Re "An Empire Built on Bargains Remakes the Working World," Nov. 23: Wal-Mart represents a corporation that has gone amok. Its domination shows why elements of the civil society need to balance capitalism if it is to work for the entire population. When we save 7 cents on the toothpaste we buy, we don't realize that some of that 7 cents we save goes to taxes to pay for Medicaid, food stamps and emergency room visits for low-paid Wal-Mart workers. Wal-Mart has driven many companies out of business and has had the reverse effect of General Motors, which brought people into the middle class.
If Wal-Mart becomes even more dominant, it could enter a phase where it no longer needs to provide deep discounts in some areas because it will so dominate retailing. We will then have higher prices and low-wage workers. Not a pretty picture. It needs to be curbed.
Your article highlighting Wal-Mart's wage, benefits and anti-union policies explains why I am honoring the supermarket workers' picket lines. Led by Wal-Mart, American business is in a globalized race to the bottom, keeping worker compensation low and increasing productivity, which only means having one worker do the job of two. Even that archconservative Henry Ford realized that he had to pay his workers more in order for them to buy his cars and for the economy to grow. What we are witnessing today is tooth-and-claw competition that is leading to the sunset of the middle class in America.
With the huge and ever-increasing profits that Wal-Mart reaps, it most certainly can afford to pay its employees living wages and full health insurance benefits. The Walton family would probably not even notice a change in lifestyle if its profits were reduced by one-half because it decided to take better care of its employees. It's all about greed.
One shudders for the future of commercial America and, particularly, free-enterprise employment when reading your article on Wal-Mart. Our nation was built upon the foundation that anyone had the opportunity to build an enterprise to supply competitive goods to eager customers -- a concept that Wal-Mart itself so successfully exemplifies. However, in prior years, competition in most cases meant like comparisons conducted within the American environment of good wages and high standards of living.
Now, manufacturers and free-enterprise workers in our nation must compete against manufacturers and workers from some of the lowest-wage areas of the world. Little wonder there will soon be no meaningful manufacturing conducted in the United States. All the "good" jobs and professional opportunities in the future will go to those who have access to government resources: direct government workers, the medical profession and, of course, teachers and others involved in our huge educational establishment.
No surprise, therefore, that economists from institutes of higher learning are so supportive of Wal-Mart's constraints upon costs.
Reading about Wal-Mart's relentless efforts to cut prices while providing quality products and listening to its customers leads me to one thought: I hope it decides to get into providing health-care services nationwide.
In your long story on Wal-Mart you missed the bottom line: While the average "associate" is paid poverty-level wages, Sam Walton's five heirs are worth a combined total of more than $100 billion. Wal-Mart is a national disgrace.