ON LOW-WAGE CAPITALISM, PART 5…

Good morning. I'm away on my annual Wildacres Writer's Retreat atop Pompeii's Point in North Carolina. I've been reading Fred Goldstein's Low-Wage Capitalism and thought his "Why the bosses need Walmart" is instructive. Enjoy Part 5:
In 2004, Walmart accounted for 2.3 percent of the U.S. gross national product. It sold 14 percent of the groceries in the country and 20 percent of the toys. It racks up $300 billion in sales, running neck-and-neck with ExxonMobil for first place. Walmart has close to 4,000 stores in the U.S. and hundreds abroad. It is the largest retailer in Mexico and Canada. It is the second-largest grocer in England. A typical Walmart has 60,000 different items on the shelf. A typical supercenter carries 120,000. With this kind of leverage, suppliers don't tell Walmart what price an item should sell for; Walmart tells them. Even the largest monopolies, such as Proctor & Gamble and Levi's, have lost out in the struggle over pricing with Walmart. Furthermore, Walmart is famous for telling its suppliers to cut prices by 5 percent year over year. Walmart drives down prices by driving down wages at is 60,000 suppliers in the United States -- and also in China, Singapore, Mexico, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. It puts suppliers in all these countries in competition with each other to get their products onto Walmart's shelves. Walmart has such dominance in some industries that it can play a major role in establishing sweatshop wages that effect entire countries or regions. By 2003 Walmart had over 3,000 factory suppliers in southern China at low wages. Walmart is Bangladesh's most important customer. Bangladeshi sweatshop workers, most of them women, supply clothing to Walmart.
Previously... Yes, I realize that Goldstein as leader and member of the secretariat of the Workers World Party has a point of view anathema to the majority of people in the United States, but he consistently raises points that I think important and worthy of deep discussion concerning our present economic hierarchy in general and Walmart in particular. I sincerely hope that when I return from my retreat I'll find the beginning of discussion that brings a thoughtful, large and varied voice to The Writing On The Wal. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.

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