Friday, April 15, 2016

The WalMart-ization of America is Complete

The WalMart-ization of America is now complete.  A new survey finds two-thirds of us prefer low prices on the products we buy to having those goods produced here in the US.  It was that philosophy and selling point that allowed WalMart to become the retail giant that it is--giving the company the type of power that forced nearly all of its suppliers to shut down their US operations and conduct all production work in China or other countries.  If vendors couldn't meet the price points demanded by WalMart, they didn't get their products on the shelves.  And those shelves would be stocked with the leading competitor (or WalMart store brand) who would capture more market share.

And that is why when Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump talk about "bringing jobs back to America" you have to wonder "what jobs?".  We could restart all of the textile and manufacturing plants that have shut down over the past 40-years tomorrow and start cranking out "Made in the USA" goods 24-hours a day.  But if consumers go to the store and see the same product made overseas for two-thirds the price--they are still going to buy that one.  And then how do you continue to support the "jobs we brought back"?

Add to that the $15 an hour minimum wage that Bernie Sanders is pushing (and some states have already adopted) and how would a US manufacturer even come close to making the same things for competitive prices?  It's easy to say "I'll rip up all of our trade agreements and require sovereign foreign countries to pay their people more and charge more for energy and adopt the environmental standards that we demand"--but what do you do if those countries don't comply?  Are you going to block their products from coming in?  How long do you think it would take Apple to build an IPhone factory here in the US?  You think people are going to go that long without the opportunity to buy new smartphones?  Not to mention the millions of other products currently produced exclusively overseas.

The rebirth of American manufacturing is not going to come from re-negotiated treaties or threats to block imports into our country.  It will have to come from all of us--the consumers--to at some point say "I want to buy something that Joe Down The Street made--even if it's going to cost me a few bucks more".  Judging by the number of cars I see in the WalMart parking lot every day.  We still have a long way to go.

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