Walmart's Low Prices Bear a High Cost for America

For untold millions, Walmart is not simply a place to shop, but the place. Considering that the quintessential big-box retailer claims to, and often does, offer just about every conventional item necessary for the family at an affordable price, this should be none too surprising.

However, at what cost does this convenience come, and in the grander scheme of things, is what Walmart has to offer really convenience at all? The company’s ownership would most definitely say so, as would throngs of eager consumers. Many economists, social scientists, and former employees, though, have a strikingly different opinion. While one can choose to believe whichever side of the argument he or she likes best, where do the facts lie?

First and foremost, it should be known that every single American taxpayer is essentially footing the bill for Walmart’s mere existence.

According to Reuters, this is because, as a study published last year by the City University of New York’s Hunter College Center for Community Planning showed, company employees receive inadequate health insurance coverage and in turn are left with few other options than to apply for public assistance. Beyond providing a lack of medical benefits, Walmart’s presence in most regions, says the study, "Depresses area wages....pushes out more retail jobs than it creates, and results in more retail vacancies."

Mr. Anonymous and the Not-So-Spontaneous Birth of the Libertarian Movement

An important history lesson in our time of decline... Michael Collins

Originally published in Scoop Independent News

By anaxarchos
Disclaimer: This is not a conspiracy story, though it has all the elements of one. Anonymous shadowy figures, international "societies", complete political "ideologies" created for convenience alone, social institutions corrupted through the mere distribution of cash (science, politics, universities, governments and even the Nobel Prize), and a global strategy designed to "rule the world" - no doubt about it, this one is better than a novel. But, don't get carried away. There are no secret ceremonies or lizard people in this tale. Nor is it a story about groups named after Italian light fixtures or German beer. It is instead the story of how "everyday conspiracies" work. (Image: DonkeyHotey)

Karl Marx wrote that the ruling ideas of any age are the ideas of its ruling class. Looking backward, it is hard to dispute this observation, but how does it actually work? That is what our story is about. It starts with the businessman below and his simple frustration at the success of Marxism as an idea, first among his own workers and then amongst the American establishment whose wide-spread adoption of the appropriately conciliatory "New-Dealism" was entirely in response. In an economic system in which everything is reduced to a commodity, a man of means should be able to simply buy a counter-idea, shouldn't he? So it turns out...

Beyond Protection vs. Liberalization - Thinking Historically About Trade and Policy

Note: this is a cross-post from The Realignment Project. Follow us on Facebook!


In about two years of blogging at TRP (and another two years’ policy-blogging elsewhere), I’ve never discussed trade. It’s not because it’s unimportant, because trade is clearly a major issue within economic policy and politics, but rather because of when I came of age politically. In 2001 student politics, the free trade vs. anti-globalization/protectionism debate seemed remarkably deadlocked and somewhat sterile. Twin camps of policy contenders required allegiance with either side, and I found myself unhappy with the analysis and debate and more drawn to questions of domestic economic policy.

However, in the wake of the Great Recession and the increasingly-urgent need to reassess the structure of the U.S economy, I can’t avoid it any longer. The trade question isn’t the whole of our economic problems, I think it can be exaggerated in a way that obscures a more important class conflict inside nations. And yet, the global balance of trade – between Germany and the rest of Europe, between China and the U.S, and so on – is clearly out of whack.

Time for a Bailout for the American Workforce


Note: this is a cross-post from The Realignment Project. Follow us on Facebook!


As the third year of recession ends, the scale of the task of undoing the social and economic damage of the recession is now made plain. It is already well-known that 15 million Americans are officially unemployed, with another 15 million unofficially unemployed. But the scope of the recession goes far beyond their ranks  - more than half of the U.S. labor force (55 percent) has “suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers” since the recession began in December 2007.

The widespread nature of workers' declining fortunes, even if they have not suffered unemployment, explains why it is that one-third of U.S working families are now low-income (i.e, under 200% of poverty), one lost paycheck, one illness, or one accident away from disaster. But as I have noted before, the underlying illness of stagnant wages and a weak labor market have existed before - the one-third figure discussed above is only 7% higher than before the recession, and during the previous recovery in '02-05 we saw that figure increase, never falling below its 2007 level.

A rescue is deeply needed.

Fiscal Policy By Dummies: Looking at the Deficit Plans from a Progressive Standpoint

Note: this is a cross-post from The Realignment Project. Follow us on Facebook!



Following the on-going drama of the Deficit Commission - which just adjourned without even voting on its own proposal, and which never came close to getting the necessary votes to trigger an up-or-down vote in the Senate - has been rather painful. Especially in light of the Republican takeover of the House and the ongoing dispute over extending the Bush tax cuts and raising the debt ceiling, the grip of austerity thinking seems paradoxically strong and weak at the same time, pervasive enough to be omnipresent within the media yet not actually persuasive enough to get anyone to vote for anything they dislike.

However, there is one point that needs to be cleared up - behind the banalities of "living within our means" and other balanced-budget platitudes, there is ideology at work. The budget is not just a technical issue, but a moral document - it is a choice between a high road or a low road to the future.

Industrial Policy Can Work - Rethinking the Auto Bailout

Note: this is a cross-post from The Realignment Project. Follow us on Facebook!


How NOT to Do It



When the first generation of historians begin their work on the Obama Administration, one of the more puzzling chapters will be the winter of 2010, when a major sea-change occurred in public policy that neither the administration nor the media were particularly eager to spend that much time trumpeting - namely, the revival of industrial policy after forty years or more beyond the pale of the Conventional Wisdom, as demonstrated by the success of the American automotive industry rescue.

While we wait for that generation of historians to get started being born, we can at least begin to learn some lessons about how and why the Big Three rescue worked when other industry bailouts have been such miserable failures.

Why Economic Growth in the United States Cannot Happen

By Joaquin posted by Michael Collins

So, you cut back on your lifestyle; performed a so un-Greek personal austerity reset but your credit card balance is still creeping up; or perhaps you are slowly burning through your savings; or you are at the end of the line; abandon ship. Whatever, you have a lot of company out there. (Image)

Why is it so hard to make ends meet these days? The days of living high on the credit hog are over and we all have to get small but in the end, we still have to make ends meet; we have to pay for food, pay for utilities, buy gas, etc. How to make that work?

We all bought a lot of stuff during those days of easy credit. Debt driven demand drove up the value of lots of things. Homes increased in value so much that they became a kind of income harvested through a home equity line of credit. Autos got big and powerful again making them unaffordable to buy and operate now that we have to live within our means. Cell phones replaced land lines and cost a lot more; especially when everyone in the family has to have one. Maybe you have a home that you cannot sell and you are stuck living 20 miles or more from your workplace and your car is fast reaching the point when you will need a new one just to get to work.