Abandoned Wal-Mart store in Oskaloosa, Iowa courtesy of flickr
Wal-Mart is abandoning the U.S., more like it.Last night, PBS re-ran Frontline's November 2004 report "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?", a program worth revisiting. It shows how Wal-Mart's business practices are tied to globalization and international trade, and how it has sold out the American Dream for corporate profit.
Also covered in the program is Wal-Mart's forcing of the hand of a new corporate ethic: instead of the high value, high innovation differentiator -- which had been the reputation of the United States for a long time (speaking from my immigrant background) -- Wal-Mart's playing the lowest price, lowest cost differentiator. Also, Wal-Mart's influence on national economic development in China is phenomenal, but not at a net benefit to the US. Just goes to show that those who dismiss the link between city planning and internationalism are missing some key indicators.
The Frontline report was a good follow-up to the viewing of The High Cost of Low Price over the holidays. Despite the poor execution (I wish I didn't have to say so, though many thanks to the volunteer film crews, check out the story behind the movie to see what I mean), the film had enough facts and data to make me believe even more strongly that Wal-Mart is systematically destroying the social, economic and built environment that has made this country. The anecdote that stayed with me is told by one city manager. Essentially, Wal-Mart has enough start-up capital that it never has to respect the term limits of its tax abatements: all it needs to do once it has reached its term limit is to shut down the old store and build a new one just beyond the taxable border. Just beyond is fine...Wal-Mart'll seal a deal with the neighboring town to suck it dry and not pay taxes.
Those poor city managers. The city manager said he had no choice: either he accepts Wal-Mart's terms, or Wal-Mart will go and build its store just outside the town border and suck the town dry anyway, without any of the meager residual benefit it gives within town limits. There's the datapoint floating around that there are around 300 abandoned Wal-Mart stores in the US.
Posted by Shin-pei at 10:59 PM