This isn’t going to be one of those bitter tirades against Wal-Mart. If you’re looking for angry rants about the evils of corporate America, then pick up almost any newspaper or magazine on any given day. Cities and towns across the nation constantly make headlines by attempting to prevent the building of another Wal-Mart.
Locally, the city of Atascadero is considering the addition of a Wal-Mart store and this has become a central issue in the election of the next City Counsil members.
This piece is not meant to defend Wal-Mart from any activist’s accusations, but it will reveal a side of Wal-Mart that does not make the front-page news. Recently, Chicago tried to forbid Wal-Mart from building a store. The city cited low-paying positions and health-care concerns as the reason it wouldn’t allow the retailer to build. Wal-Mart responded by building a store in Evergreen Park, about a block away from Chicago’s city limit.
Wal-Mart reported receiving 25,000 job applications for the 325 open positions! Apparently there are a few people in Chicago who would love to be able to go to work everyday and get any benefits at all. Even though the city bureaucrats were opposed to the project, the citizens looking for work welcomed the retailer.
Job creation is only one of the many benefits that this strong company will bring to the community of Chicago. Wal-Mart reports creating 240,000 new jobs nation-wide in the past 3 years, acting to conserve 360,000 acres of land, and donating $245 million to local charities last year! Not bad for a money-grubbing, heartless corporation.
Wal-Mart is also on pace to voluntarily reduce yearly fuel usage in their fleet of trucks by 10 million gallons, which corresponds to approximately 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. It is also on the forefront of the renewable energy boom, working to be able to offer Ethanol E85 at its numerous gas stations.
All of these great things are dwarfed by the results of the latest studies of Wal-Mart’s actual impact on the U.S. economy. Economist Emek Basker found that Wal-Mart has caused a 7 to 13 percent price reduction on everyday items such as shampoo and detergents. There has also been a 20 percent reduction in the price of food because of Wal-Mart according experts at MIT and the Department of Agriculture.
Everyday items are cheaper at Wal-Mart, which means that people are able to afford more consumer goods than ever before. Not only that, but Wal-Mart’s low prices drive their competitor’s prices lower and ironically, even people who refuse to shop at Wal-Mart benefit.
The low prices offered at Wal-Mart have certainly raised the living standard of all Americans. A study by Global Insight reviewed the economic impacts of Wal-Mart over the past 20 years. The firm concluded that Wal-Mart is directly responsible for a 3.1 percent drop in the consumer price index by over that period.
Now that number does not mean anything to most people, so I’ll translate. On average, every American household saved $2,329 in 2004 just because Wal-Mart existed as a competitive influence in the market. If Wal-Mart had not existed for those 20 years, we would all be spending far more money every year to buy our basic necessities, such as food and toiletries.
Think about that number: $2,329. Saved each year, by every American household. The Wal-Mart bashing hysteria is trendy right now, and an opinion supporting any aspect of Wal-Mart is bound to be attacked. Now you know the side of Wal-Mart that doesn’t make front-page news.
Matt Bushman is a civil engineering senior and Mustang Daily political columnist.