Wednesday, September 20, 2006

George Will on Wal-Mart, 100 Applicants Per Job

George Will writes on Wal-Mart:

The median household income of Wal-Mart shoppers is under $40,000. Wal-Mart, the most prodigious job-creator in the history of the private sector in this galaxy, has almost as many employees (1.3 million) as the U.S. military has uniformed personnel. A McKinsey company study concluded that Wal-Mart accounted for 13 percent of the nation's productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s, which probably made Wal-Mart about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation.

Wal-Mart and its effects save shoppers more than $200 billion a year, dwarfing such government programs as food stamps ($28.6 billion) and the earned-income tax credit ($34.6 billion).

People who buy their groceries from Wal-Mart — it has one-fifth of the nation's grocery business — save at least 17 percent. But because unions are strong in many grocery stores trying to compete with Wal-Mart, unions are yanking on the Democratic Party's leash, demanding laws to force Wal-Mart to pay wages and benefits higher than those that already are high enough to attract 77 times as many applicants than there were jobs at this store.
The amount of criticism and bad press Wal-Mart continually receives seems way out of line to me, considering the significant benefits it creates for the U.S. economy. And is it really any different at McDonald's, Home Depot, Target, all of the Dollar Stores, K-Mart, Big Lots, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Wendy's, etc. as far as wages and benefits? I don't think so. In fact, if Wal-Mart gets 25,000 applications for only 325 openings at a single store, isn't that evidence that Wal-Mart wages are actually too HIGH?

And as much criticism as Wal-Mart gets for "driving small downtown merchants out of business," why doesn't Home Depot get the same criticism for driving small family-owned hardware stores out of business? Why don't Borders and Barnes & Noble get criticism for driving small book stores out of business? Perhaps being the #1 retailer in the world, Wal-Mart becomes the punching bag for all of the retailers?

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