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Mitchell reports: "This year, Walmart is back with a new 'Buy America' program. In January, the company announced that it would purchase an additional $50 billion worth of domestic goods over the next decade."

File photo, Walmart store. (photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
File photo, Walmart store. (photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Walmart's Newest Scheme to Ruin the Middle Class

By Stacy Mitchell, Salon

25 August 13


Just as bad as the original '80s campaign, "Buy America" 2.0 continues Wal-Mart's planned takeover of urban markets.

lmost 30 years ago, as the U.S. was bleeding jobs, Walmart launched a "Buy America" program and started hanging "Made in America" signs in its 750 stores. It was a marketing success, cementing the retailer's popularity in the country's struggling, blue-collar heartland. A few years later, NBC's Dateline revealed the program to be a sham. Sure, Walmart was willing to buy U.S.-made goods - so long as they were as cheap as imports, which, of course, they weren't. Dateline found that Walmart's sourcing was in fact rapidly shifting to Asia.

This year, Walmart is back with a new "Buy America" program. In January, the company announced that it would purchase an additional $50 billion worth of domestic goods over the next decade. This week, Walmart is convening several hundred suppliers, along with a handful of governors, for a summit on U.S. manufacturing.

This sounds pretty substantial, but in fact it's just a more sophisticated and media savvy version of Walmart's hollow 1980s Buy America campaign. For starters, $50 billion over a decade may sound huge at first, but measured against Walmart's galactic size, it's not. An additional $5 billion a year amounts to only 1.5 percent of what Walmart currently spends on inventory.

Worse, very little of this small increase in spending on American-made goods will actually result in new U.S. production and jobs. Most of the projected increase will simply be a byproduct of Walmart's continued takeover of the grocery industry. Most grocery products sold in the U.S. are produced here. As Walmart expands its share of U.S. grocery sales - it now captures 25 percent, up from 6 percent in 1998 - it will buy more U.S. foods. But this doesn't mean new jobs, because other grocers are losing market share and buying less. What it does mean is lower wages. As I reported earlier this year, Walmart's growing control of the grocery sector is pushing down wages throughout food production.

Groceries now account for 55 percent of Walmart's U.S. revenue, up from 24 percent in 2003. The company is planning to grow that ratio even further, with about 100 Neighborhood Market stores (Walmart's new-ish supermarket format) in the pipeline this year alone, along with 125 new supercenters. So we can expect that at least half of Walmart's new spending on U.S. goods will be for groceries, with no net gain in jobs and, very likely, a further decline in wages.

As for the rest, to a large extent, Walmart is simply taking credit for a shift that has already happened. Over the last few years, U.S. manufacturing has undergone a modest revival, owing mainly to rising labor costs in China. Unfortunately, it's not at all clear that this revival will do much to resurrect the American middle class, because a lot of the new production is highly automated and located in the anti-union South.

This is especially true for the companies supplying Walmart. Take 1888 Mills, a Georgia towel maker that has a new (and much-publicized) contract to produce American-made towels for Walmart. The company, which plans to maintain its overseas workforce of 14,000 for the bulk of its production, will be adding only 35 jobs at its U.S. factory to meet Walmart's multi-year purchase agreement. The jobs pay $12-14 an hour.

In a way, Walmart's Buy America program represents the home stretch of the economic transformation the company set in motion decades ago, when it set out to replace the American middle class, rooted in small business ownership and unionized jobs, with a vast underclass that has little choice but to rely on the shoddy, short-lived products sold at big-box stores to get by.

The only way out of this is to curtail Walmart's continued expansion, particularly its planned takeover of urban markets, which threatens to cut off other viable economic development options. Walmart's growth in cities, for example, could disrupt a small but promising corner of the manufacturing revival: a plethora of new consumer goods manufacturers in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco that are responding to growing public demand for long-lasting, locally made products. These small start-ups need a diverse marketplace of independent retailers and small local chains to reach consumers - precisely the ecosystem that Walmart, buoyed by its Buy America marketing, aims to eradicate. your social media marketing partner


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+75 # Rick Levy 2013-08-25 20:30
Don't patronize Walmart. Period.
+18 # brux 2013-08-25 23:32
When does the onus for all these BS lies go from the corporations who tell them to the people who suck them up or don't challenge them or complain.

Can the majority of American really be happy with what is going on. We have all these stupid news articles that tell us day after day every little speck that is going wrong with the country, and yet people do not seem to listen, or they just assume they have nothing to say about it and therefore do not even try.

It just makes me sick - fix the f-ing country ... or at least say something and suggest something about it!

I sometimes go to WalMart for one or two things I know I need and are very cheap there, such as plastic storage containers, and the people I see there are like automatons ... robots.

People are idiots. I see the guys there with their tattoos, piercings and pants hanging down to their knees, and the girls with the slut tattoos, and their own kids in tow, without a clue.

What the hell is the country supposed to do with such a weak minded population? These are the people that are so easy to be manipulated by just spending money on TV spots or talk radio. We are a country of idiots.
+6 # Corvette-Bob 2013-08-26 15:02
Someone recently stated that the United States is a sophisticated country of 25 million educated people surrounded by 250 million uneducated, ignorant people. I guess that is why WalMart has so many customers.
+1 # Moefwn 2013-08-30 12:58
I think the ratio is even more heavily weighted in the direction of ignorance than that, but maybe that's a function of where I live. I certainly agree do with the concept.
0 # brux 2013-09-01 10:04
yeah, I'd agree with that ... and about half of the 25 million rich and powerful Americans see no problem with brainwashing and harnessing the ignorant masses to fight wars and be worked to death like animals.
+25 # humanmancalvin 2013-08-26 04:31
Walmart will screw anybody,anywher e,anyhow, all in the name of their profit. Each Walmart unit costs federal, state, & local governments a ridiculous amount of money through services such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, etc. Where are the loud mouthed Tea Baggers screaming at Walmart to stop fleecing the tax payer out of their tax dollars spent? Nowhere to be found on a real problem such as this as the Teapublican energy is spent on vitally important matters like disproving the presidents country of birth.
0 # mdhome 2013-08-26 18:21
Somehow we need to get the teabaggers to get behind this by showing them how much of their tax money is effectivly being scooped up by the Walmart dynasty.
+28 # Citizen Mike 2013-08-26 06:08
Here in New York City we have consistently refused to allow Walmart to open a single store. We regard Walmart as an enemy of the public good, an abuser of labor that disrupts neighborhoods and damages local economies. When any community board here considers allowing Walmart to build a store, large public demonstrations turn up to oppose it.
+26 # MidwesTom 2013-08-26 06:30
WalMart is single handedly the largest destroyer of US jobs.
+11 # brux 2013-08-26 08:55
The problem is that Walmart just exploits the "choice" of our own country to open "free markets" around the world and do nothing about the human or political consequences except to maintain property rights for those who impose the system on the rest of us without any recourse or justice.
+16 # Vardoz 2013-08-26 08:06
We never shop at Walmart-
0 # tswhiskers 2013-08-26 10:12
I wouldn't shop at Walmart if I could afford to go elsewhere either. Unfortunately I'm on Soc. Sec. and make too much(?) to get other assistance. I live in an isolated community; the nearest mall is 2 hrs. away and the nearest chain grocery store is 25 mi. away. So I do shop, albeit selectively, at Walmart. Yes, Wally World is a monument to greed and big money, but most of it's products are decent quality and their prices are mostly (tho not all) cheaper. I don't trust their meat or unpacked produce.
+20 # MainStreetMentor 2013-08-26 08:47
We write a lot of words, motivated by this article, but the real culprit - everywhere and anywhere we turn is: GREED. It's become the motto of
American business and Wall Street, and it's promoted by the political right wing - who preach "privatization" of everything. When translated "privatization" means: More cash in the hands of the few.
+3 # MainStreetMentor 2013-08-26 08:47
We write a lot of words, motivated by this article, but the real culprit - everywhere and anywhere we turn is: GREED. It's become the motto of
American business and Wall Street, and it's promoted by the political right wing - who preach "privatization" of everything. When translated "privatization" means: More cash in the hands of the few.
-2 # RobertMStahl 2013-08-26 13:55
Autopoietic unity (i.e. intelligence in 'the zone') versus allopoietic gestalt (a different unification), homogenization in other words. A contemporary version of David and Goliath, meaning something unique about Life when it is, categorically, living (the autopoiesis part). Waking is an example. Music can be, too. I am guessing biological autonomy isn't going to do more than be forced into homogenized acting, remain unstructured and thoughtless (but, with plenty of ideas) and, upon the rule of diversification , end up as gestalt (sum greater than the parts), but incapable of finding form in ecological values associated with life, such as thought. All will reside with the machine and its owners who steal from the commonwealth nature designed the machine for at heart, that can be proven to think, and to occupy. Where is Indira Singh? "In the beginning, all was mush and without form." What occurs, otherwise, is just gay, or gay producing. Can we be held accountable to the learning involved with being alive, being itself, or just surviving?
+2 # mdhome 2013-08-26 18:24
0 # Moefwn 2013-08-30 13:12
Robert, with respect, when you are either unable or unwilling to communicate in an accessible way, you give the impression that you are a fraud (or else helplessly self-obsessed and heavily invested in making yourself sound "smart"). Please do us the courtesy of dropping the esoteric words and flamboyant phrases and saying clearly and succinctly what you mean. Thanks.
-1 # modernjacobin 2013-08-27 09:11
It's worth taking a look at the SCUM who run Walmart--and its board of directors.

The CEO gets compensated at 20 million a year while the CFO got $6.64 mill and the head of int'l business over 9 million. The Board of Directors make about $270,000 for 8 meetings a year.

Take a look at their family backgrounds and degrees from overrated universities: these are clearly folks who have NEVER had to worry about poverty from DAY 1. (Sorry, a summer bagging groceries in highschool is not the same!) Many of them sit on a number of other boards so they reap lots of easy bucks in addition to their main salary.

All this while they begrudge workers more than $8.75 an hour. As if management and board knew anything about the new poor. Such workers generally have at least 2 jobs and have to worry about childcare: something none of these 1% asshats, would know. They don't have the luxury of, for instance, the director Mayer, she of the 30 $4000 Oscar de la Renta sweaters, who just knocked down a wall in her Yahoo office so she can supervise her nanny and baby.

It's worth noting, btw, that Obama himself and his cabinet have Walmart connections. His wife was on the board until early on in his first campaign when he decided it wouldn't look good. But recently, at least one new cabinet member was also a previous director. And the aforementioned Mayer is a huge Obama donor. Walmart now donates about 50% to the Dem party.

And we wonder why our country is being derailed?
0 # dkonstruction 2013-08-27 10:52
We all know (or should) about Walmart (and i agree we shouldn't shop there and should support their workers efforts to unionize and the communities that are trying to stop Walmart from coming) but progressives tend to make a fetish about this or that company instead of looking at the larger systemic, for example, why is there not at the same time an article entitled "Apple's Newest Scheme to Ruin the Middle Class" (apple just launched a great pr stunt talking about how they are bringing manufacturing back to the US by saying they are going to produce one line of their apple computers here...problem is this is the smallest part of Apple's sales -- the iphone and ipad being the biggest and these will still all be made in China) not to mention the horrendous wages and working conditions that these workers are subject to. for a great source (just heard about it) about Chinese and other workers check out:

including this piece on Apple

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