Time to Be a Bad Liberal Again


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

Related Post Roulette

359 Responses

  1. Ethan Gach says:

    In so far as the bill exempts Wal-Mart’s non-union competitors, I feel you on this.Report

  2. Dan Miller says:

    I agree with you that the DC Council is in the wrong here, but it’s inaccurate to say that Wal-Mart’s business model breaks no existing laws. The only way that Wal-Mart can continue to operate is by suppressing unions and illegally firing those who attempt to organize; however, we haven’t vigorous enforcement of labor law in decades, so their actions go unpunished. Here’s one example, but this is a widespread phenomenon (and there are doubtless more workers who would like to organize but are frightened to even try for fear of losing their jobs. According to this study from 2007, about 1-in-5 workers who attempt to organize a union will be fired, and even attempting to join one increases the risk of termination. This is straight-up illegal under federal law.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Dan Miller says:

      Thanks for weighing in, Dan. I included the disclaimer “As far as I know…” because I won’t pretend to be an expert on labor law or Wal-Mart. I’ve updated accordingly but my objection still stands: the DC government, nor any government, should target a specific business via legislation.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’m hugely against selective enforcement, bills aimed at a single company, that sort of thing.

        And I admit, I’d vote against this myself on those grounds alone.

        But I’d feel awful, because Walmart is frankly a special kind of bad apple. I swear I think they power their stores on suffering and misery, because it’s like they can’t just cut the normal corners, underpay the normal amount, and generally be the eye-on-the-bottom-line-and-screw-the-employees type like everyone else.

        They have to go that extra mile, and just really grind it in.

        So I sympathize with the proposed law. I’d vote against it and offer up an alternative that doesn’t target Walmart specifically.

        Although, a point does occur to me: Walmart’s business model basically sucks money from local, state, and federal governments to operate. (They pay so little that their employees basically survive only on food stamps, Medicare/caid, and the like). With that — and a few other — abuses Walmart is famous for in mind, I suspect there are a number of possible bills that would in effect only target Walmart but be global in scope. Entirely because only Walmart turns it up to 11, so to speak.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Morat20 says:

          Hit reply on accident:

          Which I’d be comfortable with. I’m happy banning something only Walmart does, as long as it’s banned for everyone. Just not banning something ONLY for Walmart, because they take it to excess.

          Ban the excess, not the company.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:

            All good and fair points. I’d agree with that bill. If you say X is illegal and only WalMart does X and X ought to be illegal, I wouldn’t object. But if you say X is illegal only when WalMart does it OR push to make something illegal that shouldn’t be because it is a practice exclusive to WalMart (e.g., a law that banned employees wearing blue vests), you’re wrong.

            Here is an important question: What’s worse, both for the individual and society as a whole: 500 people working at WalMart or 500 people not working at all? And if that is a bit of a false dilemma, then perhaps frame it to say a WalMart job contributes X% of value compared to what a job that would be offered in its place? Sort of an advanced sabremetric analysis.Report

            • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Kazzy says:

              For a lot of those people, probably working at Wal Mart is worse for their life long term. Especially if there’s zero chance of advancement for them and they’re going to be stuck making barely more than minimum wage for their entire life.

              Note this also applies to a lot of crap jobs, but everything I’ve read notes Wal-Mart is seriously on another level when it comes to treating employees like dirt, in the name of a 3% efficiency gain.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Channeling my inner-libertarian now…

                Even if we concede all you say is fact, isn’t there still something presumptuous about barring people from seeking such jobs, which is the ultimate impact of bills like this? “I know you may want this job, but it’s bad for you!”

                I wouldn’t mind efforts to educate people on their rights as employees, supporting them in realizing those rights, etc. But there is something perverse about helping people by stopping them from doing what they want… even if you’re ultimately right!Report

              • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Kazzy says:

                If it helps re-set ugly power imbalances, it might not be the pure paternalism you describe.

                (I’m saying this hypothetically, I don’t know enough about this particular law or its context.)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

                I do. Vaguely, but yes.Report

              • Ferry in reply to Kazzy says:

                No one wants a walmart job. It’s the equivalent of eating gruel for subsistence; you’re doing it because you need to, not out of a desire for it.

                Furthermore, it’s not as if the lack of walmart in a given area is going to produce a vacuum of jobs in the shape of a walmart. The demand for goods and services will be filled at least to some degree by other local institutions which produce jobs. If walmart uses business tactics that shift the burden of caring for their employees onto the state, wouldn’t it be in the vested interest of said state to discourage that?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Ferry says:


                That is what I’m trying to get at.

                Walmart in DC will apparently create 1800 jobs. If Walmart goes away and that total sinks to 900 jobs of whatever type might fill in the gap, is that a worthwhile trade? What if the number is 1200? Or 600? I don’t doubt that 1800 Walmart jobs are worse than most configurations of 1800 other jobs. But it is unlikely that the resultant number will be 1800. So I want to know what it would have to be for DC to be better off without Walmart.Report

              • Dan Miller in reply to Kazzy says:

                FWIW, Matt Yglesias has a pretty good post about better ways to help the potential Wal-Mart employees, although there’s such a risk of falling into “now more than ever”ism. http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/07/10/helping_low_wage_dc_workers.htmlReport

              • Barry in reply to Kazzy says:

                “Walmart in DC will apparently create 1800 jobs. ”


                And to the extent it does, it’d be because Walmart strives to keep employees both part-time and sorta temp, so that might mean 1800 part-time jobs, rather than 1500 full-time jobs.Report

              • Barry in reply to Kazzy says:

                “…sn’t there still something presumptuous about barring people from seeking such jobs, …”

                There’s a certain amount of presumption in most laws and regulations.Report

          • Jim Heffman in reply to Morat20 says:

            “I’m happy banning something only (specific entity or group) does, as long as it’s banned for everyone. ”

            It’s funny how this argument is prima facie invalid except when it isn’t.Report

    • zic in reply to Dan Miller says:

      I guess it’s not breaking a law, but: I know several people who’ve been hired on the promise of full-time work, and worked full time, right up until they’ve been with the company long enough to receive health-insurance coverage. Then, mysteriously, their hours are cut back to below 35 hrs./week, so that they can get health coverage, but don’t get enough hours to trigger the company’s chipping in to cover the cost.

      At the very least, this seems like fraud.

      And while I’m describing how people I know were treated, I’ve heard that the practice is company wide.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to zic says:

        It would depend exactly on how the the “promise” was made, but I would be okay with taking action against such a practice, again provided that the practice is universally policed.Report

        • zic in reply to Kazzy says:

          Kazzy, in my reporting work, I covered stuff related to WalMart for a long time. Towns that were fighting it, towns that welcomed it. Communities that suffered a loss of local business after WalMart arrived. That’s the consumer end.

          There’s another side of the coin to consider, and that’s the supply end — getting stuff onto the shelves.

          Supplying WalMart is unlike any supplying any other customer. I’ve watched business after business be all thrilled about getting a WalMart contract. They were typically thrilled because they were already losing customers; as WalMart grows, it forces smaller competitors out of business, and these smaller competitors were the companies that purchased the supplier’s goods.

          In ever case I investigated, a WalMart contract always involved significant scaling up; typically millions in loans for new equipment, a scramble to establish off-shore production. If I had one piece of advice to give any company, it would be to manage growth carefully; too fast is dangerous. To feed the need of WalMart, these companies not only scale up, but they often drop old customers. The WalMart supply chain is also squeezed for profit, that’s how WalMart keeps prices low. This leads to little in the way of profit margins for suppliers. It leads to cutting corners on a host of laws, from environmental to labor. It leads to sweetshops in companies where labor and environmental laws are barely existing and haphazardly enforced. But the worst part of all of this isn’t the growth of these smaller companies into bigger companies that can supply WalMart vociferous shelves; it’s that WalMart is always looking for a cheaper product.

          So scale up today, and tomorrow, loose your contract. It happens all the time.

          We spend a lot of time talking about WalMart’s labor problems; WalMart’s killing off Main St. What we fail to discuss is WalMart’s killing off industry. It does. First by forcing other markets out of business, and then by forcing suppliers to overbuild without any assurance that the WalMart will continue to be a market for that company. It contributes to environmental and labor abuses.

          I do not know of any other company that does this, and does it on such a global scale.

          It’s a cancer. And it’s sucking the vitality out of the global marketplace.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to zic says:


            You almost know assuredly more on the matter than I do, so please correct me as soon as I err.

            But I’ve read some pieces on Walmart’s impact on its providers. A very interesting one was on a lawnmower company that stood up to them.

            The question I was always left with was, “Why not just not contract with Walmart?” I mean, isn’t some of this just how the market works? Negotiate a contract that serves your interests. If you don’t or can’t do that, maybe your business should go under.

            I don’t mind to sound callous. I am aware that Walmart has many real, negative impacts across a variety of sectors. Yet they continue to grow. They’re clearly doing something right. Sellers are continuing to hawk their wares their. Customers continue to go their. People continue to seek employment there.

            Why do any sellers contract with Walmart if it is such a kiss of death?Report

            • zic in reply to Kazzy says:

              Because those companies need someone to purchase their products. As WalMart drives other retailers out of business, they companies loose markets to sell their products. So they deal with the devil to keep in business.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                But isn’t that just the market marketing?Report

              • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

                marketing into a monopoly, you mean?
                (which is natural, as free markets are rarely stable systems)

                If the flourishing of Walmart doesn’t provide you some evidence for the shrinking wealth of Americans, and their subsequent impoverishment, please let me know. I’ll find more sources.Report

              • zic in reply to Kazzy says:

                Maybe it is. But I’m not a big fan of unregulated markets, see the most recent economic collapse for evidence on why this might not be such a good idea.

                Like some banks and insurance companies, retailers might be too big to fail, constitute a monopoly, etc.Report

              • Kim in reply to zic says:

                or might be “too big to fail” as a national security issue.
                Who controls access to the Pentagon?Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to zic says:

                “Because those companies need someone to purchase their products. ”

                Then they should charge enough to stay in business. And if they have to charge so much for their product that consumers don’t think it’s worth the price, then they need to improve the product. And if they can’t convince customers that their improved product is worth the additional price, then, well, that’s how it goes.

                What happens when Wal-Mart rolls up is not that jobs just disintegrate because of Evil Capitalism Power. What happens is that the old race-to-the-bottom game gets a new player who’s better at it than everyone else. Producers who enjoyed a comfortable living feeding off the bottom of the price-point pool need to find some other way to compete.

                Which, y’know, a small-batch producer who maintains complete control over their supply chain and production process ought to be able to say “we have a much better quality product than you get at Wal-Mart, both in the basic materials and in the fabrication, and our product offers more features and better function than what you get at Wal-Mart”.

                What happens in reality is that most small producers find this level of effort hard, and quit, and go cry about how Wal-Mart is ruining America. As though the American spirit were to half-ass your way through life.Report

              • Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                No, the american spirit is to be doughboys. didn’t you hear?
                the continual impoverishment of Americans means that people are willing to pay 20% of cost for something that will last 10% as long. And you, and schmucks like you, are cheering for this.

                I know what keeps Polartec in business, and it sure as sunday ain’t the American fucking consumer!

                P.S. The American Consumer doesn’t keep Big Auto in business either.

                …same backstop both places, you do the math.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to Kim says:

                Or maybe I don’t care to spend four times as much for something that lasts six times as long, but I only ever use it five times a year. Maybe my Ryobi drill is going to wear out after a hundred use-hours, but I use it so seldom that by the time I’ll have put a hundred use-hours on the thing we’ll be driving nails via telekinesis.

                There’s also the sense that if I’m spending above a certain threshold, then the purchase itself requires more of my resources. If my lawnmower costs eighty bucks and lasts for a few seasons, then I’ll just buy one. If it costs two thousand dollars and lasts the rest of my life, then I’ll take a month reading reviews, badgering salesmen, driving to different towns to compare prices, maybe finding someone who has one and seeing if they’ll let me borrow it for a test mow.Report

            • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

              In a way, this discussion reminds me of two things: Pearl Jam’s ultimately-futile (but in my view admirable) 90’s jihad against the Ticketmaster concert stranglehold:


              Not a fan of their music, but they are OK in my book just for giving this a shot.

              And relatedly, the past discussions of monopolies (or monopoly-like behaviors) here at the LoOG.

              Professor Hanley has argued in the past that true monopolies are rare – like Kazzy and others say, you still CAN choose (even if it’s not the easy choice) not to contract with/shop at Wal-Mart (and lord knows, alternatives like Amazon get way more of my $ than Wal-mart does); and also that, even when a monopoly or near-monopoly *does* arise, the very condition of being a monopoly will cause the monopoly business to become sclerotic and unresponsive and vulnerable to more nimble players over a short enough time (though “short” may possibly be measured in decades) that the anti-market downsides of taking action against them may argue in favor of just leaving them alone to commit their own inevitable slow seppuku in the marketplace (essentially, a true monopoly may be a self-solving problem, and may provide some benefits while it lasts anyway).

              (Professor Hanley, please correct me if I am mischaracterizing your views).

              I am still unconvinced that this is always true (I worked in radio during the Clear Channel epidemic), and believe that there may, in theory, be times when it’s best for the govt. to step in and break up monopolies (or things that look like monopolies), esp. if they become “too big to fail” and risk large-scale disruption if they do (though I agree this line is very fuzzy to determine, for a variety of reasons).

              IOW, “monopolistic behavior” seems like a hard problem of which Wal-Mart is only the latest example.

              Putting cheap goods and jobs in reach of poorer folks is generally a good; whether that outweighs the bad is, I think, justifiably debatable.Report

              • zic in reply to Glyph says:

                Putting cheap goods and jobs in reach of poorer folks is generally a good; whether that outweighs the bad is, I think, justifiably debatable.

                Cheap goods that need to be replaced because they’re of inferior quality is not a good thing; so I’m not convinced that this is actually what happens.

                But what has happened is the transfer or large amounts of middle-class jobs overseas and even larger transfer of middle-class wealth to a single family. That is undeniable.Report

              • Glyph in reply to zic says:

                Even conceding all your points for the sake of argument, it also remains true that in some locations (particularly poorer, rural areas), Wal-Mart has provided jobs, and goods, that would otherwise not have been readily-available there. That’s something that IMO needs to be balanced against your points, which again, I am not arguing against.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

                I think “Mister, you are better off spending more for something that is less likely to break on a short timetable” assumes a lot about the circumstances of Mister. A lot of the “cheap” stuff from Walmart actually lasts quite a long time. Some of it doesn’t. It can be a gamble, but it’s very, very often not a losing one. A lot of time, you really just need something cheap.Report

              • Dan Miller in reply to Will Truman says:

                Agreed. The issue becomes when the goods are cheap because the externalities of producing that good are loaded onto the rest of us, but there’s nothing ipso facto wrong about low priced stuff, or even low-priced crap.Report

              • I’m also inclined to think that something from Target or Kmart usually lasts just as long, or breaks just as quickly, as comparable items from Walmart.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph and Zic,

                I’m not a free market absolutist. I’m no James Fishin’ Hanley or Roger MFer Roger! I’m on board with certain regulations and with the idea of some limited regulation. I just don’t know that I’ve seen a proposed legislation that would address how Walmart treats its sellers that doesn’t seem to create more problems than it solves.

                I do wonder how many Walmart sellers go into contracts unwillingly because they remain the only game in town and how many say, “OOO! Walmart! Huge customer base! Let’s do it!” only to later regret the decision when they realize selling to Walmart might not be all its cracked up to be. I’m not all that sympathetic to the latter.Report

              • zic in reply to Kazzy says:

                I do wonder how many Walmart sellers go into contracts unwillingly because they remain the only game in town and how many say, “OOO! Walmart! Huge customer base! Let’s do it!” only to later regret the decision when they realize selling to Walmart might not be all its cracked up to be. I’m not all that sympathetic to the latter.

                I’ve seen both. Some well-known manufacturers who stalled on it as long as they could, and finally gave in to remain alive; others who went all greed at the thought of it.

                But be clear on this: there are thousands of smaller manufacturers out there who understand the risks, who work to avoid the problems of exponential growth that would be required, and who just want to remain afloat; and their potential markets grow fewer and fewer with each passing year. Amazon has, in this way, been somewhat of an antidote; for it’s allowed those smaller manufacturers to reach a broader market without upscaling to WalMart’s never-ending hunger for cheap products, by allowing the manufacturers to connect directly with customers seeking better quality products.Report

              • Kim in reply to zic says:

                For now. Soon enough Amazon will stop delivering to the hinterlands.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

                I doubt that. Except Alaska. Alaska is always potentially vulnerable.Report

              • Russell M in reply to Kim says:

                Amazon will be fine on delivering until brick and mortar big box stores kill the postal service to kill amazon.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

                I just don’t think it’s the case that, in the absence of USPS, UPS and FedEx won’t deliver to rural locations. Where BoA, Wells Fargo, and Amazon want things to be delivered, they will be delivered.

                Except possibly Alaska.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kim says:

                Gas prices double again, you’ll find graded pricing for delivering stuff to the hinterlands (fair enough, with how much it’ll cost). But amazon’s business model depends on “ooh, shiny!” not on “bundle up a huge load and rent a private truck to deliver to me”Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

                I think it’s more likely that people in the hinterlands will get used to the notion that UPS delivers on Tuesdays and FedEx on Thursdays than that Amazon will refuse to send stuff there, and I think that’ll actually be more rare than people think. Amazon Prime may no longer be available as universally as it is now, but I think that’s likely to be the extent of it.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kim says:

                *shrugs* think what you want. I get this stuff from listening to logistics experts. They don’t see the future any better than the rest of us, naturally, but they do know the breakpoints.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to Kim says:

                You know, Kim, I know that you really like to be all Coast To Coast Radio about stuff, but…

                If Amazon stops delivering to United States destinations then there will very shortly stop being an Amazon.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kim says:

                What’s the difference between Walmart and Amazon in NYC? Amazon has a better delivery system between its warehouse and you.

                Amazon’s putting oodles of cash into being a newer, better walmart-like store (remember: one of walmart’s innovations was using its shelves as inventory storage).

                I was only speaking of Fedex etc not delivering to rural areas (try driving 20 miles between deliveries, when each delivery is one small box! — and that’s conservative for some parts!)Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

                I would say that decades might be short in terms of the cosmic sense of things but it is not really short in terms of the sense of human lives. We only live 7-9 decades max on average. Some people get lucky and make it up to 10-11. I’m not a fan of the cosmic sense of time argumentation.

                Zic also has a good point about cheap goods. I largely agree with your point that the genius of capitalism is to take luxury products and make them affordable/accessible but there is a cost to cheap. Cheap goods often need replacing. A friend of mine bought an interview suit from H and M and within a year it was falling apart at the seams. Meanwhile I have seen well made clothing last decades and still look good, fashionable because of superior construction and technique. I believe that there is a very famous Terry Pratchet quote that the internet likes about this issue.

                There is also this book:


                This is not to say that I want prices to rise on everything but perhaps we should slowly work to changing the culture. It might be better and more sustainable to convince people to own fewer but nicer things than a lot of cheap things.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to NewDealer says:

                I’ve been shopping at Walmart ever since I left Colosse (in some places where I’ve lived, Walmart is more of a necessity than it is in Colosse or San Fransisco). Yes, sometimes cheap is cheap and crappy. Sometimes, it just means “Doesn’t look nice, but does the job well enough” which is often what people need.

                I disagree with the oft-heard statement that Walmart stuff isn’t actually cheap because it breaks apart. Sometimes that’s true, but very often it’s not. (And often it’s something that you don’t care if it breaks apart because you really only need it for a limited time).Report

              • Kim in reply to Trumwill says:

                Nothing funnier than watching a walmart tent rolling around in the breeze.Report

              • A friend of mine bought an interview suit from H and M and within a year it was falling apart at the seams. Meanwhile I have seen well made clothing last decades and still look good, fashionable because of superior construction and technique.

                But the issue is also that a poorer person might not have the ready cash available to buy the well-tailored suit in the first place. I think it’s better at least to have the option to choose between cheap but bad quality and expensive but good quality instead of having only to choose expensive but good quality.

                There is, I suppose, another argument, which would state that the good quality items are being priced out by the Walmarts of the world, making them (the good quality items) more expensive to the ultimate consumer. I’m unsure how much I buy into that argument, however.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Great point.

                Yes, saving for two years to buy the $500 suit that will last me 10 years is theoretically the better route than buying the $100 suit now that will only last me a year. But if I only have $100 now and have a job interview tomorrow… I’m buying the $100 suit.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                This is a very fair point but in the end the poor person pays more because they have to replace their stuff more often.

                On the other hand, I have heard some people say they would rather have a lot of cheap things than a few nice things. So maybe there is an American psyche thing going on here….Report

              • Barry in reply to Glyph says:

                “Professor Hanley has argued in the past that true monopolies are rare ”

                I imagine that in the real world, ‘true X’ doesn’t actually exist, for many different values of X. Almost-X might be rather similar.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Barry says:


                Almost X is rare in the real world as well.

                Standard Oil, when it was first formed, controlled about 90% of the market, but that share began to slide from the very first, due to competition. Their near-monopoly was very ephemeral, and the fact that they were entirely unable to maintain their market share shows that they undeniably lacked one of the critical characteristics of a meaningful monopoly or almost monopoly, which is the ability to create effective barriers to competition.

                By the time the U.S. Gov’t charged them with being a monopoly, they were down in the 60% range of market share and still declining. That is, they’d already lost approximately 1/3 of their original market share and there was no indication that they were going to be able to stop the decline there and keep their majority position.

                Below, NewDealer mentions Ma Bell, but that was never a market monopoly. It was a monopoly created by law, and protected from competition by law.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:


                A true monopoly like Standard Oil or Ma Bell is very rare these days. At least in the U.S.

                What you have rather is industries with a “high barrier to entry” and therefore only a handful of companies dominate the market around the world. This makes collusion and cartelization very easily. I worked on antitrust case against the chemical industry. There were only five or so companies world wide that made the particular chemical. It costs about 300-500 million upfront to build a factory to produce said chemical and a few years before said factory is operational IIRC from the complaint. It isn’t like opening up a sandwich shop to compete with subwayReport

              • Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

                So acting as though Wal-Mart is a monopoly (or near enough to it) may ultimately be incorrect (which is not to say they may not be doing bad stuff anyway).

                Wal-mart is not making or selling anything (rare chemicals or whatever) that I can’t buy elsewhere (starting with Amazon, Target, etc.), or possibly even make/procure myself, if I want to go into business to compete with them (on price, or quality, or service).

                And they are not, in DC at least, the only employment option – so if they are a crappy employer, don’t work for them.

                If Wal-Mart is breaking the law, get ’em. If they’ve found a loophole to exploit and it’s causing problems, close the loophole (for everyone). But don’t go after them just because they are Wal-Mart; providing jobs, and cheap goods, and services in areas that might not otherwise have them, is still beneficial.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

                No. Wal-Mart is not a monopoly. I don’t think anyone ever thought of going after Wal-Mart using antitrust laws like the Sherman Act or the Clayton Act. The concerns liberals have about Wal-Mart are different.

                They might or might not be engaged in other anti-competitive behavior covered by the Sherman and Clayton Acts. Antitrust goes after more than monopoly, it goes after a whole range of anti-competitive behavior like Price Fixing and Territorial Division among competitors (this is called Horizontal Price Fixing and Horizontal Terreritorial Division).

                Amazon seems to be engaging in classic monopoly activity according to some commentators.

                I also venture to say that an organization can stay within the law but still not be beneficial. The concerns about Wal-Mart are unfair labor practices, not antitrust practicesReport

              • Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

                Also, I should clarify – I am not saying ND was calling WM a monopoly – just that these discussions reminded me of past monopoly discussions (a comparison that may ultimately be irrelevant).Report

          • Trumwill in reply to zic says:

            Though my perspective on Walmart is different than Zic’s, I found this story (referenced by Kazzy) to be quite interesting and buttresses her point about being careful before you get into bed with Walmart.

            I wouldn’t mind it at all if enough suppliers stood up to Walmart to force them to change some of their more questionable procurement tactics. On the other hand, I’ve read articles about how Walmart’s procurement tactics can be helpful to the consumer (namely, suppliers love to put on inexpensive frills in order to jack up prices to increase profit margins and Walmart forces them not to due to their eagle-eye on prices).Report

            • I wonder if any meaningful way for suppliers to stand up to Walmart might put them in violation of antitrust laws? I’m thinking specifically of attempts by suppliers to unite and sell to Walmart only under certain terms or at certain prices they would have agreed upon beforehand.

              Not that I think antitrust laws are necessarily a good idea. But I think they would pose a problem here.Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to zic says:

        I know that in Ontario, this would constitute constructive dismissal, and the employees would have a really solid case to take to the labour board (or, possibly, to court – I’m not sure on the jurisdiction guidelines).

        Of course, the workers would have to be prepared for the fight and know the labour law well enough.

        Also, I have no idea what the law is in DC.Report

  3. NewDealer says:

    I agree with Dan and Zic about how Wal-Mart is a very kind of special bad apple and their practices as such make it hard for me to sympathize with them under any circumstances.

    Then again, I don’t mind living in blue cities that work very hard to keep Wal-Mart but I am the kind of liberal that supports local business and investment in community.Report

  4. maxl says:

    Here in the Bay Area, there is a living wage in most of the large cities (SF, San Jose) of ~$11/hr and only tipped workers are excluded so long as they make $14/hr on average. Of course, Wal-Mart is only in the exurbs around here – where those wage laws don’t exist.

    Retail workers, like those at Macy’s have commissions to account for, and I am not sure how those work. Costco in particular is famous for providing a good wage ($11/hour +) and health benefits to it’s workers. It certainly wouldn’t need any grandfathering. A union shop would do the same or at least have a pay and benefit plan that was agreed to by the workers. I would have to do some googling, but I think Home Depot has a reasonable pay/benefit package as well.

    Your link doesn’t say anything about grandfathering certain companies and not others, and if that is the case, it sounds both heavy handed and totally unlike anything SF or San Jose has done. But it does seem like at least some of the companies cited as examples that are being excluded from the law would not have had to worry about it anyway.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to maxl says:

      Good to know that about Costco. It can be tough to sort the good actors out from the bad ones; knowing which ones are good is at least as helpful as knowing which ones are bad.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to maxl says:

      From the second link:
      “The D.C. Council bill would require retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger to pay their employees no less than $12.50 an hour. The city’s minimum wage is $8.25.

      While the bill would apply to some other retailers — such as Home Depot, Costco and Macy’s — a grandfather period and an exception for those with unionized workforces made it clear that the bill targets Wal-Mart, which has said it would open six stores, employing up to 1,800 people.”Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

        Eh, that’s possibly not a correct conclusion.

        Grandfathering is generally phased-out — is it here? Telling established businesses “jack your salaries up 30% tomorrow” is a lot to ask, so grandfathering and phasing it in is generally fairly appropriate. Telling new businesses that come in “you need to start here” is a bit tough on new business, but they can plan for it.

        I’m actually confused by the union shop exemption, insofar as few union shops have minimum wage jobs — or at least jobs you stay in. Not that the lowest level jobs are big pay bonanzas, but they’re generally well above minimum wage. (That’s one reason a union exists, after all — to try to get better wages for members). I can think of a few reasons to put it in (mostly speculative and along the lines of ‘there’s actual temporary workers and Walmart temporary, where the latter is a career’ and some laziness so just flat-out exempting the one group you know doesn’t and can’t do that).

        A lot of that assumption — that it’s targetting Walmart exclusively — depends on the grandfathering terms. If ALL new businesses of that size have to adhere to the law, and the grandfathering phases out over a five or so year period? I’m suddenly okay with the law — except the union thing, which I’d like more info on.Report

        • Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

          40 years of grandfathering power plants through the Clean Air Act (all parts) say otherwise…

          Maybe the deal is that unions have said “we have these particular reasons and bylaws for paying apprentices this way. We’ll get them to a higher living wage in a year or two.”

          I can honestly see different reqs for a union than for a non-union shop, if only because the union has actual standards (rather than continual wage freezes)Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

            That’s generally done for tax reasons, and for — well — a lot more money at stake. This is more akin to “should we raise the minimum wage all at once, or in several steps”.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:

          I’ll have to double-check, but I believe the union exemption was intended to carve out space for a major local grocer chain that pays above minimum wage but below the living wage proposal.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

            Yeah, not a fan of that. I’d sign off on grandfathering if it was phased out as long as the new rules applied to any new business or location opened (no “Business X opens a new store but keeps their exemption because they already had a location”), but not the union carve out unless you could come up with a really, really, solid reason.

            Like…conflicting with federal law or something…reasons.Report

  5. KatherineMW says:

    I support “living wage” legislation. And I can understand exempting small businesses (though I have a fairly restrictive definition of “small”: less than ~30 employees), which are likely to have tighter margins and lower profits, and be locally-owned.

    But it’s not ideal to target it against one specific business. I certainly don’t like Wal-Mart, but if there’s other big companies that are refusing to pay workers a living wage, then the bill should apply to them to. There’s no need to exempt ones where the employees are unionized, because if the union’s minimally effective those standards should exist in them already. If you target an individual store, you’re deliberately choosing which companies you consider better than others, instead of which practices you consider it necessary for businesses to abide by. And that’s the wrong way to go about things. I’d support the bill if it was more sweeping and less limited.

    It does make sense as a way, pointed out in the comments about, of enforcing labour law indirectly when direct enforcement is clearly not happening. But I’d prefer more straightforwardness in legislation than that.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Goddamnit, KMW. Next time, I’ll just ask you to write the post for me, okay?

      Perfectly said.Report

    • trizzlor in reply to KatherineMW says:

      KatherineMW: There’s no need to exempt ones where the employees are unionized, because if the union’s minimally effective those standards should exist in them already.

      I agree with most of your argument but I have to quibble with this point. One way to look at this law is that it’s a means of combating some kind of entrenched power imbalance between employer and labor. For whatever reason, free-market transactions have failed and people are taking jobs that they cannot subsist on. The employer is exploiting an inherent advantage, and so a traditional “level” playing-field (where labor and employer freely compete) is inherently unfair; government has to come in and remove the advantage for fair competition to continue.

      In this context, a unionized shop is much less likely to be part of the imbalance because of the power of collective bargaining. If the union is not meeting those standards, then it’s likely that they have negotiated some other kind of advantage that they feel makes up for it (benefits package, retirement, severance, sponsored on-the-job training, etc.). Rather than try to factor in all of these potential nuances, it seems reasonable to just put unionized shops in a different – less protected – category than other employers. In fact, the two-tier system makes the most sense to me in general: if your employees have negotiated their salary + benefits from a position of power (i.e. unionized) then the system is working for you; if not, then you can either choose to unionize and demonstrate that the current contract is not exploitative, or you can accept the broadly-defined hard minimums established by the government. If you believe than unions are an integral part of the free market, then this system actually seems to be the most free-market friendly and flexible.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to trizzlor says:

        But if a unionized shop may have some benefits that offset comparatively lower wages, then the same is true of a non-unionized shop. It doesn’t seem logical that it should be illegal for two businesses to have identical sets of working conditions, which are legal for one business and illegal for the other, simply because one is unionized.

        If the law is too restrictive in terms of the balance between salaries and benefits, and this creates problems for unionized shops, then it’s something that could be equally troublesome and over-restrictive for non-unionized ones, and a good reason to try to modify the law. It’s at least theoretically possible for a business to be non-unionized because it treats its employees well enough that they don’t feel the need for a union (which would cost them extra money in dues). A union isn’t the only way for an employer-employee relationship to be non-exploitative.Report

        • Griff in reply to KatherineMW says:

          Note that the “union exemption” actually says not that the statute doesn’t apply to unionized workplaces, but that the terms of the statute MAY be waived by a collective bargaining agreement. In other words, if the employer and the union agree that one of the terms of their CBA will be that the employer doesn’t have to pay a living wage, that’s okay. The reasons to permit a waiver of this kind in a CBA but not in an individual employment contract seem plain to me — we believe that a union negotiating CBA is standing on an equal footing with the employer, while an individual employee negotiating only for herself more often than not has to accept whatever the employer’s terms are, or not get the job.Report

          • Barry in reply to Griff says:

            “Note that the “union exemption” actually says not that the statute doesn’t apply to unionized workplaces, but that the terms of the statute MAY be waived by a collective bargaining agreement.”

            How many days do you think it’ll take for Walmart to set up a local ‘union’?Report

  6. Russell M says:

    one small point to make. when wal-mart was first making noises about building the dc stores they promised to start people at $13/hour. now they cry because the law will force them to almost live up to what they promised.


    I am afraid i will cry no tears for walmart. my wifes last job was at walmart. the stress and abuse she got from that place from the management was a big factor in her needing psychiatric care. so they can sit and spin as far as i care. it is a terrible company that abuses the public commons to enrich ownership, costing taxpayers money every day.Report

  7. Michelle says:

    I won’t set foot in a Walmart. Ever. For all of the reasons Zic and others cite above. Walmart is a leech. It sucks the life out of local businesses and gives back nothing in return. Instead, it costs communities that house one and end up paying to provide food stamps and health care to a large chunk of its employees.

    I don’t think the Washington DC law, as proposed, is the best way to deal with Walmart. Laws aimed at a single employer are a bad idea. Plus, I think it would face challenges as to its constitutionality. But if the threat of this law passing is enough to get Walmart to reconsider entering the Washington DC market, it’s all to the long term good. As my anti-union labor law professor used to say, Walmart deserves a union that’s every bit as noxious as it is.Report

    • Russell M in reply to Michelle says:

      I dont think even Hoffa could live up to that.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Michelle says:

      Sounds like my leftie would come out in that class.

      In my employment law class, I was the reliable liberal and there was another student who was reliably always pro-employer. We ended up sounding like the Point-Counter Point people from AirplaneReport

  8. Kolohe says:

    If this thing passes (per twitter, LRAA hasn’t be voted on yet, afaict), and Wal-Mart bails on the Skyland store, we’ll at least have another example of eminent domain abuse.Report

  9. Murali says:

    Let me tell you my Walmart Experience. When I was in Tucson last november, I needed something from a pharmacy in the midde of the night. Walmart was the only place that had what I wanted and was open at the time. When I went there, the service staff were polite, efficient and helpful. The place was clean. I don’t know about you guys, but if they can give me 24 hr service while everyone else closes early, they’ve got my support.Report

    • trumwill mobile in reply to Murali says:

      Their Pharmacy was open in the middle of tyre night? That’s unusual. But I agree. To me the joy Of Walmart has always been the convenience (hours and selection). Out here, that means a lot. I almost never stopped at Walmart when I lived in the city except for really late night runs.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to trumwill mobile says:

        My objection to shopping at Walmart is wholly a preference. We tend to only end up there in situations such as Murali described: late at night. Otherwise, if we have to slum it, we go to Target. I mean, we do have standards.Report

        • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

          My objection to shopping at Walmart is that it invariably causes physical illness.
          Same thing with Sam’s Club.
          (yes, I realize my sample set is small).Report

      • NewDealer in reply to trumwill mobile says:

        Tangent: I think there is something surreal about working the graveyard shift at Wal-Mart in a rural area like yours and possibly potentially very peaceful at the same time.

        Keep in mind that I thought the same things when I worked the graveyard shift at large corporate law firms as a legal proofreader. There is something peaceful about being up when the world is a sleep and I am not necessarily a night-owl.

        Wal-Mart in a rural area seems more desolutate but at the same time I bet there are more people who keep to odd hours in rural areas and move to rural areas for that ability.Report

    • Johanna in reply to Murali says:

      This. When a hailstorm smashed the skylight in the manufactured home (i.e., nice trailer, but don’t call it a trailer because the park owners get mad) sometime after midnight, leaving rain water streaming down the walls of our kitchen, Wal Mart was the only place open to get ladder, tarp, and rope.

      Most of the people I see at our local Wal Mart are friendly and efficient. From the stories I hear I expect them to all look wretchedly unhappy, full of despair at the futility of their job, and maybe their life. They don’t. I’m honestly curious if any of the people who talk about Wal Mart being a “special kind” of bad have ever given any serious, unbiased, attention to anything not written by someone who began their research on Wal Mart with a negative bias?

      My more cynical side wonders if Wal Mart isn’t just a useful trope to fill our intrinsic need for enemies?

      As for me, I’ll shop there. I’m liberal enough not to look down on the lower class folks who are able to buy more winter clothes for their kids than they can afford at the politically acceptable stores, or to condescend with unwelcome sympathy to the folks who work there.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Johanna says:

        Crap, that was me….again. I had no idea Johanna had posted using this computer.Report

      • Kim in reply to Johanna says:

        ” I’m honestly curious if any of the people who talk about Wal Mart being a “special kind” of bad have ever given any serious, unbiased, attention to anything not written by someone who began their research on Wal Mart with a negative bias? ”

        Yup. me.

      • Kazzy in reply to Johanna says:

        “I’m liberal enough not to look down on the lower class folks who are able to buy more winter clothes for their kids than they can afford at the politically acceptable stores, or to condescend with unwelcome sympathy to the folks who work there.”

        Hey! Are you talking about me??? I did say I was a bad liberal, didn’t I?

        FWIW, we never had a Walmart anywhere near us growing up. I actually remember driving out to one in Quincy, MA during college with a friend because we had heard so much about the super store… only to find that it was basically a Target but bigger and junkier. Having grown up middle- to upper-middle-class and remaining largely within that demographic, we’ve never really had a need to shop at Walmart, and I will confess to a certain snobbiness about it. But I wouldn’t hesitate to go there (and have!) when it makes the most sense for us, be it time, price, or selection. This is the first time in either of our lives where we’ve lived within a reasonable distance of Walmart. However, we also have a Target, a Home Depot, a warehouse store, a regular super market, and an outlet center all within the same vicinity, so we have options.Report

      • Trumwill in reply to Johanna says:

        Back when we used to move pack the moving truck ourselves, Walmart was a real life saver. Invariably, we’d be up until four in the morning. And invariably, we’d need more rope.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Trumwill says:

          My “Thank God For Wal-Mart” story involves moving as well. We moved from the apartment into Our First House and finished unloading everything around 1AM… at which point we realized that we needed a shower curtain and I needed Aleve.


          Oh, at Wal-Mart.Report

      • As for me, I’ll shop there. I’m liberal enough not to look down on the lower class folks who are able to buy more winter clothes for their kids than they can afford at the politically acceptable stores, or to condescend with unwelcome sympathy to the folks who work there.

        Hear, hear! The snobbery that creeps into some of the otherwise well-meaning comments on this thread is irritating. (I’m not directing this at Kazzy, for the record.)Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

          Heh… I’ll own my snobbiness.

          In reality, we just tend to buy higher quality stuff than what Target offers. We are positioned such that we can afford to do so and try to invest in quality (though fully aware that price does not correlate perfectly with quality). But if the same product is available at both Home Depot and Walmart but is cheaper at the latter, such as was the case with an outdoor storage chest we needed, we went to the latter and didn’t think anything of it.

          In some ways, Walmart is a bit symbolic for Zazzy and I… that we’ve officially moved to “the sticks” so we resist it because of what it means, not what it is. I actually had a very pleasant experience buying printer paper there one day.Report

          • Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

            Maybe you are a snob, but you keep your snobbery pretty much to yourself in this thread. The chief objection you mention against walmart is that the one you’re familiar with is gross and doesn’t serve your own needs well.

            Maybe I’m a snob, too, or, what is probably the same thing, a bit too “chip on shoulder” when I run across people who claim how righteous they are in their consumption choices (in large part because they can afford to). But I have to admit, it’s a form of snobbery on my part to state proudly how much I like the chain restaurants and my local Target* Yes, I trumpet the fact I patronize such establishments in the same way that some feel it necessary to mention how much they support local industry and buy high quality products. In my own way, I’m just as much of a snob.

            I actually think there is a lot to criticize Walmart for, if certain accusations I’ve heard are true and especially if they point to systemic practices. Zic’s example of promising employees full time positions strikes me potentially as fraud, and working off the clock I’ve heard about, along with the alleged racial and sex discrimination suggest to me that there’s a there there to some of the criticism. I don’t think the D.C. law is the solution, however.

            *There’s not a Walmart near me, or at least not a real one. There’s a “Walmart Express” downtown, which strikes me more like an overrated Walgreens. There are Walmarts in other parts of town, but I don’t know much of them.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

              One summer in college, I food shopped in CVS. Had there been a Walmart, I would have been all over it.

              I feel you on conspicuous consumption… That sort of signaling bothers me. Once the item is in my house, I tend to forgot how we procured it. I couldn’t tell you if our electronics came from Best Buy, Amazon, New Egg, PCRichard, or Target. What matters is I got the ones I wanted at a price that worked.

              And while I do try to be a conscientous shopper, I only have so much time in the day and, as you said, most corps are evil one way or another. Perhaps that sounds callous but, well, I’m human.Report

          • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

            Snobs don’t listen to Wale. 😉Report

        • Chris in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

          I live across the street from what is best described as a mini-Super Wal-Mart. It would have been a full Wal-Mart, but the neighborhood freaked out and tried to block it completely (I lived elsewhere at the time). Now the whole bourgie neighborhood foods there.

          I always assume much of the anti-Walmart bluster is just snobbery for show. Don’t get me wrong, Wal-Mart is the devil, but it’s the devil in a society of devils. That it got where it is by out-deviling engine else is an indictment of the society, not of Wal-Mart. My not shopping there would do nothing but make my bank account smaller.

          Oh, and because mine is basically a neighborhood site, I know everyone who works there, most by name, we chat all the time, and as a result, the customer service is great.Report

          • Kim in reply to Chris says:

            Walmart also got there by pirating other people’s work.
            JIT and all that.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

              Not really. Walmart is a huge mainframe shop. Walmart’s standards are amazingly consistent over time: their EDI specs for many of the major retail transactions have become industry standards. They were among the first to adopt the UPC code system. They were early adopters of satellite data transmission. Their software architecture supports regional variants, especially in their pharmacy and optical adjuncts: that’s why Walmart can partner with so many other corporations under the same roof and HVAC system.Report

        • zic in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

          Winter clothes that actually keep kids warm are nice. Kids shouldn’t have to risk frost bite on the playground.

          Snobbery is one thing, and there’s plenty of liberal snobbery.

          Stealing from poor people by selling them shoddy crap that won’t perform as it’s supposed to is another.

          There is a difference.Report

          • Pierre Corneille in reply to zic says:

            True enough, and I really did mean “otherwise well-meaning” when I wrote “the otherwise well-meaning comments on this thread.”

            But sometimes, it’s selling cheap, but poor quality goods to people who might not be able to afford more expensive but better quality goods.

            Now, maybe the makers and sellers of better quality goods have been pushed out by Walmart, and are now therefore more expensive, but I don’t think that the process is as clear cut as that, just as it’s not as clear cut to me that it’s always better to have cheap, but poor quality goods.

            I think it’s very messy. There’re uneasy to demarcate boundaries between real savings, even accounting for the cost of the relative shoddiness of products, and real abuses, and between people who are grateful for a job because they’ve been out of work, and people, maybe sometimes the same people, who are being abused by the bait-and-switch you describe elsewhere in this thread and by other abuses. I also wonder to what extent we can say Walmart has ruined small towns, etc., and how much these towns were already facing problems due to deindustrialization, etc.: it’s probably a mixture of both and it’s also probably very difficult to tease out the strands.

            Maybe on balance, we can indeed come to the conclusion that Walmart is “the devil” and needs to be opposed. I’m not there yet and confess to a certain stubborn refusal to take more than baby steps in that direction. And maybe I’ve drunk too much of the free-market, wealth maximizing kool-aid. But I find those who are so proud of their accomplishments in the sphere of ethical consumption to be a little too reminiscent of the evangelical proselytizing and moralizing we sometimes see from other quarters for causes that most of us here agree are less worthy. I call that snobbery.Report

          • J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

            Stealing from poor people by selling them shoddy crap that won’t perform as it’s supposed to is another.

            I’m going to say flat out that the whole “Wal Mart only sells junk” argument is completely false.

            I think this idea must be driven by the idea that the only way to reduce prices, other than “screwing over labor and suppliers by paying them sub living wages” is “reduce quality.” The former may have some validity; the latter only indicates someone who’s not familiar with the concept of productivity improvements, and how businesses innovate to create productivity improvements. I know lots of folks think Wal Mart is too brutal to its suppliers, but unless businesses–all businesses, every single one, everywhere–continually face profit pressure, they have no incentive to continue innovating, finding less expensive materials of equal or better quality, streamlining processes so the same outcome is achieved at lower cost, etc. And all the production costs that are squeezed out that way are freed up–at various places in the system: the producer, the retailer, the consumer–to be put to other purposes.

            And in fact it can be–not always, but sometimes–smart to buy a cheaper, lower quality, shorter-lived product, and replace it later with something better. The extra money you might spend for higher quality is no longer available for other purposes, and those other purposes might be really important to that consumer right now. So the cost of having to replace something in the future has to be compared to the cost of what you’d be giving up now.

            And we have to discount those future costs and value–it’s irrational not to do so. For example, if I gave you $100, would you prefer it today or a year from now? How much more would I have to give you a year from now to get you to forgo the $100 today? That reveals your discount rate. (It’s a function of both inflation, which reduces the value of money so that $100 a year from now is literally worth a few dollars less than $100 is today, and a function of what you’ve foregone in the year, that you could have gotten with that $100–i.e., your opportunity cost.)

            So, in all, consumers buying a “planned obsolescence” product should not be assumed to be irrational–you don’t know what that person’s situation and overall set of needs and wants is; not everything at Wal Mart is cheap plastic crap, regardless of what the bumper stickers say; and bringing down the cost of goods does not necessarily require reducing their quality.Report

            • zic in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

              James, all your logic here may be wonderful, but I live in a community of poor people, and see and hear the constant complaints of crappy products.

              Most folk I know will shop at Goodwill first, on the hope of finding better quality.

              I can’t speak from personal experience, since I cannot shop at WalMart due to the lighting.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:


                I live in a poor community, too. I live in a lower middle class neighborhood. I don’t hear these complaints.

                And to the extent they sell some crappy products, there are never going to be stores selling at a lower and lower middle class price point that don’t. I’ve bought crappy products at Lowes, too, but there’s not great liberal mobilization against “Lowe’s cheap plastic crap.”

                I do shop at Wal Mart sometimes, but I really don’t like to. The lighting bothers me also (although probably not as badly as you), and the place always feel claustrophobic to me. I’m not actually a big fan of Wal Mart; I just think the majority of criticisms (not all, the majority) stem from a general dislike and misunderstanding of market processes that use Wal Mart as a symbol representing everything they hate.Report

            • Kim in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

              JIT, a concept Walmart stole from others, is also a grand way of reducing prices.Report

          • trumwill mobile in reply to zic says:

            I’ve been purchasing stuff regularly from Walmart for ten yearsyears. Stone of it has been crap. That’s stone of the Stuff I remember die to the frustration. Most of it,though has not been crap at all. (Unless crap was What I was going for. )

            It’s honestly tiresome to be regularly told that the Stuff I buy is crap that’s just going to fall apart.Report

        • Chris in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

          I rarely have a problem with Wal-Mart products. Granted, we don’t have winters.Report

          • trumwill mobile in reply to Chris says:

            I do have winners and most Walmart stuff is fine. Seriously.Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to trumwill mobile says:

              My anecdotal evidence against your anecdotal evidence is that it depends on what you buy.

              Their cotton clothes are made as well as stuff in the mall. Dishes, glasses, bath mats, towels, some furniture, and lots of other simple stuff there is good as anything. Certainly as good as Target or Costco or Ikea or lots of other places.

              Friends, family, and myself have had really bad experiences with things they sell with electricity or moving parts: lamps, blenders, drills, CD player, etc. And in this category, I find that if you buy the more expensive Walmart item it is okay, but if you buy the cheapest Walmart option, it is a risk to not work for crap.

              But all anecdotal.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I agree that it depends on what you buy. Nonbrand electronics can be iffy unless it’s something straightforward. Gotta be careful about stands and shelves and such, though a lot of that is good. Do not get their exercise bike unless you are considering it a rental (though the next One I got at a supporting goods place wasn’t much better. Puritan is good, George is great, but Faded Glory is not. for jeans, anyway, their shirts are good.Report

              • Puritan just may be the weirdest brand name I have ever heard. Puritan clothing? Really?Report

              • It is kind of curious. Then again, the Puritan stuff I get tends to be on the conservative side (dark blue and black slacks, dress shirts).Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Will Truman says:

                Faded Glory’s kind odd, too. Aesthetically, it has a really appealing sound, but if you pause to think about the meaning it’s actually kind of sad and depressing.

                Obviously I’m not cut out for marketing.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to Will Truman says:

                It’s truth in advertising, though. Those jeans fade like really quickly. It’s one of the reasons I don’t recommend them. That and they shrink and they fray too quickly.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                Wait… you guys wear WalMart jeans?

                They don’t have a True Religion by you? A Seven for All Mankind? No Levis? Not even The Gap??? I’d permit you The Gap!Report

              • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

                I actually own a pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans. I did not purchase them. I feel weird wearing them.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

                Do not buy Walmart clothes. Even the Levis at Walmart aren’t well-made. They have a separate, cut-rate, chintzy version just for Walmart.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to Will Truman says:

                Kazzy, I wear Wranglers now. Purchased at Wm and Amazon. It will be interesting to see if one set lasts longer than the other as I have been told (not here) that my Wm pairs aren’t real Wranglers. They’ll have to last quite a bit longer to justify Amazon’s upcharge.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to Will Truman says:

                I take that back, Blaise just said it here. I’m replacing a bunch of Wm Wranglers I got five or so years ago, so they can’t be that bad. The jeans I got at Walmart were $17.50, the Amazon ones were $30. We’ll see which ones come out the better deal.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Will Truman says:


                No, I don’t. I have few jeans because I don’t wear them at work, and in the summer I rarely wear anything but shorts. But looking for a pair recently, I did look at Wal Mart. The levis were of clearly inferior quality to Levis elsewhere, so I didn’t buy. Contra zic, I don’t think there was any theft involved because I had a choice, and I chose no. But apparently the little people, unlike me, are mentally incompetent and can’t actually make their own choices.

                a True Religion by you? A Seven for All Mankind?

                What in God’s name are you talking about?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I trust you know I was joking. As far as I’m concerned, everyone should shop where they like. I tend to focus on price, quality, and fit. I can be a bit picky about how things fit and don’t mind spending more to get a good fit. I don’t pay much attention to brand outside of if they have a real reputation for quality (not just the assumption that price/exclusivity = quality). Again, we never went to WM growing up because we never had one, so when I think, “I need clothes,” the default is to go to the mall. Also, we have an outlet center equidistant as the Walmart.

                We bought Mayo some clothes at Target, which I’ll admit felt weird to me, but Target has actually served us well for both he and Zazzy during and after the pregnancy.

                But I know I can be a snob. I’m working on it. It is really easy to do living exclusively in big, East Coast cities. I do my best to keep it to myself and respect everyone’s right to do as they wish.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:


                The thing about pricey jeans is that they do last, at least in my experience. You can own one pair of the pricey fancy pants and wear them to death. I had, seriously, two pairs of pants that I rotated back and forth, day in and day out, for like five years in grad school and they lasted and always looked good. (One jeans and pair of dressier cotton pants).) Just wash in the sink and hang to dry.

                As I age, I’ve learned the same is even more true of a good suit. Two or three good suits and a deal with a local tailor and dry cleaner and you wouldn’t need to spend on clothes for a looooooong time, unless you’re doing physical work. Buy too cheap a suit and you’ll be back for a new one too soon.

                Best bet if you’re poorish is to buy fancy clothes at a used store or used online. Great buys there if you look for a minute or two. Rich people give away nice stuff that they barely used.


                Dirty up the jeans and tell people that you bought them used.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                Oh, James, if you want jeans that flatter your rear, Seven is the way to go. At least that is what my snobby ex taught me.

                But it is sorta true. I looked great in my Sevens. They fit perfectly until I put on some pounds. They lasted me a long time of very regular wear. As far as I was concerned, they were worth the $100-ish I spent on them.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


                Does sink washing lengthen life versus machine wash/dry?Report

              • Trumwill in reply to Will Truman says:

                Kazzy, I knew you were joking. As I mentioned before, I was not a Walmart shopper much at all until I moved out to ruralia. So I don’t at-all blame people who live in cities avoiding the place. We go there now because, when we’re in the city, it really helps to consolidate the shopping into a single location. We’ve become more reliant on Amazon, though.Report

              • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

                Kazzy, unless you’ve been seriously grubbing in motor oil or dirt, wash everything on the gentle cycle, and it will substantially extend the clothing/towel/sheet life.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Will Truman says:


                Are those stores (like Gap), or just brands? I have never heard the names before.

                I tend toward Levis, Carharrts, and Dickies. My wife always gets the final say, based on the same standard your wife is using.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


                Both. You’ll usually find them at higher end department stores (e.g., Nordstroms… you do know what a Nordstroms is, right???) but they also have their own store fronts at the outlet complex by me. I’m not sure if they have stand alone retail stores otherwise.

                They are the types of $200 jeans that your students might be wearing. Besides being expensive (though some pairs are more reasonable… I think the two pairs I had were both under $100), they tend to skew young in terms of fashion.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:


                I am curious why does it feel odd wearing Sevens?


                Seven’s are a brand of Jeans but they also have their own retail stores. They are on the pricey side at 180-220 dollars a paid if you buy straight retail. However if you are good at shopping deals you can get them for less. I rarely pay full retail price for everything. I am very good at waiting for sales or super-clearance. I suppose Seven belong in the designer jean category with Earnest Sewn, J Brand, Levi’s Vintage, Raleigh Denim, Simon Miller. Lucky Brand, etc. But are still cheaper than the ultra expensive Japanese brands. Japanese denim is coveted because it is made on old-shuttle looms that long disappeared from USE textiles.

                And you can call me a hipster now.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think I saw a Nordstroms once….Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:


                I am told machine wash is hard on jeans. Maybe that isn’t true. (It would be odd if it were true.) I am pretty sure that putting clothes in the drier is hard on them (which makes sense given that heat causes damage). So when I have something expensive, I line dry it.

                I used to wash my pants in the sink because it was so darned easy to do laundry. Pants off at night, in the sink, hang to dry, wear the other pair tomorrow, and repeat as necessary. Can do the same with shirts a lot. (They say good jeans should be washed very rarely.) Save undies, shirts, and socks until can’t wait any longer to take to machine.

                TMI, Shazbot. TMI.Report

              • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

                New, it feels odd because they are very fashionable, and I am not the least bit so. I do tend to cancel the fashionableness by wearing a t-shirt with a giant squid, or a man with a telescope inside an eyeball, though.

                I buy well made things when I need them to last. Generally I just don’t buy many things, though. I’m a bit of an ascetic (my girlfriend says “minimalist”).Report

              • We have actually made the squid into Lain’s sigil.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:


                So you are too cool to wear the jeans?Report

              • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

                Shaz, precisely the opposite: the jeans are too cool for me.

                My girlfriend bought them for me for my birthday one year because she is really into fashion (she worked in the fashion industry when she was younger), and is fighting a losing battle to make me hipper.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:


                I am wondering what will happen if we take you into Barney’s….Will you spontaneously combust at the high-end fashion?


                Okay. I think you can wear them. Most people would probably not notice that you are wearing Seven For All Mankind Jeans.Report

              • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

                Her people do. She can read a person’s entire outfit, know where it came from, and what season, from a hundred yards away.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

                She can read a person’s entire outfit, know where it came from, and what season, from a hundred yards away.

                Man, she’d have a lot of trouble with me. No season, no source. Just good old American Clothes. Tho maybe I flatter myself by thinking so.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Will Truman says:


                Whoever or whatever a Barney’s* is, how will he/they respond to a man walking in wearing Dickies?

                * Man, this thread has had sooo many names that I don’t recognize. But when I was a kid we did have a cat named Barney, because we found him one day in our barn. Had a huge chunk out his neck, god knows how or why. My dad put some salve on it, and it healed up well. Years later that tin of salve–which was ancient when the cat showed up–was still in our medicine cabinet, and I took a look at the label. It said “do not use on cats.” I guess the cat was lucky my dad didn’t bother to read the label. Anyway, that’s what comes to my mind when I hear Barney. Good cat: affectionate, but a tough Tom who occaionally came home with his face scratched and his ears ten up.Report

              • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

                Barney’s is a purveyor of well made, finely tailored dinosaur costumes for business types.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                In any color you like, so long as it’s purple.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:


                Well it is good to know that opposites attract! 🙂 I could possibly as well to a little bit


                They have expanded to casual clothing as well. You can get really good deals at the Barney’s Warehouse sales. Up to 80 percent off.


                Barney’s is a upscale department store that was founded in NYC in the 1920s but is now global. Ironically when they were founded, they were a discount outfit.

                This tangent on the thread brings up all sorts of stuff on socio-economic class, geography, upbringing, outlook, jobs, status symbols and signifying.Report

              • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

                Depends on the clothes. Polartec actually kinda likes heat (cotton loves to shrink if you heat it too much, but without heat, you’re never gonna dry it). Polyester’ll melt if you give it too much heat.Report

              • zic in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                I have a friend who works in quality control for a big-name tractor company; her work takes her to plants all over the world. She tells me that they have a whole separate plant for WalMart production; that even though the equipment is sold under her employer’s name, the standards are much lower; enough to work some, but not enough to last to the standards of their regular stuff. I’ve heard from others that the same holds true through a number of electronics/clothing lines.

                So you may be getting brand-name stuff; but it’s not necessarily what you think you’re getting. Those low prices do come with lowered production standards. James thinks this is innovation. Maybe it is.

                But sometimes, it’s just shoddy crap, and selling it constitutes theft.

                And it doesn’t particularly matter if it’s WalMart or some other retailer doing the selling. Cheaper/disposable stuff has a much higher long-term cost; from energy used in production to increased transportation costs to disposal costs. The cheap products also fail to reflect all those costs.

                I’m not all that fond of liberal snobbism; but I am sick of people who have less and less and less being jacked off by the wealthiest corporations in the world. I don’t give a rats ass if you like to shop there; and I understand that for some things, it’s a godsend to folks with less.

                But here’s what I see here in this thread: defense of theft from folks who don’t have much to start out with, liberal bashing by folks who see a new way to poke fun at them, and a whole lot of folks conflating separate issues into one WalMart love-it/leave-it brouhaha without actually bothering to break the concerns down for some serious analysis.Report

              • Kim in reply to zic says:

                Costco, on the other hand, often just sells commercial grade stuff.
                White towels (from good hotels).
                or 4-star hotel quality soap.
                It’s cheap because it’s made in quantity, and because you aren’t paying for the overhead of “which color is gonna be hot this month?”Report

              • Trumwill in reply to zic says:

                If the Vizio TV I got at Walmart is not up to the same standards as a Vizio I et elsewhere, that’s on Vizio for selling an inferior product with their brand name on it. If it’s a crappy TV, I’m blaming it on Vizio. As it happens, my Vizio has been a perfectly fine TV and a bargain to boot.

                What I am seeing on this thread is a bunch of liberals say “No! That thing you have is crap! You’re getting ripped off!” (Okay, not me personally, necessarily, but people who shop as I have.)

                When I don’t think I did, for the most part. And I think that at a time when I had very limited funds, Walmart let me stretch my money farther. Even the exercize bike that lasted less than six months was useful in a way. (Though, to be honest, Walmart wasn’t entirely about the money anyway. But rather the convenience.)Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

                liberal bashing

                Oh, please. This blog contains vast reams of libertarian bashing and conservative bashing. Maybe it’d be nice if all of it stopped, but a complaint about liberal bashing smacks hard of liberal privilege.Report

              • zic in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                his blog contains vast reams of libertarian bashing and conservative bashing.

                Some, yes. But I think most of it (not all, I admit) is on policy; it’s an attack of the argument, not the person. The attacks here — ‘liberals are snobs’ is about the person. What are we snobs about? Not shopping at WalMart is snobby? Or just a general, ‘they don’t get poor people?’ I grew up poor, I get it.

                It’s an echo of Palin’s ‘real America.’ Somehow, suggesting that WalMart is creating economic distortions that negatively impacts economic opportunity for folks who are poor, suggesting that it’s not all low prices and roses, translates into an attack on the Real America™, and the first line of defense to that attack is claiming liberal are snobs instead of actually bothering to look at the economic distortions and determine if they have merit.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                . The attacks here — ‘liberals are snobs’ is about the person.

                No, it’s about the assumptions about poor people embedded in the arguments; assumptions that have been pointed out enough times in this comments section that they don’t need to be repeated. If the critique seems to be about persons, it’s only because actual persons are demonstrating those assumptions.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Add may I add that the “our attacks are legitimate, yours are not” approach really just smacks again of privilege. It really grates, in a “but we’re above reproach” way. Need I point out that “FYIGM” came from your side? (Although obviously not from you.)

                No, no side–not yours, not mine, not others–is above reproach on thisReport

              • Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                I don’t think liberals are all snobs. I just think there’s a brand of middle/upper middle class liberal snobbishness that is unique to liberals at least insofar as it is in direct contrast to their professed, and often very real concern for issues primarily affecting the poor and working class. That brand of snobbery often works its way into discussions of Wal-Mart’s very real faults, including the way it treats its poor and working class employees, with something like, “I am boycotting Wal-Mart, but even if they weren’t evil, I wouldn’t be caught there dead anyway.”

                As I was saying in my first liberal-bashing comment, I saw a lot of this when Wal-Mart was trying to move into the very white, middle class, and liberal neighborhood in which I now live. Interposed with concerns about Wal-Mart’s labor practices and how it impacts local businesses were worries about who it would bring into the neighborhood.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                This blog contains vast reams of libertarian bashing and conservative bashing. Maybe it’d be nice if all of it stopped, but a complaint about liberal bashing smacks hard of liberal privilege.

                True enough. Tho the writer of the above quotation engages in conservative bashing as much as the next ism basher. Nothig wrong with bashing views you think are worth smacking around a little bit.

                And I’ll also note that when I first came to the LoOG liberal bashing was part and parcel of the discourse here. That’s one reason I stuck around, I guess. To try to correct the record to some extent.

                As far as the liberal privilege thing goes … I (for one) will concede. To an extent, anyway. Liberals often do tend to take a holier than thou attitude about complex issues which don’t permit high levels of expressed certainty.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Chris, it seems to me you’re talking more about class issues than ideological ones. (Is that completely wrong?) Liberals can be complicated souls who aren’t necessarily defined by their preferred ism.Report

              • Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Still, yes, though there is an ideological component in the contrast I mentioned, and that’s what I find so annoying about it.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:


                I really don’t see that. There are snobs everywhere and good and bad people on all sides but I’ve never seen anyone oppose a Wal-Mart because they feared it would draw in a certain crowd.

                Though there is People of Wal-Mart so…..Report

              • Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                In my neck of the woods, Walmart is frequented by the full spectrum of folks who need to buy things. The parking lot is representative of the whole community: Hondas, Beemers, Chevies, brand new Ford diesel pickups, and so on as well as lots of older but still decent cars and trucks.

                If a person is worried about Walmart bringing in the “bad folks” then they’re really living the dream.Report

              • Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Still, because of the size of my Wal-Mart, and the fact that there are two full-sized super Wal-Marts within easy driving distance, only people from my neighborhood shop there. It’s possibly the bourgiest Wal-Mart in the world.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Walmart is frequented by the full spectrum of folks who need to buy things.

                Right. Those people. The ones who buy things. If you’re not making everything you use yourself, you might as well be raping puppies.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to zic says:

                Will has a good point that Walmart often sells the same brands as other places, and those brands aren’t necessarily crappy.

                The crappy “Walmart Specials” are the cheap, non-brand products that Walmart sells in addition to decent products. But other places sometimes sell those crap brands, too, though less commonly, I think.

                H&M clothes are often worse than Walmart’s, for instance, despite having a certain hipster appeal that Walmart lacks.

                Older people in my poor, rural hometown do often bemoan how Walmart products are crappy, though inexpensive. My grandparents didn’t have a lot of clothes or dishes or appliances, but I do think -despite being reasonably poor- the stuff they had was pretty high quality. Not to say there is no room in the world for cheap, junky products, but the presence of Walmart in poor places does tend to mean more cheap junk is circulated, which leads to people having more stuff, but maybe fewer high quality things. Again, that isn’t necessarily bad, even if my poor grandparents complained about the lack of quality.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                They might have the same label. The ingredients are often different. Levis jeans, case in point. You are not buying the same pair of jeans as you would elsewhere. You’re buying inferior denim.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to zic says:

                I would say there is a lot of hippy punching style bashing of liberals here. Maybe libertarians get a lot of guff, too, and maybe I am to blame for a lot of it. But hippy punching is a weirdly irritating phenomenon.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                At least hippies have listenable music.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Why does hippy punching stand out as weird?Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                “Weirdly irritating,” by which I mean I can’t explain why it irritates me so much. Sorry, that was confusingly stated.

                I guess the idea behind “hippy-punching” is that liberals are (as a group, or mostly, or by and large) condescending and looking down on everyone. This idea is then appealed to in order to deride or make fun of liberals in a variety of rhetorical ways.

                In my experience, when I go home to my poor, rural, conservative town, I get looked down on for being too liberal and hippy-esque. The people around me are dripping with condescension.

                I get that all people put pressure on others to conform to their standards (of all sorts) and so liberals do that too. Ultimately, there is always a kind of condescension in having values: “My standards are better than yours and ideally you should follow them.” And since all people do this, liberals must do it too.

                But there seems to be some cultural meme out there that suggests that liberals or leftists or hippies are especially guilty of condescension and blindly believing that their standards and ways of doing things are better, and I just don’t see why liberals would be singled out as being worse than others in this way. For instance, it is conservatives who favor the expression “real Americans.

                Liberals, like all people, can be condescending by favoring their own values. But no more so than any other group.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Could you be more irritated by or sensitive to it because you are the target?

                We have a friend we call Country on the merits of him having a slight accent and his fondness for hunting. He grew up 45 minutes from DC. But he’s the only real conservative in our crew. So Country he is.

                Back home, I doubt anyone thinks Country makes much sense as a nickname.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Things I have heard conservatives, suburban folks, and poorer rural folks being rude and condescending about that are sometimes associated with liberalism and/or urban living.

                -Energy efficient cars
                -Being energy efficient in other ways, like taking short showers, or getting solar panels
                -Vegan and vegetarian diets
                -Liking museums, opera, and concerts
                -Watching art house movies
                -Paying more for higher quality produce because you like the taste
                -Getting an advanced humanities education
                -Living in San Francisco
                -Living in New York
                -Being atheistic
                -Preferring wine to beer
                -Preferring craft beers to cheeper (but not as cheap as malt liquor) beers
                -Having openly gay friends
                -Being openly gay
                -Having a wife or girlfriend that makes more money than you
                -Being childless by preference
                -Making food from scratch even when unnecessary (this is crazy given that this is what my poorer, conservative grandparents did)
                -Spending too much on expensive restaurants when you can go to TGIFridays.
                -Eating Sushi
                -Eating Ethiopian food
                -Renting a home by preference instead of owning a home
                -Not having a backyard
                -Not owning a car and using the bus, by choice or necessity (you loser
                -Wearing expensive jeans that you saved up to buy or got as a gift

              • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot5 says:


                I don’t deny that what you are feeling is really happening, only that you might be more aware of it because you feel the sting of those barbs. I’m sure conservatives could make a similar list. I think each side bashes the other, especially when they are in the majority.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:


                Maybe I am just too sensitive. But by the same token maybe the centrist and conservative types here that are complaining about libereas are just too sensitive to what liberals say. If so, then liberals, yuppies, hipsters, vegans, and hippies are no more condescending than farmers, right-leaning suburbanites, poor folk, conservatives, etc.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot5 says:


                I apologize if it seemed I was saying you were too sensitive. I did not mean that. What I meant is that you would be more sensitive to liberal bashing the conservative bashing because you actually feel the sting. I think that is true for all of us.

                I think the bashing goes in all directions, though sometimes in different forms. I don’t often feel condescended by conservatives as much as I feel derided by them. Perhaps a difference without a distinction, but that is what I tend to notice.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Shaz is absolutely correct that these sorts of cultural criticisms are very far from unilateral.

                What I find noteworthy about the list, is that to the extent that there is an economic value or a corellation with affluence, a lot of the things on Shaz’s list are criticisms upstream. Basically, criticizing people for tastes that track to some degree with affluence or cost money.

                The other criticisms are more downstream. Which is to say criticizing people for not having tastes that track with affluence or for having tastes that require less money.

                This tracks somewhat with my own experience. People to my right are more likely to criticize consumption habits that track with my education and affluence, while people on the left are more likely to criticize consumption habits that betray my lack of sophistication.

                While I wouldn’t say that either one of these are better or worse than the other, I think they are somewhat different. Condescension (or something like that) versus resentment (or something like that).Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                No need to apologize Kazzy.

                I think we are in agreement.

                Interestingly, even people who claim to be above liberal and conservative condescension are being condescending in a way.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                And along those lines, I am not above this sort of thing in either direction. I have found myself rolling my eyes both downstreamand upstream.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:


                I think that isn’t quite right. It is just a little tiny bit right.

                Here are all of the things that save money that are more taboo in conservative circles:

                -Making your own food from scratch
                -Eating a vegetarian diet
                -riding a bicycle or using a bus
                -Not owning a home and renting
                -Owning a home that is smaller than you could buy
                -Being more energy efficient
                -Not having children

                Many more are cost neutral:

                Being an atheist, having gay friends, watching artsier old moviesetc.

                Some are more expensive only if you prefer quantity over quality: e.g. eating out at Wendy’s a lot instead of at a nicer restaurant occasionally.

                Indeed, I’d go so far as to say hippy, liberal, lefty types are trying to pioneer (or bring back) cheaper ways of living: mass transit, walking, bicycling, less suburban zoning, energy efficiency, making your own food and clothing, valuing used clothing, etc.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I think you nailed it, Will.

                Painting with broad strokes, liberals tend to think their better than conservatives. Conservatives tend to think that liberals are overconfident because of their fancy pants sushi. Both forms of criticism feed into the other.

                And, Shaz, great point on the people who take the holier-than-both approach.

                If I ever finish my opus on “Wife Swap” (which I’m watching RIGHT NOW), it will address a lot of these points.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                The things Shaz lists are very much part of the “liberals aren’t real Americans” meme, which Republicans/conservatives have been pushing as long as I can recall. It goes back at least to Goldwater/None Dare Call it Treason in 1964 and comes as least as far forward as Sarah Palin’s insistence that “Real America” means rural small towns, and the general belief among conservative pundits that the only votes that should count are those of churchgoing white males. (That is, the candidate who got the majority of those votes deserved to win, because women and non-whites vote for whoever panders to them and atheists vote for evil.)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                But Mike, how often do liberals criticize conservatives for drinking Budweiser or not be willing to try sushi and the like?

                Hell… we see that here… when the beer topic comes up I’m always afraid to admit that I usually have a case of Bud Heavies in the fridge.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Thanks, Shaz. I just didn’t follow you at first.

                And there are few things that make me want to engage in real for sure conservative punching than theat “real Americans” crap.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Shaz, that was Why I talked about correlating with affluence. By my estimation, even the things that aren’t more expensive still correlate with affluence. Subarus are not more expensive Than Jeeps, but nonetheless correlates with affluence Where I love and whether you own a Subaru (as we do) or a Jeep has class implications. Housing In San Fransico may not have a back yard, but is more expensive than a house with a yard in Boise. Places with robust public transportation trend to be more expensive than places without it. It’s not a perfect correlation, but it’s there.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                OK, I do think there’s something wrong with anyone that eats Velveeta instead of real cheese or Wonder Bread instad of something that has taste and texture, and I might go on about how they’re dupes of mass marketing. But I don’t want to deport them.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I’ll also throw in my voice to the denunciation Of Real American idiocy. Though there again I would attribute that more to upstream resentment than downstream.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                SF is more expensive, but what about a smallish apartment in a medium sized city. Living more urban (i.e. in a more dense environment is cheaper).

                Rural folks could demand smaller housing units and more rentals by wanting to purchase those things, and they could vote for more dense zoning for easy commuting. These things would save them money, but rural places don’t have them because of the preferences of rural people against mass transit, bicycles, walking, smaller homes and apartments, etc.

                Again, I deny that the small-town, conservative values ring from a desire or need to be economical. It’s the other way around. What tends to be economical in those places is partially determined by the values and preferences of the people who love there.

                Here’s a story. My local home town could easily by produce from local farmers in the summer. Fresh stuff. Great. And it would be very cheap. But they don’t. I asked the local grocery store owner why not. He said that people don’t want it. They buy lots of prepackaged and canned stuff and are unconcerned about produce quality, so the local stuff is just a hassle that he would have to organize and wouldn’t help him sell anything. People have come to care about convenience over quality. That is a preference.

                You could say it is because rural poor people don’t have time to cook, but I go to lots of homes and that isn’t true. They just prefer more TV time (kids watch TV constantly) and less time actively cooking. Aain a preference.

                I don’t watch to judge my friends and family and roots too harshly, but some of these preferences are objectively unhealthy and are leading to less happiness in these communities. I try to criticize with love here on this site or other places, but not when I go home, because I am just trying to fend off criticisms of my own way of life (apparently cooking from scratch instead of heating a frozen pizza for kids in fromt of a TV makes me a woman, which is supposed to be insulting.)Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:


                There are some huge class differences in small towns and rural areas. Huge.

                If you just spend time with the local dentists, veterinarians, accountants, store owners, teachers, wealthier farmers, etc., you won’t see rural culture. Not really. Those people are just yuppies in rural areas, even if they talk about rodeos and hunting.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Shaz, it’s about mental associations as much as anything. Like Subaru and Jeep, it ultimately doesn’t necessarily matter all that much what is more expensive than what. Making from scratch may be cheaper than McDonald’s, but if you look at the average McD’s customer and the average person who makes from-scratch meals at home, I think you’re likely to see an income differential (or even if there isn’t, I think the perception is that there is).

                The question isn’t whether criticism is occurring. It’s whether, in my mind, a basis for the criticism is “these people lack taste and/or sophistication” vs “those people look down on us because we don’t bend to their hoity-toity ways.

                When I am successfully needled by one side, I am sort of left to feel like I lack taste and sophistication. When I am needled from the other, I am left to feel like I am a snob who thinks he is better than other folks.

                That’s why I tend to view it as upstream and downstream and not precisely comparable (even if it’s not the case that one is okay while the other deplorable). Is it a matter of being made to feel like I am superior, or a matter of being made to feel like I am inferior.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                There are some huge class differences in small towns and rural areas. Huge.

                Absolutely. My Subaru-Jeep was a hat-tip to that. That’s all within the community. But such things exist between communities as well. The American Falls collective is not on equal footing with the San Fransisco collective, in terms of wealth or prestige. Indeed, many liberals have taken great glee in pointing this out as of late.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                And, I should add, that I talk about these things purely from my own perspective. When my culturally liberal predilictions are criticzed vs when my conservative ones are. If the way that you are needled makes you feel like you are actually being talked down to rather than assumed snooty, spoiled, snobbish, whatever, I am not in any way trying to invalidate that feeling or say that it’s wrong or anything like that.

                I just feel very different kinds of sneering – when said sneering occurs – coming from the two different directions on these sorts of things. One feels a lot less like condescension and more like something else (resentment? just out-and-out mockery?).

                And with that, I should go. Packing, packing, packing!Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5 says:


                Ultimately, there is always a kind of condescension in having values

                I agree with you for the most part in this subthread, so I don’t want this comment to sound like a criticism. Or a judgment.

                But the above strikes me as a bit misguided. It’s not so much having values that creates the problems you’re talking about, I don’t think, but rather the judgment of others justified by holding those values. I don’t see too much merit in judging others. Disagreement, on the other hand…

                It’s in the ballpark of what Kurtz said: “You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me.”Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Eating Ethiopian food

                Point out that Ethiopian restaurants serve raw beef with butter, and then call them a bunch of pansies.Report

              • Brandon, it’s soooooo good, ain’t it.Report

              • Chris in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Shaz, forgive me if I repeat myself, or say something I’ve already said, or make the same claim twice, but I think you’re missing something, at least in how I’ve expressed my annoyance with liberals (though I’m not sure where I fall on your conservative-to-centrist vector, there, so maybe you didn’t mean me?): what I find annoying about liberal snobbery in particular is not the snobbery, which is annoying regardless of the political affiliations of the snob, or the fact that the snobbery is mostly just for show, which is the case for about 90% of all snobs, but the fact that liberal condescension toward the working class and poor is in contrast to the putative liberal interest in the problems and well-being of the working class and poor. The issue of Walmart tends, in my experience, to demonstrate this quite nicely with the “Walmart is a net negative for the working class, with their unfair and often downright dishonest labor practices and their harming of small businesses, so I refuse to shop there… but I wouldn’t have been caught dead there anyway.” I find that annoying. You can disagree, and that’s fine, whatever, but to me it’s irksome.

                I should note that I do have a reason, beyond the merely aesthetic, for finding it frustrating. I worry that habitual contempt for the poor and working classes can, and often does, erode any motivation to do things to help them on a political level.Report

              • Chris in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                P.S., Ethiopian food, followed by an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, is one of my favorite things in the world.Report

              • Kim in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                How exactly am I supposed to have contempt for people I shop alongside? I mean, granted, I buy 1 fifty pound sack of flour, and they’re buying four or eight…

                I won’t shop at Walmart because they’re a poor value. Nuff said. I’ll advocate for others to drive out to costco, becuase it’s worth it.Report

              • Chris in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Kim, did I say you have contempt for anyone?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Two examples that one side finds contemptible despite it seemingly being aligned with their core principles are food co-ops and farmer’s markets.

                In many ways, it would seem that these fit nicely into the conservative ethos: farmer’s markets tend to support smaller, family owned businesses and tap into a certain rural cultural vein; co-ops are ways of people working together independent of the government to achieve a desired end. Both represent local, community-based efforts. But because they tend to be the domain of liberals, they get chided.

                I don’t get it.Report

              • zic in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Kazzy, on food coops and farmer’s markets: I suspect what you’re describing is actually a suburban liberal/conservative thing, and not very representative.

                First off, there’s a very hard-core base of Christian Evangelicals in the organic food movement. Many organic farmers I know are Christians, and pretty extreme, home-school-the-kids types of Christians. After the 1970’s, the whole organic food movement would have faded away without food coops run by Christians, particularly Seventh Day Adventists.

                I’ve long maintained there’s common ground here that goes unexplored.Report

              • Chris in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Kazzy, I’m happy to spend a thread not about a particular liberal bugaboo that also corresponds to a particular case of liberal snobbery, complaining about conservative snobbery. Shaz’s complaints here strike me as little more than the whining of a consummate team player.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot5 says:


                You are right that there is a lot more common ground than people realize.

                I see this often with parents. They often arrive at similar methods of parenting/child rearing, albeit for vastly different reasons.

                Compare conservative Christian home schoolers with radical unschoolers. Both pull their kids from the public schools because they are dissatisfied with what is being offered, but their complaints go in different directions. Still, they arrive in much the same place, yet would likely criticize one another.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Zic makes a really good point @12:45 that I wish I had time to comment on further.

                In some ways, so much of it is simply associative that it doesn’t match with reality all that well much of the time. But there are associations we make, colors we show, and so on, that lead to certain conclusions.

                Get the folks in my conservative county talking about certain things and they come across as quite lefty. Until the word “Democrat” or “liberal” is mentioned. (Note: they aren’t liberal, but overlaps are overlooked, is what I’m saying.)Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:


                “the fact that liberal condescension toward the working class and poor is in contrast to the putative liberal interest in the problems and well-being of the working class and poor.”

                I deny that there is such a contrast, and you cannot assert such a thing as “fact” without making your case.

                Liberal values that valorate local fresh food, vegetable-based (or more veggie) diets, commuting with bicycle and mass transit, buying or making quality goods instead of consuming crappier goods en masse, being energy efficient, etc. are not looking down on the poor. Indeed, the liberal, hippy left wants us to do these things partly because they are cheap (and partly because they would be good for the very people in the communities who would do these things.)

                “The issue of Walmart tends, in my experience, to demonstrate this quite nicely with the “Walmart is a net negative for the working class, with their unfair and often downright dishonest labor practices and their harming of small businesses, so I refuse to shop there… but I wouldn’t have been caught dead there anyway.”

                1. I find this attempt to create a hypothetical liberal who says something that bothers you and use that liberal as emblamatic of all liberals intellectually dishonest. No one liberal is the representative of all liberals, no more than one Christian is a representative of all Christians. Imagine if I had said such and such is what bothers me about Christians.

                2. Again, the liberal, hippy, left values not buying Walmart stuff because (and you can disagree with whether this is a good reason) the stuff is beneath them, but because the sales of the stuff in the way that it is sold is bad for consumers, employees, local businesses, etc.

                If people find Walmart too cheap for their tastes “I wouldn’t be caught dead in there”) I suspect that attitude is at least as common in conservatives as liberals, and you meed to make a case that this is not so before asserting otherwise.

                “I should note that I do have a reason, beyond the merely aesthetic, for finding it frustrating. I worry that habitual contempt for the poor and working classes can, and often does, erode any motivation to do things to help them on a political level.”

                Liberals do not have “a habitual contempt for the poor and working classes.”

                “Shaz’s complaints here strike me as little more than the whining of a consummate team player.”

                You play for team better than conservatives and liberals and team too cool to wear Seven jeans. And if my comments can be construed as whining by a team player, then so can yours. We’re just on different teams, even though you seem to want to pretend not to be on a team.

                I feel this is ad hominem enough on your part that I will cease responding to you on this thread.Report

              • Chris in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Good, because you seem to have missed the point of pretty much evening I’ve said.Report

              • Pierre Corneille in reply to zic says:

                re: Walmart = theft

                I won’t dismiss out of hand the possibility that a retailer selling shoddy goods can be counted in some circumstances as theft. But I think someone making such an assertion has an uphill battle ahead of them to prove the case.

                Such proof will probably have to demonstrate something like fraud, lack of choice, and lack of options for exit, and perhaps other predatory or near predatory practices (like the debt-credit schemes sometimes thought to exist with “company stores”).

                I think when it comes to Walmart, there is more evidence, at least at a superficial level, to support something approaching a “theft” model when it comes to poor, relatively isolated communities. Even then, I’m not particularly inclined to call it theft, but I admit it’s at least tempting to look at it that way under those conditions.

                When it comes to suburban or urban markets, I think it’s hard to call it theft. In some of these markets, competition and a plethora of choices effectively combats, in my view, any notion of “theft.” In some cases, like the supposed “food desserts” in some areas of inner cities, Walmart can potentially have a liberating effect, providing access to goods, and in some cases jobs (albeit low-paying ones), that otherwise are not available or available only at a high markup at local “small businesses” that are really just street corner convenience stores.Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to trumwill mobile says:

              Actually, in the rural hometown near my rural hometown that is big enough to have a Walmart, the consensus opinion is that Walmart appliances are crap compared to what you used to get at the hardware store, but people buy it for the prices. “Walmart Special” is a fun synonym for “crappy” amongst my poor, rural, friends and family.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to trumwill mobile says:

              Here’s Walmart’s problem. Well, it isn’t Walmart’s problem, it’s our problem and the manufacturers’ problem.

              Walmart will schedule those Price Rollbacks they’re so famous for — right from the beginning of your contract with Walmart. They’ll hand you a sheet of paper, showing you how they’re going to cut your margin and you’re going to have to take it or leave it. Those margins are always reduced at the expense of quality.

              Here’s how it really works. Every bargain at Walmart is a Faustian Bargain.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

          This is a sincere question and something that I have never gotten about the culture wars…

          Why are upper-middle class liberals called snobby more often than the Mitt Romney and Koch Brothers or Rush Limbaugh?

          I am being very sincere about this. There are plenty of conservatives who makes lots and lots of money and spend their money on very snobby things. IIRC Rush Limbaugh basically lives in a faux-French Villa and is a bit of a Francophile when it comes to decor and wine and food (there was an NYTimes Sunday Magazine article about this a few years ago). Yet it is an upper-middle class family from Marin or Westchester that gets called snobby for shopping at Room and Board or Design within Reach or Union Made.

          I’m not saying these people are not well-t0-do but having them receive the brunt of all attacks of snobiness always seemed odd to me. It is not like the Koch Brothers or Sarah Palin live in modest digs.Report

          • trumwill mobile in reply to NewDealer says:

            Because Rush at least gives the impression that he doesn’t look down on the consumer decisions of the person who thinks liberals liberals have websites set up to snicker at the people who shop at Walmart.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to trumwill mobile says:

              People at Wal-Mart or whatever the site is deeply problematic, true.

              However, the poor labor practices of Wal-Mart are still a valid reason for boycotting and disliking the company. Even if James disagrees, I still believe in the importance of local and independently owned business and am willing to pay a bit more to have them over Starbucks and Wal-Mart. Working class communities had local business before Wal-Mart so this is clearly not a rich person’s luxury.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to NewDealer says:

                Walmart sells on price to people for whom price matters a great deal. Telling people that this is not the right way to choose where to shop necessarily has class implications.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                But sometimes this stuff gets silly and mainly for the right. I wrote about this on your blog yesterday in a post by Burt Likko.

                Obama told a bunch of school kids that his favorite food was Broccoli. Former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted:

                “What kind of POTUS says his fav food is Broccoli? Same one who in 2008 complained about the price of arugula at Whole Foods”

                This is rather silly. What should Obama tell kids? That is favorite food is candy? Broccoli is not very expensive and is easy to make. This reads like a cheap shot at anyone who tries to eat healthy and like something Mike Judge would dismiss from Idiocracy as sounding too crude and parody-like. Amanda Marcotte was right to point out:

                ‘Not only are your broccoli “jokes” not funny, but also your fronting like you’re down with “middle America” by pretending that only elitists like vegetables is fooling no one. The parties you go to are far more likely to feature a broccoli-based amuse bouche than, say, cheeseburgers.’Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

                Nobody seems to grasp Barack Obama’s sense of PoMo humour. He said his favourite food was broccoli because his predecessor had said he hated broccoli.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I thought of that but it was Pater Bush who said he hated BrocolliReport

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                That’s right. Just not Obama’s immediate predecessor.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to trumwill mobile says:


                I think this just shows how out of touch people tend to be with those in other classes (and races and genders and geographic areas).

                “Prices will only go up a dollar!”
                “I’m already in debt and ita getting worse everyday!”
                “Ask for a raise!”
                “I work at Walmart!”
                “Walmart is evil. We should eliminate Walmart.”
                “But then where will I work? Where will I shop?”

              • In college, I worked at an on-campus fast food restaurant in the student center. It was the “anchor restaurant” in the food court, so everyone knew what it was. In a political science class I took, somehow the discussion meandered over to that fast food restaurant’s presence on campus. Apparently, it did/does some dastardly things to the environment or some such (which is probably true, by the way). One very zealous student started talking about how “we” should all boycott the restaurant.

                I felt very defensive. Not because I had any particular loyalty to that place. In fact, I was so ashamed I worked there, I told very few people about it, and whenever someone I knew came to the counter at that restaurant, I would try to hide so they wouldn’t see me. But abolishing that restaurant would have meant losing my job.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                I can understand the fear about losing your job even though on a college campus I am guessing that there were other work-study possibilities. I had a lot of friends who worked at the library during college shelving books. I had one friend who worked in campus dining.

                Where the right-wing culture stuff gets silly is with what I pointed out to Will above:


                Obama telling school kids that he likes vegetables should not be remarkable or set up a snide twitter comment. Brocolli is cheap as vegetables go, cheaper than a meal at McDonalds. The fact that it does become a mini culture war says nothing good about where this country is heading. What it might say is that we are already at a point where everything is culture war and to be fought until the bitter end on partisan grounds.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to NewDealer says:

                Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman spoke in front of a group of Fourth Graders. One of the questions he was asked was “If you were stranded on an island, what would you want with you?”

                He answered “A bottle of gin.”

                When asked about his hobbies, he answered that his hobbies included “drinking”.

                Oscar Goodman, we salute you.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Jaybird says:

                The story I heard was that he told a bunch of school kids:

                “I don’t have a drinking problem because I like to drink.”Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                (wipes tear away)Report

              • There were undoubtedly numerous places I could have applied for a job. However, I already had one, and it’s no fun looking for another. On some level, it was a lack of imagination on my part. On another level, I had a job where I had learned (by then) what to do and how to do it, and I was respected by my manager.

                And at my school, most library jobs were work study and didn’t give me the 30 hours or so I needed to work, and their wage was close to the minimum wage I was earning. (Sometimes I worked 30-35 hours, and other times I worked about 20 hours.)Report

              • Is it fair for me to note the irony of a liberal saying “you could just find another job,” when we so often hear from liberals that “people are trapped at Wal Mart, they can’t just go find another job.”Report

              • Kim in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                no, you don’t hear me saying that. You hear me saying that making $20,000 a year pulling bottles out of the dump is a high salary some places. And then wondering just what the hell we’re doing, where folks are living where that’s considered a good job!Report

              • You weren’t who I was referencing, K.Report

              • KatherineMW in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                It’s a reason why universities need strong student unions. My undergrad university (University of Victoria) had a whole student union building, with movie theatre, multiple restaurants (two were pretty good-quality fast food, including one vegetarian place; there were also two cafes and a sit-down restaurant), and a consignment bookstore where you could get texts for much better prices than at the university-owned bookstore.

                I didn’t realize until I moved to a different university for my masters’ how unusual this was, and how much work it must have taken to get to that point; the university where I did my masters’ just had a bunch of chain fast-food place and two student-union owned pubs.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to KatherineMW says:

                My college was too small for a student union (2500 students, all undergrad)

                There was a little Starbucks coffee kiosk. But in general there were two dining options. The main dining hall and a small little place called The Retreat.

                Now this is making me nostalgic for college.Report

          • New Dealer,

            I’m not sure I really know, because you do raise good and true points.

            I think any honest answer has to include spite as one of the reasons. That is what I am sometimes (I hope less often than more) guilty of. And Rush, et al., apparently know how to appeal to that.

            I think another answer is that liberal projects often require telling people to do or accept things they are not willing to do or accept, and these projects are often headed by “experts” who are well educated (because they’re experts) and who are given a lot of power over what people are told to do or accept.

            My father, for example, hated OSHA even though, as an electrician, he stood (presumably) to benefit from its strictures much more while his employers (who he didn’t have any special love or even respect for) would have had to share most of the burden. He also, I suspect, didn’t really like college-educated managers telling him, a skilled journeyman and card-carrying IBEW member, how to do certain aspects of his job that he knew how to do better. (I’ve gleaned both of these observations from things he said. It’s possible I’m misrepresenting him.)

            Somehow, perhaps that attitude translates into the paradoxical charges of snobbery? If so, any accounting would have to consider that conservatives also often tell people what to do and what they should accept, too.

            I also think some of the snob-calling comes from a certain attachment to things or habits that tend to be eschewed (often for very good reasons) by urban(e) liberals, and sometimes they do so in a way that seems to disregard the feelings of those who enjoy those things or habits.

            To use a personal example that maybe illustrates what I’m trying to say: About 15 years ago I had a crush on an upper middle class woman about my age. When I talked to her, I mentioned in passing that I had worked at a fast food job to help put myself through undergraduate school. Her first response was to make a face and say, “that food is so bad for you!”

            I’m not saying we should build a social system out of my hurt feelings and past sexual frustrations, but perhaps that might give a little insight into the psychology of those (sometimes including me) who act (often inappropriately) with the reverse snobbery.

            Two more points. First, a lot of the “things and habits” I just mentioned are necessities. Poorer people tend to shop at big box stores because the nominal prices they offer are lower and because they tend to be open at the odder hours. Fast food and junk food are certainly not “necessities,” but they can for many people serve a soothing function that helps one get through the hours. When urbane liberals deride those practices, in part they are deriding persons’ economic marginalism and their cooping mechanisms.

            Second, there is a lot of preachiness in much of ethical shopping admonitions that urbane liberals advocate. It’s not only in one’s long term interest to buy high quality goods and it’s not only helpful to the community to support local business, it’s a moral obligation, a set of value preferences, that in tone are reminiscent of religious preaching. (I just read (one third of ) Robert H. Nelson’s book on “Economic vs. Environmental Religion,” so I have that in mind.

            None of what I’ve just written necessarily justifies the reverse snobbism. But I think I’ve at least touched on some of the reasons.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

              “I think another answer is that liberal projects often require telling people to do or accept things they are not willing to do or accept, and these projects are often headed by “experts” who are well educated (because they’re experts) and who are given a lot of power over what people are told to do or accept.”

              Notice that you are not saying that liberal projects are wrong or incorrect. Just that they are difficult and might require changes in behavior, attitudes, and ways of life. This can go for civil rights for minorities, environmental action, and almost everything else under the sun. You are saying that conservatives offer the comfort of the status quo while liberals demand change but often backed by facts.

              What is the problem with being well-educated? This is another area that mystifies me and I wonder if it is a Jewish and Christian cultural split? Judaism places a strong emphasis on formal education and considers expertise to be necessary.

              “My father, for example, hated OSHA even though, as an electrician, he stood (presumably) to benefit from its strictures much more while his employers (who he didn’t have any special love or even respect for) would have had to share most of the burden. He also, I suspect, didn’t really like college-educated managers telling him, a skilled journeyman and card-carrying IBEW member, how to do certain aspects of his job that he knew how to do better. (I’ve gleaned both of these observations from things he said. It’s possible I’m misrepresenting him.)”

              I can see the second part more than I can see the first part. It is reasonable that he had better knowledge about how to do his job. What is wrong with safety standards and OSHA though?

              “To use a personal example that maybe illustrates what I’m trying to say: About 15 years ago I had a crush on an upper middle class woman about my age. When I talked to her, I mentioned in passing that I had worked at a fast food job to help put myself through undergraduate school. Her first response was to make a face and say, “that food is so bad for you!”’

              But she wasn’t saying that there was anything inferior about you for working through undergrad to support yourself. She was just making an empirical fact about the kind of food served at Fast Food places. I try to avoid the stuff now but I still have a nostalgic love for Chicken McNuggets. I understand how it could feel initially like a sting but you could have probably probed further and found that she did not have a problem with your working class stock. She might have even found it more admirable than someone like me who was lucky not to need to work during undergrad.Report

              • Since I identify as a (libertarian-leaning) liberal, I’m generally on board with the goal and even the implementation of a lot of “liberal projects.” But they often have challenging first order effects the brunt of which tend to be born by people who are not in charge of implementing the policy. The decision to bus (mostly working-class) school children in order to achieve racial integration is one example. I certainly agree with the goal, and maybe in some cases it worked out just fine, but in others implementing the project made the very children in question pawns.

                Or take Obamacare, which I support and endorse. Some of its employer mandates (the implementation of which, as I’m sure you know, is being postponed) promise to give a strong incentive to some employers to hire workers at only part-time in order to evade having to provide insurance or pay the insurance tax. Again, it’s a goal and policy I support (expanded access to health care coverage), but it’s a bit of a pickle to realize in practice, and in practice, some already marginalized people are going to get hurt.

                As for my father and OHSA, his frustrations had to do with the numerous rules he had to follow at work, rules which, by his account, were unnecessary and inefficient. Maybe the rules were designed ostensibly for his own safety, but he didn’t see the point in a lot of them. I’m not saying his view was right, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a non-trivial number of skilled workers sometimes have such feelings about federal regulators.

                As for my crush and whether she was merely making an empirical statement: maybe. I didn’t convey the tone, but it *seemed* condescending at the time. However, I’m fully willing to admit it was a confirmation bias thing, and I saw what I was expecting to see. (I got to know her better over the next year or two, and in my opinion at least, my first impressions were validated, although in other ways, I realized then (and realize even more now) that she was/is a much better person than I gave her credit for).

                The suspicion of education: that’s another discussion in itself, and I’m getting kind of tired. I hesitate to call it a “Jewish/Christian split,” if only because there are Christian sub-cultures that do value education (and I assume there are some Jewish sub-cultures that don’t…..although I imagine they’re in a minority, if they exist at all in meaningful numbers), but I do think it’s partially cultural.

                I also think it’s partly because growing up, many of us–by “us” I mean people like me educated in the public schools–were taught not only that education provided good opportunities, but it made us better people. So some of the hostility has to do with a cognitive leap to the effect that x person is educated, therefore s/he must think s/he is better than me. And frankly, I think there’s at least some truth to that. Some educated people act as if they deserve to be paid more or deserve a good job simply by virtue of their education (and not, say, by their experience or special skills).

                I think if both sides–the urban/urbane liberals and the chip-on-shoulder defensive types–introspect a little and are honest, they will probably find that a lot of these concerns have at least some validity. Perhaps because of my large amount of formal education and my working-class (albeit affluent working class) background, I see the contrast within myself a lot. It’s one thing for me to deal with educated friends who I think sometimes act in snobbish ways and another thing to interact with my family members, almost all of whom have much less formal education than I have. Sometimes I’m the snob, and sometimes I’m the guy with a chip on his should er about snobs.

                Whew!!! Long comment. If you’ve read this far….thanks. I’ll read any responses you write, but maybe not till morning. I gotta go to bed.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                I went to public school for my entire K-12 existence.

                Most people at my highly selective undergrad were also public school students. And I felt like a rube compared to the kids who went to private school even though I was equal on socio-economic status. There are still times as a 32 year old guy when I feel a bit like a rube compared to people who went to private schools for K-12. Certain private schools do seem to breed precociousness in their student body.

                Statistically I would say that Jews are overwhelmingly well-educated in formal levels as compared to the general population. The only Jews I can think of without college educations or higher are of an older generation.Report

              • The undergrad school I went to was a state school, but it wasn’t “the flagship” school, and I felt really self-conscious about that. But I was from “the big city” (Denver) while most of my fellow students were largely from the suburbs of Denver, one of the other Colorado or Wyoming cities, or rural areas. So I was the sophisticated urbanite who went not only to public school (most of the students had gone to public school) but who went to an “inner city” school. (My use of scare quotes is deliberate….the school was “inner city” mostly in the sense that it was public and in the borders of Denver. It had its problems, but it wasn’t the type that would be the background for an inspirational movie about a teacher who inspires underprivileged youth.)

                When I went to grad school for my MA (this time at the flagship), I met people who were from all over, including real cities like New York, and who had gone to private school, who had maids growing up, and some of whose parents were Harvard professors. It was a very different milieu, and it’s there I began to feel self-conscious.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Denver always seemed like a nice city. LeeEsq loved Boulder when he drover cross-country to visit me.

                I grew up in a very nice suburb. My parents had a person who came once a week to clean the house but my mom still did housework. My high school is consistently ranked among the best when US News and World Report puts out their list of best public high schools. Socio-economically, I was probably equal if not higher than some of the kids who went to private high schools. I know some went just because their parents were teachers and they got free tuition, or their parents strained, or they were lucky and got scholarships. Yet a lot of these private school kids still intimidated me between 18-21.

                I think I was intimidated because private schools of a certain type (generally the more “elite” ones) have a way of treating kids like they are already sophisticated adults. My high school admin was pretty liberal and generally non-censoring. However, we were still certainly seen as kids and there was a bit of censorship. Albeit strange censorship, we were allowed to do Cabaret as a musical but not Hair. I know theatre people who went to private high schools. They were allowed and encouraged to put on productions of really complicated and difficult plays like Our Country’s Good, Hamlet, Waiting for Godot.

                These would probably not have been censored by my high school but the drama teacher probably nixed them because they are really complicated plays and generally not appropriate or doable by even talented high school students. There is a certain breeding of precouciousness at elite private schools. They are allowed to fail but experiment.Report

              • Waiting for Godot?

                Jeez. Our school plays had rules like “we’ve got to have room for about 40 people to be in the play.”Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:


                The rule for the Spring Musical was that everyone got cast even if the chorus. But we also did a lot of big plays for the Fall because they allowed large casts.

                My friend who got to do Waiting for Godot was also allowed to direct and star in it at the same time*. He went to a very progressive private school in San Francisco. I think he went to the Urban School but am not too sure. My public high school was small as public high schools in the suburbs go (my graduating class was slightly more than 200 people). Urban has around 350 students in the entire school according to wiki.


          • Chris in reply to NewDealer says:

            To be fair, they usually get called something related and much worse, relating to their being anti-poor, anti-labor, etc.

            I find classism more annoying in liberals individually because they’re supposed to know better. Snobbery is a better term in their case, because it’s usually a different kind of contempt that they display.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to Chris says:

              I’ve definitely said snobby things that I am a bit ashamed of but interestingly those were a defensive reaction as well. Usually my snobbery comes in when people tell me that it is impossible to sincerely like modern art, theatre, film, and such on the merits. I’ve been told I only like that stuff as a class signifier and to seem smart and to come and enjoy Adam Sandler and Saw movies with everyone else. I loathe Adam Sandler and Saw movies. So my defensive gesture is to be a bit snobby sometimes.

              There are also interesting liberal-guilt issues over not liking a lot of “common man” things. For example, diver bars. I hate dive bars. The music is often too loud and not stuff I like anyway and they feel too messy. Yet part of me feels like I should like them more over a nice comfortable artisnal cocktail bar. But I do not. I don’t get a lot of the modern alt culture that revers horror movies, burlesque revival, dive bars, loud metal/punk/goth music all rolled into one. And I suppose the whole roll into one is supposed to be evocative or in solidarity of the working class. I went to a dive bar recently to meet some of my brother’s friends. The heavy metal blasting bothered me so much that I had to leave. It is just not my scene.

              The whole thing feels like a never ending cycleReport

              • Except for the art and the preference for artisanal cocktail bars, we actually have a lot of tastes in common. (I don’t do loud music very well, and I have trouble understanding people who do.)

                I, too, have said things on this site in the past (some of them directed at you) that I’m not too proud of.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                I can do any bar with a good beer selection. I just need music played at reasonable volumes and preferably not in the punk/metal groups of music.

                This could also be because I am getting old…Report

              • I think I’ve probably always been sensitive to very loud environments, although when I was younger I was either less so, or wasn’t fully aware that I was. So I would sometimes go out with friends to very loud nightclubs and then wonder why I got so irritable and uncomfortable.

                Now at 39, I have a better grasp of what I can handle.

                And yeah, no particular offense intended to cocktail bars. As long as there’s good beer, I’m happy.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                I think it is hard but important to make clear what is a personal preference and what is a moral argument.

                I like dive bars most of the time. I might even say they are “better”, but what I mean is that they better align with my preferences. No one should feel bad about preferences, provided they are preferences that don’t harm others. Where it starts to get tricky is when people assume their preferences align to some sort of objective superiority, which in turn makes them morally superior to others.Report

              • Kim in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                me too. i hate loud music. do not go to rock concerts level of hate.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Dive bars, speaking as someone who’s run a reasonably classy establishment, make money. Boy howdy, do you earn it, though. On the one hand, you want a steady drinking clientele because drinks are where you make your money. But if your steady drinkers are rowdy or become otherwise emotionally labile, you’ve got trouble.

                Everyone gets drunk slightly differently but the last thing you want in a bar is people falling off the stools drunk or getting into fights. Also doing drugs in the bathroom, that’s surprisingly common. Being a bartender is about half babysitting and half psychology and it stops being fun pretty quickly.

                But if you’re up to being a zookeeper for the most vicious and stupid animal on earth, a dive bar can make anyone wealthy. But Lord God do you earn every dime of that money.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Did I ever tell you guys about that time I became a bouncer at this dive bar along a highway. They called it “Roadhouse.” I had long hair back then. Anyway, long story, but my bouncer-mentor friend got killed and I had to use my karate to beat up a local rich guy, who was extorting local owners for money, employing about a dozen thugs, which struck me as a less than profitable enterprise.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Pierre Corneille says:


                If you can wear hipster jeans without being knifed are you sure it’s a dive bar?Report

              • Chris in reply to NewDealer says:

                I think it’s partially about the difference between condescension and contempt. True, they often go hand in hand, but it’s possible to be condescending without being contemptuous, and I think what I see from a lot of liberals is contempt-less, or at least less contemptuous condescension. They may treat people of a lower SES as lesser people, but they at least treat them as people.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

                There are also interesting liberal-guilt issues over not liking a lot of “common man” things.

                Different people like different things, plain and simple. So as long as you enjoy “finer” things without looking down on “lesser” things and feeling a subtle contempt for them, then there’s no reason to feel liberal guilt. You don’t have to enjoy the things the masses of the lower classes do; you just have to grant the legitimacy of their interests and not feel some disdain towards it.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                I try not to. This leads to a lot of awkward situations though.

                A lot of my friends (because a lot of people) seem to really like dive bars. The places where Punk and Metal are blasted at full volume. This means I get invited to dive bars like Zeitgeist a lot (I am going to guess that Zeitgeist was around when you were in SF). This leads me into an awkward situation
                of splitting from the group and going home or trying to determining how long I can put up with Zeitgeist.

                I don’t quite know why dive bars are so universally loved. I wonder if people get a thrill out of “slumming it”

                There is also the issue that I get defensive when people make populist comments about how no one can sincerely love my choices so I probably get snide as a defense mechanism. See my interactions with Kimmi and BlaiseP on art and culture in the last Tuesday questions.Report

              • Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

                why dive bars are so universally loved

                1. (often) no cover
                2. never a dress code
                3. cheap drinks
                4. (sometimes) good jukebox/bands/pool table/foosball table
                5. No bathroom attendant, trying to turn private micturition into a financial/tipping situation
                6. Did I Mention Cheap DrinksReport

              • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

                1. I never been to a bar with a cover. This includes fancy artisnal cocktail bars in San Francisco and New York.

                2. I have never been to a bar with a dress code. I tend not to go to clubs which might have dress codes

                3. Fair point. As long as the selection is good and not just Miller and stuff.

                4. Good point but relative. Dive Bars tend not to play music I like and they tend to blast it at very loud volumes. This causes my ears, head, and throat to hurt at the end of the night.

                5. I have never been to a bar with a bathroom attendant. This includes fancy artisnal cocktail bars in San Francisco and Manhattan. The fancy bars do have nice and clean bathrooms though over the rank anarchy I often see at Dive Bars.

                6. Yes you did.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

                Keep in mind that I don’t like clubs very much either.


                This is probably one of my favorite bars in SF. Also Fat Angel. Maybe a little expensive but nice decor and good atmosphericsReport

              • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

                Interesting. I think any bar that has a dress code, a bathroom attendant and a cover charge is seriously fancy, pricey ritzy. The absence of those things does not equal something being a dive bar. Real dive bars don’t have fake old junk laying around like TGIF or people dressing up to look all rough and tough or a retro design. They have old crap around because they either don’t care or can’t afford anything else, have real thugs or hard core alcoholics and they look retro because they are stuck a few decades ago.

                I remember going to find mentally ill client i was working with years ago who lived over a bar. I went at 11am. When i went in the only lights were truly three beer signs and all the blinds were shut even though it was a beautiful sunny day it was so dark inside you could barely see to the other side of the bar or see almost anyone clearly. There were a few people at the bar, nobody was sitting next to each other, all had hard drinks in front of them, they were all slumped over and looked at least half in the bag. The bartender “greeted” me with a sneer and suspicion and “yeah that drunk lives upstairs.” That was a dive bar.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:


                That bar may not have a written dress code, but I guran-dang-tee I can’t show up in flip-flops…actually, that looks like the kind of place I wrote about for my upcoming Friday Night Videos post at MD.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:


                There are dive bars like that in SF. Okay so maybe most “dive bars” are only pseudo-dive bars. The loud music blasting still stands.


                Maybe in New York but not in California. The bars I go to are not dive bars or trying to be dive bars but they are still usually pretty casual places.Report

              • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

                I’ll just note that here in Alaska people go the opera ( which by definition is os completely upper class and snooty, so no one else is even allowed to like it) in jeans and carharts.Report

              • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

                ND, I’m with you on the loud music by the way. If i want to see a band then that is what i want. Other then that i don’t want loud music or much music at all.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:


                You could probably go to some of the smaller NYC Opera companies in jeans and a shirt. However, people still dress up for the Met, NYC Opera, and SF Opera. I think people do it as part of the fun. Sometimes people just like to dress up.

                Note: My standard outfit includes jeans or cords, a button down shirt, and shoes or very neutral sneakers). I tend not to wear t-shirts unless they are solid color and it is really hot. As I’ve gotten older, it has become harder for me to find sneakers I like. Plus I tend to eyeroll at “funny” t-shirts (this is probably snotty but I don’t get why most of them are considered funny. Example: “Fun Fact: Clowns Kill People” Why is that funny? I get it on an intellectual level but it seems like it is trying too hard. My sense of humor is more wry.

                I’ve gotten into debates with theatre people about whether you should dress up for the theatre or not.Report

              • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

                greg, ND — I think most people have forgotten that when opera was fashionable, most performances really, really sucked (and were using stolen music to boot!).

                I think dressing up for theater is tiresome and dreary.

                But if you must use it as a meet and greet, it does do one
                a bit of good to look sharp.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

                Greg and James:

                Carhartt is doing projects with high-end designers to cash in on the Heritage movement:


              • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

                Did you see my responses to your comments in the last tuesday questions? 😉 Nobody’s ragging on art flicks (some of them are quite good. Others are empirically awful).Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

                I hear you on that, ND. It is awkward when the people you want to hang out with want to do things you really just don’t enjoy. In the case of the type of bars you’re talking about, I suspect anyone who’s worth ever hanging out with would be understanding if you said, “I’d love to hang with you all, but the volume of the music gives me a migraine.”

                I’m totally aligned with you on the music issue. I’m comfortable in dive bars, but only the quiet ones. The loud music gives me a pounding headache, and I hate having to yell to be heard by the person right across the table. As the Be Good Tanyas ask, “what kind people go to meet people some place you can’t be heard or seen?”Report

              • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                I like the Be Good Tanyas. I saw them at Outside Lands last year.Report

              • greginak in reply to NewDealer says:

                “There are also interesting liberal-guilt issues over not liking a lot of “common man” things. ”
                I’m really surprised to see you say this ND. Because its bunk, its all conservative attacks and projections. Pure 100% natural artisnal crap. It implies what “liberals’ like is somehow less common for one thing. Why is PBR more common than wine? or some actual good beer? The mistake is taking either working class type products as evidence of common or real american. Plenty of common people never go to dive bars or even drink much. Plenty of poor folk like wine, they may only afford a nice box of wine every now and then but still.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

                This is a very different approach than I took to the same issue, but I want to ditto this and say that I think my comment and greginak’s are very complementary.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to greginak says:

                Good points. See response to James above for further explanation.Report

              • Chris in reply to greginak says:

                I agree with this. There’s nothing wrong with liking Paul Klee, Pliny The Younger, and the opera, and there’s nothing wrong with not liking or even actively disliking NASCAR, Budweiser, and Nashville country. I don’t think this can accurately be described as snobbery, either. Snobbery, and annoying liberal superiority, comes in the form of thinking that liking what you like makes you a superior person, or using what other people like to tear them down, or tearing down what other people like merely to show how superior you are. I see this a lot, though I don’t think I’ve seen it in this thread anywhere.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Chris says:

                Now do you mean the beer or the Roman statesmen?


              • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                A snob doesn’t really think he’s so much superior. If cornered, he’ll insist he’s not. That’s his problem really: the snob thinks other people are being silly, hewing to the preferences of some class or another — the true snob would look down his nose at the Classical Crowd, accusing them of the same sort of falsity and wearing-of-uniforms. See Hipster.Report

              • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

                You’re allowed to like what you like.
                But if you like wine because of its chemical complexity,
                I’ll laugh in your face and introduce you to something better.


            • Kim in reply to Chris says:

              I tend to deal with annoying classism in liberals by reminding them of the actual facts on the table.
              Trader Joe’s is a discount grocery store. (It also markets way heavily to snobs).
              It’s truly fun to mention this, and watch people’s faces…

              I consider shopping at a discount grocery store (at least one structured like Aldis/Costco/TJ’s) a feather in one’s cap.
              One is being smart, and getting a good value.Report

              • Michelle in reply to Kim says:

                Were it not for CostCo, our food budget would have probably been two times higher when my teenaged stepson lived with us full time.Report

          • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

            Why are upper-middle class liberals called snobby more often than the Mitt Romney and Koch Brothers or Rush Limbaugh?

            I can’t accept this as empirically true. Liberals sneer non-stop at the Kochs, Mitt Romney was repeatedly thrashed for his snobby 47% statement, and an awful lot of liberals were quick to note that Limbaugh’s use of OxyContin while he repeatedly criticized lower class drug users was all about the class status of who used what drugs.

            I’m not criticizing liberals’ critiques of these people, because there’s a lot of fairness to them. But to imply that the claims of snobbery in regard to those people are less common than claims of snobbery directed to upper middle class liberals really sounds to me like a problem of confirmation bias. It’s different sides who are making the claims, and you’re hearing the “you’re a snob” element of the other side’s claim because it irritates you, sounds untrue and unfair, while not really catching the “you’re a snob” element of your side’s claim because it sounds simply like an obviously true statement.Report

            • Kim in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

              Haven’t heard one liberal complaining about Romney’s olympic caliber dressage horse (in terms of snobbery).
              Neither have I heard any liberal complaining about Kochs’ personal proclivities (and I’d honestly be surprised, considering….)

              Liberals complain about political positions based on snobbery (e.g. “veterans benefits are the new welfare”) — or the idea that Acadia should be a park for the rich only.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

              Good points. Maybe I am just being paritsan and allowing for confirmation bias.Report

          • Michelle in reply to NewDealer says:

            Why are upper-middle class liberals called snobby more often than the Mitt Romney and Koch Brothers or Rush Limbaugh?

            Just the other day, Rush came out and said that exercise is a liberal plot and there’s no proof that it actually improves your health. Because, you know, Michelle Obama promotes exercise and eating right, so it must be bad. This kind of nonsense is Limbaugh’s bread and butter, even though he’d never set foot inside a Walmart. However, villianizing liberals is good for his bottom line, so anything he can label as “liberal” and ridicule he does.

            I get that there’s a small level of truth to the notion of liberal snobbery, but to pretend that conservatives don’t sneer at people they consider beneath them is equally ridiculous. Witness Mitt’s infamous 47 percent comment.

            The thing is that a lot of the things conservatives sneer at liberals for doing are actually conservative. Take, for instance, Rush’s latest bugaboo about exercise. Sure, it can devolve into yet another form of narcissistic self-involvement, but exercising and eating well can also be seen as taking responsibility for your own health and wellness. Conservatives are constantly harping about that whole responsibility thing. Likewise, making meals at home. Isn’t that supposed to be what conservative homemakers do to take care of their families?

            The whole meme against latte-sipping liberals is just one more plank in the culture wars that keeps us divided against each other rather than seeing commonalities. It’s been pushed wholesale by Faux News, talk radio, and Republican politicians because there’s a small grain of truth to it but, since most of these folks share a lot of the same proclivities as the liberals they bash, it’s mostly pushed for profit and political gain. Bread and circuses.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Murali says:

      When I took a month off work & drove out to the Grand Canyon from the East Coast, camping along the way, I was in Carlsbad, New Mexico on a Sunday when I got a tire blowout.

      I was pretty thankful for the Wal-Mart there, that actually had a tire size that would work (my car took a less-common size tire), was able to change the tire within hours (and were very quick/pleasant/helpful), and was also able to sell me some new tent stakes, a new sleeping bag, ice, and other sundries that I needed.

      I likely would not have been able to meet all those needs so quickly under the old “mom and pop/main street” model – esp. on a weekend.

      Now, I realize this is only one anecdote that possibly sounds like FYIGM, and some people may feel it would have been better if I would have had to spend the whole weekend in Carlsbad, cooling my heels and getting to know the locals at the soda shop, and waiting for my horse to get re-shod by the local blacksmith.

      But these kinds of gains in efficiency, multiplied again and again, are what makes the world go.Report

      • Michelle in reply to Glyph says:

        Gains in efficiency come at a price. As a society, we rarely question what that cost is. And whether it’s worth paying.Report

        • Michelle,

          That’s quite true. But “things come at a price” applies to other things, too, such as robust levels of unionization, living wage laws, and protectionism for local businesses.Report

          • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

            In one case, the price helps create and maintain a middle class. In the other, it helps well, a family become insanely rich.Report

            • Well, unionization and living wage laws tend to help maintain a working class, not just a middle class. [/pedantry] However, protecting local businesses does help maintain a middle class, the members of which in some situations might constitute a local elite who can be a$$holes in their own way to workers.

              But the “price” I was referring to was the higher prices of goods to the ultimate consumer. I’ll admit that ought not be the only measure of good policy. A large number of thriving, locally owned businesses might be a good thing, even if prices rise modestly, because, for example, a dollar spent there is more likely to stay and be spent in the locality. Higher wages might have a similar effect.

              At the same time, it’s possible the increase in price will be very large and not worth what is gotten. Especially when the protected businesses are themselves corporate chains (grandfathered, like Target), the payoff might still go out of the locality. Also, if local businesses, even if they are “small businesses,” are protected, sometimes that protection might make it harder for someone else to start their own small business.Report

              • zic in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                But the “price” I was referring to was the higher prices of goods to the ultimate consumer.

                But that price, while it may be higher, is the incremental earnings of the middle class. That is a very large part of the WalMart plan, I suspect. By driving those locally-owned retail competitors out of business, by driving the smaller suppliers out of business, WalMart’s great achievement is making everyone poor enough that they cannot shop elsewhere. They squeeze the ability to thrive out of everyone but the few who are fortunate enough to own large chunks of WalMart stock.Report

              • Pierre Corneille in reply to zic says:

                Maybe. But I just wonder if it works as neatly as all that.

                Your way of phrasing it seems a little….overdetermined? Even stipulating that Walmart is bad, it doesn’t necessarily follow that its vision, beyond seeking profits, is all that well-defined. There’s a little too much of a sense that a few people sit in a board room and plot how they’re going to take over the world and impose a Second Serfdom when to a large extent they’re trying to increase their profits, admittedly perhaps by doing (or provide incentives for their managers to do) soe pretty unethical things in the process.

                But yes, one of the prices paid for supporting local business is to increase the price the ultimate consumer pays. And sometimes, as I suggested in my comment, that might be a price worth paying. But it might not always be worth paying, or the price might have to be paid by those who can afford it less. Or maybe not.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                To be blunt, I simply don’t buy the line that if Wal-Mart had to treat their workers like actual employees instead of wage slaves, that my cheap Blu-Ray would suddenly skyrocket in price. It’s the Papa John’s argument about Obamacare all over again.

                Or to put it another way, I firmly believe that you’d still be able to find random thing x at Wal-Mart at 2AM even if they’re paid a living wage.

                If the grandfathered parts are permanent, then I agree it’s bad policy. But, if they are temporary and the companies will still have to pay the living wage by time a Wal-Mart is actually open in DC, then I don’t see an issue.Report

              • I didn’t say the price of a blue-ray would skyrocket. But it would probably go up a little bit. And if it went up only a few dollars, well, that’s not much of a loss for anyone.

                But blue rays are not important. I don’t even like fish 🙂 My concern is that other more necessary things might be more expensive

                Now, I’m not altogether opposed to a living wage or unionization, although I am mostly opposed to protecting local businesses. I have some reservations about living wages and unions, and one of those is that they might price out some employees. It’s possible that even Walmart might fire its 11th employee so it can (or will) pay the living wage to the remaining 10.

                But can’t they take it out of the corporate profits? Maybe, but who’s going to compel them to do so and how?

                Now, the tone of your comment suggests that I don’t want Walmart to treat its employees like human beings. Let me go on record (again) and say that some of what I have heard about its practices disgust me if they’re true and especially if they’re systematic practices (not just a few overzealous managers). But sometimes policy and regulations work as blunt instruments, and they do not always have the

                I agree with you, I think, about the grandfathering, and I don’t know either if it’s permanent or temporary. In fact, part of what actually bothers me about the D.C. law is the (apparently permanent, but neither of us knows for sure) grandfathered exemptions for businesses. I’m a bit bothered about how the law appears to apply, or not apply, to smaller businesses. Those can just as brutally exploit workers as larger ones, and it’s not obvious to me why they should be exempt (if they indeed are).

                I don’t mind about the union exemption. I’m unsure of where I stand on unions in all their manifestations or where I stand on state support for unions in general, but in this case, I think retail workers might be well served to have representation, especially because what’s at issue is not only wages, but also shop floor treatment.Report

              • Jesse,

                My comment probably sounded more defensive than it should have. I don’t really think you’re accusing me of not caring whether Walmart treats its employers well.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Your first sentence where I where we start to come apart, Pierre. After all, despite not liking it, I can see the reasoning and the value to the consumer of making a shirt where you’re paying $20/day versus $20/hour in a union textile mill. OTOH, I don’t see how bumping wages from $8-9/hr to $12-13/hr is going to cause a massive jump in prices.

                It goes back to the Obamacare thing with Papa John’s. Papa John’s kept talking about how if Obamacare went into affect, the price of pizza would have to go up to cover all of their employees. The price turned out to be something like thirty seven cents.

                Obviously, pizza is different than retail, but I have a funny feeling that it wouldn’t be a case where you were paying, say, $25 instead of $15 bucks for something. Far more likely, you’d end up paying $16 instead of $15 for something. If there’s any actual evidence to the contrary, I’d be happy to look at it.

                Your argument about a living wage could just as easy apply to the minimum wage. I’m happy to have a society where the value of all work, is enough where you can live reasonably, and there’s slightly higher unemployment than one where we have 2% unemployment, but also an underclass where people are making $2-3/hr.Report

              • You may very well be right when you suggest the price increase wouldn’t be all that great. Still, retailers work on very tight margins, at least that’s what I’m told. If true, something’s gotta give somewhere. Whether it’s gotta give a lot or only a little I don’t know.

                And yes, I do see the congruence between my reasoning about minimum wage and about living wage. It’s a balance I have a hard time striking. I want people to earn a decent living for their wage, but the policy tools in question (government-set wages) almost inevitably mean that some people will be out of a job as a result. How many might be the key question, and not being an economist, I don’t know the answer.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:


                There is a difference between an individual merchant and a place like Papa John’s or a movie theatre company.

                According to Wikipedia, Papa John’s has 18,8000 employees, 4000 retail locations, and are in 32 countries. They had a net income of nearly 62 million dollars in 2012.

                This is not a mom and pop shop. I am sure that plenty of employees at the corporate level have health insurance through Papa John’s. The CEO is beneath contempt and being prissy because the government is forcing him to do the simple and decent human thing. The government needs to force this because the far-right is simply too determined to let the government do the decent and modern thing and have single-payer health insurance like every other country that the U.S. would generally like to be associated with.Report

              • Jesse,

                my cheap Blu-Ray would suddenly skyrocket in price.
                I don’t see how bumping wages from $8-9/hr to $12-13/hr is going to cause a massive jump in prices.

                Respectfully, you’re mis-stating the issue in a strawman kind of way when you say “skyrocket” and “massive jump.” The issue is not that something becomes wildly more expensive, but that everything becomes marginally more expensive.

                That is, you add a dollar here, a dollar there, and eventually it all adds up to quite a lot of extra outlay.

                Those of us who are reasonably well off could afford that marginal increase in price with little problem, but what about the less well off?

                You can say that the increase in wages will alleviate that problem, but that’s not nearly as certain as you think. What’s actually more likely is that the increase in wages and increase in prices offset each other, so the person may have more take-home pay in nominal dollars, but you haven’t actually created a net improvement in their purchasing power.Report

              • Pierre Corneille in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:


                True, an individual merchant has tighter margins. But that doesn’t mean margins don’t exist for larger merchants.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Murali says:

      I dunno, I’ve been in and out of Walmart a few times in the last six months and even by Walmart standards the place has gone seriously downhill.

      I figured it was just us until I saw a spate of news stories from across the country saying pretty much the same things about Walmart.

      Stock was missing, big wastelands of empty shelves, and nobody around to help.

      It hadn’t gotten any better last time I was there, either.Report

  10. jaded says:

    Walmart’s idea of health insurance is Medicaid for their employees. That means that you and I are paying for Walmart’s employees health insurance. I know states (I think MD but I’m not sure) that have written laws to make that illegal and targeted Walmart. I don’t know of any other company that actually hands their employees forms for Welfare and Medicaid. Or that break laws like forcing their employees to punch out for lunch and to leave but really have them working off the clock.Report

  11. Burt Likko says:

    I don’t understand why it’s mandatory for a liberal to be anti-Wal Mart in all circumstances. What D.C. is doing is proposing to treat Wal-Mart, specifically, differently than its competitors. That the D.C. City Council would exempt Costco but not Wal-Mart from the living wage ordinance is evidence enough of that.

    It doesn’t strike me as in the least bit illiberal for one to be disappointed that the government does not treat similarly-situated businesses in a similar fashion.

    (Please note that I’ve said nothing about what conservatives or libertarians might prefer or might do. I’m reacting in large part to the title of the post.)Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

      This is what I tend to think, but it often seems to put me at odds with other liberals. The title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. There are a number of issues on which I am very unliberal and identify as such. But then there are others where I think I’ve staked out the liberal position based on my own liberal principles, only to find that the real liberals want to tar and feather me.Report

    • Griff in reply to Burt Likko says:

      So, the actual text of the bill (occasionally worth looking at something like that) is here: http://dcclims1.dccouncil.us/images/00001/20130708104620.pdf

      The “exemption for union shops” (§ 4(e)) is a provision that permits the terms of this statute to be waived in a CBA; i.e. if the union agrees, then the retailer can pay less than the “living wage.”

      The “grandfather clause” (§ 9) gives existing retailers four years to come into compliance with the law.

      I don’t see either of these as especially problematic, but I guess I’m willing to be persuaded…Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Griff says:

        Thank you, Griff.

        Four years is an awful long time. Given that Walmart has been trying to get into DC since ’02 and likely has been budgeting based on a certain expected wage expense, this is still a real hurdle to throw at them and, seemingly, them alone.Report

        • Griff in reply to Kazzy says:

          NB, I’m not saying I think this bill is a good idea on the merits. I just don’t find those particular parts of it objectionable. To the extent the goal is to raise the wages of low-income workers, well, the “living wage” is indexed to inflation so eventually every outlet of a major (big box) retailer will probably be paying higher wages. To the extent the goal is to protect incumbents from Walmart, that is a common enough way of using the machinery of the state — and on the scale of incumbent-protecting legislation this seems pretty far toward the beneficial end since it will eventually apply to everyone. And to the extent the goal is encouraging big box retailers to allow their workers to unionize, well, good luck with that.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Griff says:

            Great points. I just struggle any time it seems as if the government is playing favorites. If the goal here really is to make living wages the norm in DC, we can have that debate. If the goal is to keep out WalMart, well, I don’t think that is any of the government’s business.Report

            • Griff in reply to Kazzy says:

              Also, note this hilarity from the preliminary findings:

              (14) Wal-Mart has already detailed to District residents that it intends to offer full and part-time employees a healthcare plan and they plan to create jobs that would pay an average of $12.49 an hour.
              (15) The District should embrace businesses’ wage and benefit promises, such as Wal-Mart’s, and require by law that large retailers provide living wages and benefits.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

          What’s the hike again? 4 bucks an hour, roughly?

          Four years sounds about right for a 50% increase in wages.

          (And I believe Walmart was claiming it would pay MORE than the new wage DC is setting, so technically Walmart shouldn’t have a problem. They were already gonna pay that, right? That’s what they said)Report

  12. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Furthermore, if their practices were so objectionable to the residents of DC, surely the six stores they are building or proposing will go belly up.

    No, Kazzy, I have it on good authority from some Wal Mart experts of my acquaintance that shoppers don’t really have a choice, because Wal Mart’s prices are too low for them to resist, no matter how much they dislike it.

    I’d like to say I’m being hyperbolic about what they actually said, but sadly, I’m not.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      Goddamnit, Hanley! I was planning to go to Whole Foods today but I just can’t stand another flogging.Report

    • Kim in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      Does nobody read walmart’s filings? Walmart’s more expensive than a lot of rural options (Family Dollar, for one).Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      This is a cheap shot at best. If we accept arguendo that “stopping Wal-Mart from coming to your community” is the goal, then government action of this sort is likely to be effective in a way that individually not going to the store won’t be. It’s a classic collective action problem.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Also, the larger point is actually true. Most people aren’t that committed to a better life for the people checking them out. That’s fine, they’ve likely got their own problems. The fact that most people probably didn’t give a damn that mine workers were dying of lung cancer at 36 (obvious hyperbole for effect) doesn’t mean the fix this isn’t to stop buying coal. It’s to elect representatives who will tell the private business using the power of the state to stop doing things.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Dan Miller says:

        This is a cheap shot at best.

        No. It’s never a cheap shot to use people’s own words.

        As to the collective action problem aspect, I think that’s possible, but unlikely. I think liberals look at it and say, “all those people really want Wal Mart to go away, but they know a consumer boycott is a collective action problem, so they rationally act as free riders,” whereas I look at it and say, “those folks aren’t free riders because they actually don’t want Wal Mart to go away.”

        Ask people who shop at Wal Mart if they would prefer there was no Wal Mart in their community. If lots of them say yes, then your collective action theory might be right. If most of them say no, they prefer Wal Mart to stay, then your theory is likely wrong.

        I’ll tell you this, though: the people I hear claiming lower class consumers really would prefer there not be a Wal Mart in their town aren’t actually lower class consumers themselves, but middle and upper-middle class consumers. Do they really know what the po folks want?Report

        • Kim in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

          “I hear claiming lower class consumers really would prefer there not be a Wal Mart in their town aren’t actually lower class consumers themselves, but middle and upper-middle class consumers.”


          • Kazzy in reply to Kim says:

            Did anyone follow the story of when Whole Foods tried to move into JP in Boston? All the good white liberals opposed the move as a gentrifying force, ignoring the irony. The local black and Hispanic residents were all like, “We can’t get organic veggies, too.”Report

          • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kim says:

            Eh, Kimmie,

            Two things.

            1) Going to other stores because Wal Mart’s shelves are empty doesn’t prove that Wal Mart’s stuff is seen as crappy. It means people went to Wal Mart first to look for that stuff, so they couldn’t have thought it was too crappy.

            2) If Wal Mart’s business model no longer works to attract customers, or they’ve tweaked it in a way that results in no longer drawing customers, then not having customers is the natural consequence of what Wal Mart is doing; but that’s entirely at odds with the idea that Wal Mart has customers that wish they weren’t customers, isn’t it?

            As to the cause of empty shelves at Wal Mart, if the claim is correct that the problem is simply Wal Mart not having enough bodies to stock the shelves, then Wal Mart will find the limit of its minimal staffing policy. If they lose more money due to empty shelves than it would cost them to hire more bodies, one of two things will happen: they’ll either respond smartly and hire more bodies, or they’ll respond stupidly and lose more money.

            Some people will try to make a morality play out of that, whichever response Wal Mart makes. But it’s not a morality play. It’s just a story of an organization that responded either well or poorly to decline. We can get a practical lesson out of it, but not a moral one.Report

            • ktward in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

              Government forces are aligning to essentially require that Wal-Mart meet standards of employment that no other employer must adhere to.

              “Government forces”? How ominous.

              To my own liberal mind, being a good liberal means recognizing that local government is not the same as state government, neither of which are federal government. They all play very different roles, wield entirely different powers.

              In my own post-Reagan experience, it’s the Right who attempts to paint questionable or controversial local/state government action as somehow indicative of an overall failing of government itself on every level. (Are you really a liberal, Kazzy? Over time, I’ve become less convinced you are.)

              Anyhoo. D.C.’s kind of infamous for its, er, different ways of doing things given its lack of proper Federal representation. No?

              That said, I suppose if I lived in D.C. I might care about this particular D.C. City Council bill. But I don’t. The vast majority of us don’t live in D.C. Perhaps you might connect some relevant dots whereby the D.C City Council’s bill encompasses a greater national trend that we might all be concerned with.

              Meanwhile, this means no more to me than Tod’s [understandable] lament over Portland’s tree removal policy. Local governments do some nutty things. No argument from me on that. But it’s hardly an indictment on the evils of present day governance.Report

              • ktward in reply to ktward says:

                Mkay. Weird stuff happened — no doubt on my end — but my comment was directed to Kazzy on the main thread. I’m not quite sure how I ended up on a sub-thread.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to ktward says:

                Hey KTward,

                Please allow me to explain why I staked out the position I did and titled the post as I did.

                I have no issue with local government. In fact, a great many number of things, I prefer local government, fully aware that they will often do some nutty things. On other things, I think a top down, national approach is better. It really depends on the issue.

                And I don’t object to a living wage bill outright. When it comes to wage laws, I’ve heard compelling arguments in favor of everything from wide-reaching living wage bills to abandoning any form of minimum wage. I don’t know where I ultimately stand, but I’m not bashing on the idea of a living wage bill itself.

                What bothers me is that this legislation seems intended to target a specific business and to make DC a place where that business won’t go. To me, that is wrong. This bill is not about the little guy but is about favoring one group of big corporations over another. That is the sort of corporatism/corporate cronyism that liberals usually abhor. But because Walmart is the target, and because liberals tend to hate Walmart, they have come out strongly in support of this bill.

                That is what I object to.

                As to whether or not I’m a liberal… well, I’m not particularly attached to any one label. I tend to identify as liberal with libertarian leanings. I’m sure as hell not conservative, but I tend to view things on an issue-by-issue basis instead of a, “What does my label tell me I should feel about this?” approach.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to ktward says:

                (Are you really a liberal, Kazzy? Over time, I’ve become less convinced you are.)

                Careful, Kazzy. Keep being reasonable, and you’re going to end up excommunicated.Report

            • dexter in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

              J@m3z, Do you think that it is moral to make several billion dollars a year and have a large percentage of your employees making so little money that they are eligible for food stamps?Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to dexter says:

                I think it’s neither moral nor immoral. I think it’s morally irrelevant.Report

              • dexter in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                J@m3z, Since it is morally irrelevant that Walmart doesn’t pay a living wage let’s change it to political. Do you think it is a good policy for the United States taxpayer to subsidize the Waltons by giving government benefits to their employees that don’t make a living wage?
                Jaybird, I drove to Colorado and went full bore luddite at about 11,000 feet on Halfmoon Creek Road above Leadville. It is essential that I leave Lousysauna in the summer and sit in a real sauna surrounded by dry air and cool temps or I go crazier than normal. I am still catching up on my lurking.
                My handle serves two purposes. It can be typed using only the left hand and it is a goof because I think in latin that “Dexter” means on the right and since I am very far to the left and I find humor in naming myself something I am not. For the record, I am not a serial killer and have never seen the show “Dexter”.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:


                Do you think it is a good policy for the United States taxpayer to subsidize the Waltons by giving government benefits to their employees that don’t make a living wage?

                Now that you mention it, I think you’re right–the U.S. should eliminate welfare. 😉

                More seriously, we’ve had this debate here at the League. My take is that in the absence of Wal Mart the government would have to provide more support to those people, because instead of a sub-living wage they’d have zero wage. So it’s just as valid to view the situation as Wal Mart reducing the government’s welfare costs as to view it as the government subsidizing Wal Mart. That is, both are simultaneously true. And while I don’t like taxpayer subsidies of businesses, I do like businesses reducing taxpayer costs.Report

              • dexter in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Jnoalpham3, I am an old guy and I remember the time before Walmart. I know that this will come as a surprise, but there were stores that sold clothes and food and tires and all sorts of things back then. The major difference is that most of the stores were locally owned. The owners knew their employees, most of the stuff they sold was made in America and, this is important, the profit from those stores stayed in the locality and didn’t go to billionaires in Arkansas who entered this world through the proper portal and now have enough money and friends with money to tell congress what laws to write.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to dexter says:

                I’ve elsewhere made my critique of the buy local arguments. Suffice to say you’ll have an uphill battle to persuade me it’s superior.Report

              • Dexter,

                The claim that money spent at locally owned stores tends to stay in the locality where they’re located is the one proposition that gives me pause when I otherwise criticize the “buy local” mentality. I do think something potentially very good might be lost when a locality is overtaken by outside businesses and chains.

                That said, there are compensating benefits to an influx of chains and outside businesses in addition but related to the more often-cited “cheaper goods and more numerous jobs.” In a tightly knit community, there is more (local) surveillance of the community’s members, and if someone in that community lives a lifestyle the community finds intolerable, or belongs to a religious, ethnic, or racial group the community as a whole does not approve of, the tightly knit community can be an unwelcome place and a place to be exited. But exit is more possible and the norms of the community are potentially more malleable when outside businesses enter the picture.

                The perverse results of this might be a sense of anomie and a dependence on corporate providers, and both of those in my opinion constitute real problems. But there is a certain contrapuntal benefit.

                Finally, I think the boat has sailed a long time ago when it comes to the demise of the “locally owned businesses.” Mass production and mass consumption are not new phenomena, and I imagine even the locally owned stores of your youth depended to some degree on national (maybe even international) transportation and production networks made possible by the corporatization and consumerization of the economy. None of that is to necessarily say that those are good developments, or that their extent and heft hasn’t increased over the last few decades. But the development is not necessarily a new one and in some cases might make the very local businesses that you and others here value possible. (I realize there’s a paradox between this assertion and my earlier one that chains, etc., undermine local businesses; but then, I’m a paradoxical sort of guy. Kind of.)Report

              • Kim in reply to dexter says:

                I would have thought the demonstrated rise in hate groups would have more salience. Buy local means interacting with your neighbors. And it’s hard to hate your neighbors when you talk to ’em.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to dexter says:

                Walmart was not the first chain store. Chain stores and franchises were well-established phonemona before Mr. Walton was conceived. Woolworths is a predecessor of Wal-Mart and existed since the late 19th century. People didn’t buy local either. The Sears catalog was the predecessor of internet shopping and it existed in the late 19th century.

                Walmart, Amazon, and company just took already existing trend to their natural conclusion.Report

              • @ Kim,

                That’s a good point. I’m just thinking it could work the other way as well, sort of in a take the good with the bad idea.


                That’s exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of, too.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to dexter says:

                Dexter! Where the heck have you been?

                (Your name came up in the immigration thread: https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/07/les-miserables/ )Report

              • dexter in reply to Jaybird says:

                Why is my reply to J@m and Jaybird in purgatory?Report

              • Will Truman in reply to dexter says:

                You had a non-alphanumeric character in your email address. I think that’s why.Report

  13. George Turner says:

    If I was on Walmart’s legal time, I’d file suit against DC for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, as established in County of Santa Clara v Southern Pacific Railroad, a principle still upheld a century later, the latest being in Citizens United v FEC. All businesses should be operating under the same rules and not singled out by name or based on the race, religion, or national origin of the owners. DC might was well try to pass special rules for Jewish banks or Korean shop owners.Report

    • Griff in reply to George Turner says:

      This is ridiculous. The statute is facially neutral in every way, and the ways it affects Walmart differently than some other employers are manifestly rational (from a legislative perspective) even if I disagree with them. It bears not even a passing resemblance to discrimination against a protected class.Report

    • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

      The 14th Amendment isn’t just about protected classes. Section 1 ends with “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This also applies to companies, and prohibits things like having a government pass laws that require different wages for different jobs and different types of businesses, much less setting different wages on a company by company basis.

      As an example, my state supreme court recently ruled that the law allowing liquor stores and pharmacies to sell beer, wine, and hard liquor, while prohibiting gas stations and convenient stores from selling wine and liquor but allowing them to sell beer, violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause because the state didn’t present a compelling government interest in protecting liquor stores and pharmacies from competition, nor a compelling interest in making people drive an extra five blocks to buy whiskey.Report

      • Griff in reply to George Turner says:

        No compelling interest is required under equal protection doctrine for a purely economic regulation; compelling interests are only relevant where a protected class is involved. For an economic regulation that doesn’t implicate concerns about discrimination against suspect classes (race, gender, national origin, etc) all that is required is a rational basis for the distinction. It may be that the liquor law you’re talking about was irrational, but the DC proposal isn’t (at least as the term “rational” is used in equal protection doctrine). First of all, the bill doesn’t set different wages on a “company by company” basis. It does arguably treat similarly situated firms differently in four ways I can see, none of which is irrational.

        The first two ways the bill treats different firms differently are based on industry and size; it sets a living wage requirement for all employers in a particular industry bigger than a certain threshold. The justifications given by the city council for this decision are that these companies are better able to pay the higher wage (because they’re huge), that a number of retailers in DC already pay a living wage (so it’s presumably feasible to do so), that large retailers are less likely to close or reduce employment than other types of employers (because retail is location-dependent), and that the sky hasn’t fallen on the retail industry in other cities with similar laws. Whether or not you think these are good reasons (I’m not super impressed), they are definitely the kind that pretty much any court would uphold as rational.

        The third way this bill arguably treats different employers differently is that it allows the living wage to be waived by a collective bargaining agreement. I suspect that a court would say this isn’t different treatment for equal protection purposes, since it applies equally to every firm. In any event, it’s not irrational to allow more waivers in a CBA than in an individual employment contract, because a CBA is generally fully negotiated on both sides while an individual employee has little bargaining power and usually has to agree to the employer’s terms on a “take it or leave it” basis.

        The last way this bill arguably treats different firms differently is that it gives existing retailers four years to come into compliance. Again, I would be surprised if a court concluded that this amounted to differential treatment of similarly situated firms; a store that already exists and operates while paying its employees a certain wage is not in the same situation as a new store that wants to open. In any event, it’s not irrational to give existing employers time to come into compliance, for reasons outlined by Morat20 upthread.

        tl;dr: I would wager any amount of money against this law being struck down on equal protection grounds, and I would fire a lawyer that suggested bringing such a suit.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        And the bill excludes incredibly profitable multi-billion dollar retail stores run by Apple and Nike because… Well, just because!

        In fact, the law only applies to Walmart, and is written so that it only applies to Walmart. In theory it could apply to a company that walks and quacks like Walmart, but there are no other real world companies that currently fit the legislation. Thus, many business writers are suggestion a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to George Turner says:

          The original iteration of this legislation was written so that indeed only Walmart would have been affected. The version that passed the council this week (but is still awaiting the mayor’s signature or veto) was expanded a bit, so that Walmart was still targeted, but other big box retailers like (iirc) Lowes would also have to meet the new requirements. (but not, as you say, Nike and Apple, and most notably, McD’s)Report

        • Griff in reply to George Turner says:

          What you’re saying simply isn’t true. Here is the text of the bill: http://dcclims1.dccouncil.us/images/00001/20130708104620.pdf

          As you can see, it applies to all big box retailers (specifically, retail outlets 75,000 square feet or bigger whose parent companies make more than $1 billion per year), a category that includes Best Buy, Target, Lowe’s, Kohl’s, Costco, BJ’s, Home Depot, Kmart, and others, including some outlets of stores like Staples and Toys R Us. The reason it doesn’t apply to Apple or Nike is that they aren’t big box retailers; they are primarily product manufacturers who operate retail outlets that sell their own goods. Because the outlets only sell one company’s goods, they aren’t physically very big. Thus, they don’t fall within the terms of this bill. You may not think this is a good idea (I don’t, especially), but you’re going to need to make some kind of reasoned argument based on what the bill actually says in order to persuade me that it’s an equal protection violation.

          As for “many business writers,” I have no problem believing that they are suggesting what you say. If any reputable legal commentator is also suggesting it, I will be thoroughly shocked.Report

  14. Brandon Berg says:

    One time I witnessed a family with young children walk the aisles at 3am, eating fried chicken, and dropping the bones on the ground.

    Why do you hate Wal-Mart when it gave you a story like that? This makes me wish I had a Wal-Mart nearby.Report

  15. Michelle says:

    Kazzy–congratulations on a couple of thought-provoking posts in a row. I still won’t be entering a Walmart anytime soon, but you and the commenters have certainly gotten me to question some of my smug liberal assumptions. LOL!Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Michelle says:

      Thanks, Michelle. Maybe it is the teacher in me, or maybe I’m just a douche, but I’m all about getting people to challenge themselves. And given that I have the summer off (well, if you count staying home with a 3-month old to be “off”), I feel like I might as well put out as much content as I can.Report