not allowing these profits to make their way down to the workers that are directly responsible for generating this new found wealth in the first place.

How sad is it to say that in our new global economy we are going to need companies like Wal-Mart because it will be the only place Wal-Mart employees will be able to afford to shop.

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Judge Gors Back At It

In his third ruling in a little over a week, Judge Max Gors has instructed Attorney General Larry Long to change his ballot explanation. This time Judge Gors has instructed Long to add context to his video lottery explanation to provide perspective to the $112 million in lost revenues.

Gors ruled that the explanation is truthful but voters should be told what the lost revenue is in relation to the total revenue received by the state.

Gors said there’s no question that statement is true. But he told Atty. Gen. Larry Long, who authored the ballot explanation, to add a phrase that points out the amount is 11 percent of the state’s general-fund, or tax, revenue.“Then the voter will know the magnitude of the limitation being imposed on state government finances,’’ Gors wrote.

This is the second time that Judge Gors has instructed Long to change a ballot explanation, the other being his ruling that the medical marijuana text be changed while he ruled in favor of Long on the Amendment E lawsuit.

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Amnesty International Urging Clemency

Amnesty International has sent out a press release urging a worldwide call to action in an attempt to get Governor Rounds to step in and stop the execution of Elijah Page.

(Washington, DC) — Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today urged clemency for Elijah Page, a 24-year-old man who is scheduled to be executed in South Dakota tomorrow night. Putting teeth into the call, Amnesty International, the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization, has issued a worldwide call to action, mobilizing the public to send appeals to South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds on Page’s behalf. AIUSA Executive Director Larry Cox has written to Governor Rounds, urging the commutation of Page’s sentence.

Page was sentenced to death by a judge after pleading guilty and waiving his right to trial and sentencing by jury. Page’s co-defendant Darrell Hoadley pleaded not guilty and was tried by a jury that found him guilty of exactly the same crime as Page, with the same aggravating factors. Hoadley was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“Elijah Page’s case clearly demonstrates that our capital punishment system is a lottery of death,” Cox said. “Page was sentenced to death, and Hoadley was sentenced to life — for the same crime. Page’s execution must be halted at once.”

The press release does bring up a somewhat under reported issue in this case, the fact that Darrell Hoadley, Page’s accomplice in this crime who was also found guilty of the same charges received a life sentence instead of the death penalty awarded to Page.

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Taking Care Of The Troops

After almost 2 years serving our country in Iraq, 150 members of the 220th Transportation Company from Massachusetts came home to a hero’s welcome which included an 18-20 hour bus ride from the demobilization ceremony in Indiana back to their homes in Massachusetts.

What a nice thank you from the fine folks at the Department of Defense!

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The Emmy's

I normally wouldn’t care much about the annual pat on the back for the rich and famous in Hollywood but yesterday’s telecast of the Emmy’s had 2 interesting subplots.

First, on a personal note, one of the few shows I actually watch without fail (and Tivo when I can’t) finally got recognized when Fox’s 24 took home 3 Emmy’s including best drama and best actor for Kiefer Sutherland, the first I believe for both in the 5 season history of the show.

Now for the real news. This year’s show will probably go down in television infamy as one of the biggest bone-headed moves on record when the opening skit, which was designed as a “Lost” parody, depicted Conan O’Brien’s plane crashing on the way to the show just hours after a real plane crash killed 49 in Lexington, Kentucky.

NBC is already taking a beating over this unbelievably stupid decision to run this skit including from Lexington’s NBC affiliate:

WLEX’s president and general manager, Tim Gilbert, who was home watching the telecast with his family, was “stunned” by the intro; if station managers had known about the intro before the broadcast, Lexington viewers wouldn’t have seen it, he said.

“It was a live telecast — we were completely helpless,” Gilbert said of the Emmys. “By the time we began to react, it was over. At the station, we were as horrified as they were at home.”

Gilbert said he’ll complain to NBC, but he said an apology won’t make up for insensitivity.

“They could have killed the opening and it wouldn’t have hurt the show at all,” Gilbert said. “We wish somebody had thought this through. It’s somewhere between ignorance and incompetence.”

What were the show’s producers thinking?

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The Clock Is Ticking For Governor Rounds

Late last evening the warden from the South Dakota State Penitentiary announced that Elijah Page’s execution will happen at 10 pm on Tuesday evening. Page, whom has fired his lawyer and dropped any attempts at appealing his execution, now has his fate resting squarely in the hands of Governor Rounds.

“At this point, I don’t have any plans to intervene,” Gov. Mike Rounds said in an interview that ran in the Argus Leader on Aug. 20.

If Page does indeed get put to death it will be the first execution in our state since 1947 when convicted cop killer George Sitts met “old sparky” and because of that long drought between executions officers from our State Penitentiary had to make a trip to Texas, where they have the business of execution down to a science, to make sure they were properly prepared.

I am sure this is the last thing Gov. Rounds wanted on his plate right before the elections. He is already dealing with questions regarding his signing of the abortion ban which is making national news and now with his refusal to step in to stop the Page execution, some of the same people that were praising his abortion stance are now criticising his refusal to stop the execution.

Looks to me to be an interesting talking point for Jack Billion the next time the two get together for a debate. I have already read what many pro-life bloggers believe is the difference between abortion and execution but I would love to hear what Governor Rounds has to say about this.

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Hindsight As Policy

20/20 hindsight should be the slogan of King George and his minions as it seems that every time something happens in this country he comes out and says that we will learn from this ____________ (insert problem here).

The latest “lesson learned” coming from the Bush Administration deals with the absolutely inept governmental response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Last year I made a simple pledge: The federal government would learn the lessons of Katrina, we would do what it takes, and we would stay as long as it takes, to help our brothers and sisters build a new Gulf Coast where every citizen feels part of the great promise of America,” Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.

Why does it always take a catastrophe to figure out just how unprepared this administration is? What ever happened to proper planning, it wasn’t like the idea of a major storm hitting the gulf coast was a new one to anybody…

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The Conservative Week In Review

Katherine Harris, the wingnut from Florida again shows why she is bottoming out in the polls and why her staff is defecting in droves.

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) said this week that God did not intend for the United States to be a “nation of secular laws” and that the separation of church and state is a “lie we have been told” to keep religious people out of politics.”If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin,” Harris told interviewers from the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She cited abortion and same-sex marriage as examples of that sin.

Harris told the journalists “we have to have the faithful in government” because that is God’s will. Separating religion and politics is “so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers,” she said.

So it is God that choses our leaders? Osama must be proud and maybe he can find her a prominent position in his organization once she gets whipped in the primary.

It sure has been an interesting 2 weeks for the Conservative right.

* Sen. George Allen’s (R-Va.) “macaca” scandal.

* Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) joked about how a “nice little Guatemalan man” fixing up his house might be an illegal immigrant.

* A leading congressional candidate in Florida said he knows, “from my own experience, that blacks are not the greatest swimmers, and may not even know how to swim.”

* Two congressional candidates and a gubernatorial candidate believe people who “appear” to be Arab or Muslim should be subjected to racial profiling at airports.

* Pat Buchanan’s new book argues for “an immediate moratorium on all immigration,” in order to preserve the dominance of the white race in America.

And in one you may not have heard about, a Baptist church in Mississippi voted out a 12-year-old boy who “asked Jesus to live in his heart” — because the child is biracial and church members didn’t want the black side of his family attending with him.

And add to these examples Christopher Hitchen flipping off the audience on “Real Time” after the ardent Bush supporter was heckled during his appearance last night and Ann Coulter’s meltdown on Hannity and Colmes and one could surmise that the pressure is starting to show on some in the GOP camp.

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Medical Marijuana Ballot Explanation Must Be Changed

In a decision handed down yesterday, Circuit Judge Max Gors has ruled that the ballot explanation written by Attorney General Larry Long in regards to the medical marijuana ballot initiative must be either re-written or changed to use a new one written by the judge.

“The whole impression leads one to believe that the attorney general wants voters to reject the initiative. The attorney general should confine his politicking to the stump and leave his bias out of the ballot statement that is supposed to be objective,” Gors wrote.

Ouch!, quite a spanking for our esteemed Attorney General. I am sure in charge Bill Stegmeier isn’t very happy with this ruling which came on the heels of the same judge ruling against his similar lawsuit over Larry Long’s ballot explanation in regards to Amendment E.

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