Wal-Mart Symbolizes America
According to a 60 Minutes-Vanity Fair Poll recently released, nearly half of the nearly eleven hundred randomly selected nationwide respondents that were contacted by telephone between August 27th and 31st chose Wal-Mart as the institution that best symbolizes America today. Distant runners up were split between Google, Microsoft, the NFL, and the banking and financial securities firm Goldman Sachs. That actually sounds pretty accurate. Unfortunately, it also sounds pretty alarming as well.
When I think of Wal-Mart I think of an institution without an ounce of culture. While Wal-Mart offers a variety of low priced products, the majority of those products are produced by foreign manufacturers. Wal-Mart is notorious for underpaying its employees and for offering little in the way of employment benefits. Wal-Mart has a reputation for coming into town getting concessions in the form of tax revenue concessions, then turning around and using the local government handout in the form of a tax advantage to give its customers discounts that its competitors can’t afford helping to put some of the other retailers, many mom and pop establishments that have been part of the local community for years if not decades, out of business.
Many Wal-Mart customers could not care less about the effect Wal-Mart has on the retailing landscape or on their neighbor’s employment prospects. When retailers go out of business only so many of their employees will find employment with the big Wal-Mart store. Too many people have the mentality that while it is true that Wal-Mart cuts people’s wages and keeps people’s hours low to keep from having to provide mandatory benefits for full time employment, that’s okay because those people can get what they need at the cheapest price possible. Like Wal-Mart, the American public could not care less about the people who have to do without a livable wage and employment benefits in order to provide the rest of us with the low priced commodities we want.
I would imagine that most Americans would like to operate their business using the Wal-Mart model. It has proven very lucrative in America. However, in many foreign countries, the Wal-Mart model just doesn’t do that well in countries with government and economic systems that actually work to protect employee’s and citizen’s rights. All too often the Wal-Mart way finds itself at odds with various foreign cultures. Not too surprising considering the reputation of the ugly American. And if Wal-Mart is the institution that best symbolizes America, Americans symbolize Wal-Mart as well.
Wal-Mart has that unapologetic, indomitable American spirit that must win at all cost. Its profits must always be higher. Its presence must always be greater. Wal-Mart will always do the right thing by the community it serves and the people it deals with when it finds its back to the wall and comes to the understanding that it is in its own best interest to do so. Otherwise, this corporation has access to some of the best lawyers in America and this corporation will see you in court before they’d do anything out of the goodness of their wallet. Just like many Americans.
All one needs to do is take a look at the argument surround universal healthcare. People would rather do without healthcare for everyone as long as they have healthcare for themselves. When we have healthcare it’s good. When other people have healthcare, it’s a socialist plot designed to undermine capitalism. Capitalism is the never ending pursuit of profit and money. Generating profit and money are the two things that Wal-Mart excels at. The ironic thing is that Wal-Mart wants universal healthcare. That way, it wouldn’t have to foot the bill to provide healthcare to its employees and can rely on another government handout.
Honestly, I really don’t think Wal-Mart is that much different from any of the other corporate entities named in the survey. Microsoft and Google do their damnedest to put other tech companies out of business. The NFL, just like any other major sports entity, would give players nine figure salaries at the expense off individual fans who can barely afford to go to the game. And Goldman Sachs is a financial institution. The first syllable in its name is “gold”, is it really necessary to say anything else. The whole point of big business is big money.
Most any other corporation would love to be in Wal-Mart’s position. Wal-Mart might be the best corporate symbol of America. And it is a pretty good representation of us. But in reality, there are a few words that are far more accurate in their portrayal of America. Greedy and narcissistic quickly spring to mind. Arrogant and pompous are a couple more. All of these words are accurate symbols of many Americans. It is no coincidence that they apply to Wal-Mart as well.