Wal-Mart is Not the Evil Empire

Oct 25, 2002
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The recent revelation that Wal-Mart has become the largest private employer in Pennsylvania has given the company’s bashers another excuse to link the rise of the retailer with the supposed decline of America.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Andrew Cassel writes that, “a Philadelphia Daily News columnist accused the discount chain of ‘single-handedly’ destroying the Doylestown Main Street.” This is just one of the ills of society, from the decline of manufacturing, low paying jobs, etc., blamed on Wal-Mart.

Mr. Cassel adds, “Maybe they’re right. Maybe this is really bad. Maybe somebody should have stopped Wal-Mart from investing tens of millions of dollars and hiring almost 40,000 people here over the last 12 years.”

Much has been made of low-paying retail jobs replacing better-paying manufacturing jobs. The facts, at least in Pennsylvania, do not support the charge. Mr. Cassel acknowledges the retailer’s growth in the state, but he also points out that before Wal-Mart arrived in 1990, “retailing accounted for 17.5 percent of the state’s nonagricultural jobs. At the end of 2001, with more than 110 Wal-Mart stores scattered across the state, retail’s proportion of the state’s workforce was 17.6 percent – essentially unchanged.”

Moderator’s Comment: Wal-Mart has many detractors and
supporters. What is your view on the retailer’s impact on the general economy,
labor, and consumers?

Mr. Cassel concludes that laid-off factory workers weren’t
hurt by Wal-Mart’s growth. Neither were consumers who found their dollars could
buy more in Wal-Mart stores. He contends that, “The losers were mainly older,
less-agile department stores and competitive discount chains such as Kmart.”

He’ll get no argument here. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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