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January 23, 2012

We need to start buying American


Occupy Walmart?

I am in general agreement with the Occupy Wall Street folks and in fact have already participated in many of the protests. Sure, I couldn't take a piss for 8 hours (and I already have prostate issues), but it was worth it. All in all a good cause. But - there is one problem. Me thinks we doth protest too little.

Don't get me wrong. I think many investment bankers, hedge fund managers and the ilk should be thrown in jail (at a minimum they should receive eight hours of taser tot treatments). The anger is understandable. They made tons of money before the economic meltdown, were bailed out and are making tons of money after the economic meltdown while the bulk of Americans are suffering through unemployment and depressed wages.
But I don't think we got to where we are simply because bankers are crooks. We inflated the economic bubble and the bankers were merely the pricks (pun intended) who burst it. Just some quick fun facts:
Debt: Over the last decade, the average household debt has grown by 147%. Basically, we got more credit cards (the average American  household had eight by 2009) and we started to borrow an enormous amount against our very inflated home equity. 
Savings: We stopped saving money. In 1982, Americans saved 12% of their incomes. By 2008, that number reached just a tad above ZERO.
Wages:Between the period of 2000 to 2009 the average workers income fell by nearly five percent.  
Despite these dismal numbers, we shopped till we dropped over the last decade. And where did we do a ton of our shopping?  WALMART.
According to Business Insider.com, The average Walmart Associate makes $11.75 an hour (note: in Walmart lingo anAssociate is someone who is not associated with a decent wage) So, if they are lucky enough to have a full-time job they will pull down just under $21,000 per year. The good news is that only puts them one grand shy of the $22,000 poverty line (lazy mfers - can't get another grand??). 

I know that Walmart is merely a metaphor for the big box retailer - but they are the biggest. Wal-Mart employs more people than any other company in the United States - about 1% of our entire workforce.

Bad enough that pay is miserable low, the problem is compounded by the fact that Walmart is shipping out our economy on a fast boat to China. 

Wal-Mart alone accounts for nearly 10% of total U.S. imports from China - somewhere in the $25 billion to $30 billion depending on the year. The only thing that is exported by Walmart to China in return is money (which, ironically creates a nice profit for international banking interests). Walmart, along with a very extensive list of other corporations who outsource outside the States have help cripple our manufacturing base. But - don't sweat (shop) the loss of middle class manufacturing jobs - I understand that there are plenty of associate openings at WalMart (and you don't even need an Associates Degree!!). 

So, we stopped saving, started borrowing and spent our money at places that diminish our workforce creating a ton of low paying jobs which in turn increases the need for us to shop at Walmart because that is all we can afford. Walmart in turn employs more of us an pays us povert level wages. Yikes! 

Ironically, I am pretty sure that almost all of my good friends at the Occupy Wall Street protests were WalMart shoppers (I don't want to be judgemental - but c'mon - they were getting their tube socks and v-neck tees from Nordstroms). So, I spit out the diatribe above and tried to get them to join me in an Occupy Walmart movement. Sadly, I only got three ladies from the mid-west to join me and I am pretty sure it was only because they needed a ride back from New York.
So - who's too blame for his mess??
1. Walmart? I vote no. Anyone is free to open a business here in the good ole USA.
2. Bankers? - No. As much as I believe that they are responsible for a lot of of our economic turmoil, I don't believe they are responsible for our low wages and loss of jobs. BUT - if you want to blame them I am perfectly okay with that (kind of like how I was okay with OJ getting 15 years in prison for stealing back his own memorabila cause he never got punished for killing his wife).
3. China? No - I think they are the least to blame. Hell, we try to sell our crap wherever we can. They just make our crap cheaper then we use to.
4. Us??????????????
Sadly, I think so. We made the decision to reduce our savings,  increase our borrowing and to buy all of our stuff at a store(s) that we knew was killing our job base.  So it's kind of tough to blame anyone but ourselves (it's akin to complaining about illegal aliens destroying the economy as you watch them mow your lawn for $10 dollars).
We made the decision that a $240 TV, a $8 coffee pot and twelve pack of tube socks for $1.99 was worth it. The cruel addiction here is that, to each of us individually, it probably was. But for us as a whole - it sucks. Long winded way of saying - if we really wanted to shake things up - we might want to NOT occupy WalMart  for while.
Now, if you are poor (for example, you are a Walmart Associate) I understand the need to buy things at rock bottom and you should continue to do so. God Bless ya and I hope things get better. But, if you can afford it - and many of us can, we should not occupy a WalMart for at least the same period of time we are occupying Wall Street - I'm pretty sure we could send a message. So, I'm willing to start the protest (just as soon as I get stocked up on tube socks and T-Shirts).