Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

WalMart Alert

Over at RCP, Ryan Sager writes about WalMart voters tilting away from the GOP.

The most amazing factoid to emerge from the article is that 85 percent of frequent Wal-Mart shoppers voted for President Bush’s reelection in 2004, while 88 percent of people who never shop there voted for Sen. Kerry. (I wonder how Target shopper fall out?)

Maybe WalMart should change it principal color to red. 

Discussions - 35 Comments

Well, if we look objectively at the lives of these WalMart shoppers, you gotta wonder why they would vote for big business, open borders, and free trade (the libertarian utopia). All these people have seen in the last 30 years is the destruction of their employment base, cutting back on social programs, and a GOP that seldom delivers on the social conservativism promised in every election. On the other hand, they have faithfully filled the ranks of our military and paid their taxes, all the while being disparaged by anyone who drinks bottled water and drives an import.

I’ll say it again...you don’t have to engage in massive federal spending to improve the lives of these people. You have to 1) staunch the hemmorhaging of manufacturing, 2) support Federal programs that give people a hand up (not a hand out)...educational loans, catastrophic medical insurance, and 3) deliver on the social agenda. This isn’t rocket science.

I’m not sure what it means to look "objectively" at their lives (though typically political scientists attribute a set of economic interests and wonder, a la that Frank fellow, why those aren’t primary), but I suspect the reason that Wal-Mart voters voted overwhelmingly for Bush are: (1) his opponents are precisely the sort of people who sneer contemptuously at Wal-Mart; (2) they would, if given the opportunity, make it more difficult for there to be something like Wal-Mart; and (3) the voters see themselves as independent, non-welfare types (and voting for the pro-welfare party rubs against their self-image). (Those are just guesses, but don’t seem unreasonable to me...)

Punishing Wal-Mart would seem to me to be a perfect method of further alienating Wal-Mart voters. Also, it’s worth noting that Wal-Mart, by refusing to market CDs with offensive lyrics, has been at the forefront of the movement to protect the "community standards" that Dain praises.

This is the truth: Every time you walk into a WalMart and buy products you are 1) undermining American manufacturing, and 2) pumping capital to the People’s Republic of China. If anyone thinks this is hunky-dory, then I suggest you look at income inequality statistics and the state of blue-collar America. It’s not my fault that so many people have deluded themselves about this.

George Will has been making an argument similar to this for years -- Americans by and large like government. The debate is simply about how much government we shall have. When fire-breathing conservatives speak of eliminating whole swaths of government, it makes easy fodder for liberals to draw a short line between that and the elimination of some program near and dear to the hearts of voters. The drumbeat of conservatives and the GOP ought to be restraint, not elimination.

If the GOP retains the majority this fall, it’ll be because the Democrats offered no acceptable alternative. I suspect people are not so much opposed to the GOP as they are simply bored with it. It’s like eating McDonalds every day ... eventually you desire a change.

Finally, for all those who speak of sustaining a "manufacturing base" the question must be asked: why? I suspect the implication is because "that provides high-paying jobs." But if the product being manufactured doesn’t command a high price, the high wages can’t be supported. That’s a basic fact of economics most seem to ignore. I won’t pay $120 for an electric iron ... the function of the iron isn’t worth that price.

"All these people have seen in the last 30 years is the destruction of their employment base, cutting back on social programs, and a GOP that seldom delivers on the social conservativism promised in every election."

They vote the way they do because all three parts of this statement are wrong. The employment base has consistently grown and is larger than it has ever been. 30 years ago (to use dain’s starting point) we had double digit inflation and interest rates. We had gas shortages. We had 8-10% unemployment. Things are so much better today I’m surprised anyone would even try to dispute this.

Cutting back on social programs? Surely you jest. Take a look at any budget from the last 6 years and try saying that again with a straight face. Even in the mid 90s the boldest "cuts" Congress was willing to make were 8% yearly increases. As for social conservatism, perhaps you missed it, but dozens of states passed a slew of constitutional amendments in the last election.

I’m sorry, I thought this was a discussion about how the GOP can keep from losing Wal-Mart voters. Telling them that Wal-Mart is evil would seem to me to be a poor way of doing this.

And no, I’m not a Wal-Mart voter.

Wal-mart is an american icon, I shop there but not because it is an american icon. I shop there because they have lower prices and offer the convienience of being a one stop shop. Even if they don’t have the absolute lowest prices the time saved is well worth it. Of course if I was a manufacturer I would not wish to get into the Wal-Mart supply chain. Wal-Mart has a way of squeezing down its margins...and once you start selling at Wal-Mart it is difficult to command brand-name status. Take the example of Starter apparel. Kids used to get shot for a starter jacket...then Wal-mart started selling them...no one will ever be shot for goods that can be purchased at Wal-mart...So if American products are not sold at Wal-mart with the frequency that they used to be...it is probably because american goods want to market themselves as "superior". If you make breath mints you want to sell your tin at Starbucks where it will command $4 vs. Wal-mart where the same product would command $1.19.

I prefer Starbucks to Wal-Mart...but I am not so stuck on the "experience" that I am not aware that I am paying for the "experience" and packaging as much as the product itself. Each venue has its function...and if you are going to consume a lot of coffee and want the convinience of your own home, you are probably better off buying a large tin of Arabica at Wal-Mart rather than a paltry bag of exotic Kenyan at Starbucks...If you can tell the difference...pay the difference. If you can’t don’t.

big biznezz, you are talking about manufacturing as a proportion of GDP, perhaps? Raw size, maybe? I was talking about employment in manufacturing (which is what counts, really). I suggest you look it up before you say a statement is "wrong." I’m not in the habit of stating "wrong" things.

"the destruction of their employment base"

I was not talking about manufacturing. I was talking about the "employment base," which includes an increased number of non-manufacturing jobs. Obviously the employment base was not destroyed. It grew quite a bit. Unemployment is far lower as a result. Your "fact" was made up and was wrong. So was your claim about cutting social programs.

Mr. Sager speaks of "constant cultural pandering" to the Wal-Mart demographic. Actually, it has been quite inconstant, and in some cases,
as on immigration, a complete disconnect.

The Republican party wins on culture and foreign policy. The party elites want to run on economics and foreign policy ignoring culture. Whether the reported numbers on Wal-Mart are accurate or not (and I have to think Bush ’04 support among frequent Wal-Mart shoppers is overstated), it is clear that these folks do not like the new economy, do not do well in it, fear it, and believe what they see on TV when it comes to economic issues.
All the more reason for Republicans to hammer on reverse racism, the ACLU, Hollywood, parental rights, and similar issues. Bush doesn’t want to, but Republican candidates will need to and it would be helpful if Bush did too. With the troubles in Iraq, foreign policy is not enough. If we don’t serve up a little more red meat on culture, people will think of us increasingly in economic terms, and that is a net loser.

Oh, I’m sorry, bb, your post wasn’t inaccurate, it was simply irrelevant. People in India have high "employment" as well, since being unemployed means to starve. Unemployment statistics are meaningless...you need to look at median wages and income inequality.

And why should we care, AZ? Well, we’ve discussed this on NLT before...the broad American middle class is (was) based on manufacturing. There is no evidence that a broadly egalitarian democracy can sustain itself when the top 40% of income earners monopolize wage improvements. We really need to stop burying our heads in the sand on this issue. America is a big country, and our "employment base" needs to be diverse. We aren’t going to profitable employ 200 million people in front of computers. And, of course, the more exportable the job (virtually all service jobs that have benefited from productivity improvements) the less likely we are to hold onto it.

Good one dain. You managed to be needlessly catty, changed the subject again, used a specious example that has nothing to do with Walmart voters or anyone else in America, and made up some new fake facts about wages. You really bring down the level of discourse here. Well here’s a news flash for king dain. Wages are higher than they were in the 1970s. Standards of living are higher than they were in the 1970s. Employment is higher than it was in the 1970s. The only person pining for the days of Jimmy Carter is dain.

bb, why should I argue with you. You clearly aren’t familiar with the debate about "the great u-turn" in income inequality. You mistake meaningless aggregate statistics for crushing evidence against my point of view. You don’t have the knowledge base to argue with me.

Here is a report for, yes, a liberal thinktank, that will help you become familiar with the issues. The essence of it is simple: The loss of manufacturing has cut a large segment of the American labor force at the knees, while the highly educated are doing well (which drives your favorable aggregate statistics).

I see no particular reason why I should be swayed by the ruminations of a left-wing activist group, or as you call it, a liberal thinktank. It does seem odd that you would point to this report as the end-all of the debate. Aren’t you one of the guys who decries everyone else on this board as a leftist?

Maybe you should go back and reread the report. It was written more than 6 1/2 years ago and said that "persistent low unemployment" led to "wage gains at the bottom" for several years. This means that we are on the right track and have been for a decade. That cuts against your theory. The problems were from your golden age of the 70s and the 1980s, but the improvements were post-NAFTA. Either way, you changed the subject and are now arguing about something very different from the outlandish hyperbole in comment 1.

I use the leftwing material because the Right runs from this issue...and I don’t think we can afford to. We are leaving behind half the country in terms of the American Dream, and there isn’t any reason to (except to put money into the pockets of importers). On the flip side, we’ve got an upper middle class that clearly has more money than it knows what to do with (e.g., Hummers, McMansions). Such lopsidedness just isn’t necessary or healthy. We are approaching inequality on the order of the Gilded Age, and you should think about class dynamics in that era (e.g., anarchism, labor unionism, ultimately FDR and the ballooning of the welfare state).

This isn’t an issue of Left or Right (unless you think of the Right as a bunch of selfish pricks who couldn’t care less about their neighbors and fellow citizens). It’s a question of what’s best of the long-term sustainability of our nation and our people.

And if you want to continue this, wonderful. I’d like you to explain this, smart guy.

Your statistics demonstrate only that over a large span of years income inequality has risen. The assumption that income inequality is bad on the other hand is not derived from statistics alone. Ceteris Paribus income equality is only desireable when all contribute equally. While it may be desireable that all contribute equally one can not force people to contribute what they are not inclined to contribute...The market acts to induce people to contribute more by generating income inequality that we hope is proportional and representative of contribution. Income inequality thus shows primarily that some people contribute more than others. Ceteris paribus one would expect that income inequality might increase as the population ages. As people age and go into retirement they tend to generate less income because they are no longer working, on the other hand those who managed to store up a lot like the recently retired Bill Gates inflate the top five percent. Differences in the wealth of individuals are exasperated over time as the long run consequences of good and bad decisions in keeping with the character of said individuals manifest itself. One should expect that for most people the wildest fortune and most dire malignity thereof should have canceled each other out by the time the age of 60 is reached. As the population ages one is thus left with a greater disparity between the wheat and the stuff of which bio-diesel could easily be made. It may go without saying that divorces and marriages should be factored into the tally of good and bad decisions...Ceteris Paribus people who get married and stay married accumulate more wealth.

Bottom line, if it is the case that the divorce rate has risen and it is also the case that the population as a whole is ageing then we should see the results in terms of income inequality...the problem and debate isn’t about the effect of ageing or divorce but rather the extent to which this goes to explaining changes in income distribution by percentile over time.

John, neither age structure nor marriage explain away this rather large increase in income inequality...there is a very large (and growing) literature. As for "contributions," that is undoubtedly true, but the change in our industrial structure has undercut the ability of millions to "make" a contribution...needlessly, in my view.

Our inequality has generally been greater than other developed countries, and even higher than in most of Asia. We are now approaching Latin American-style inequalities...I suggest you look at their political instabilities before you sign off on stark social class differences.

Your new numbers only show that the rich are getting richer at a faster rate than everyone else. They do not show that everyone else is worse off or that those people are not getting richer too. They do not show that the employment base has been destroyed over the past 30 years.

OK, bb, I think I’m done with you. There is a REASON that the bottom 4 quintiles (that’s 80% of all families in America) have lost "share" in national income. Some of it is aging and marital status, John is correct, but that’s only a portion of it. The bulk of the increase comes from the loss of high-paying manufacturing employment. Unless you want to say that a $25 an hour job with full benefits is the same as a $10 an hour job with partial benefits, there has been a very real erosion of the "employment base." And just because something can be made more cheaply in China or Indonesia is no reason to disassemble our factories and send them overseas. That’s NOT the way we operated throughout most of American history (tariffs were quite high), and there is no compelling reason to operate that way today. It’s killing our economy and our polity.

Folks on the right need to have a little less faith in "the market." It’s lazy thinking, and it’s a form of blindness. Ultimately, it plays into the hands of the Left.

Now you’re just making things up again. Your first "study" did not support your claim for obvious reasons I described, which you failed to even address because you followed the dain M.O. of changing the subject when you are proven wrong. Your second link didn’t show anything, and you are purposely being nonresponsive because you have no logical response to 19. Now you are back where you started, making up facts and wild claims like "it’s killing our economy and our polity" even though both are doing very well. And for what must be the 1000th time, you scribbled in some nonsense about playing into "the hands of the Left" even though you are the one who is citing to left-wing groups and spouting left-wing ideas. It must be great living in a world where facts don’t matter, you can change the subject every time you are proven wrong, and you can pretend to win an argument by calling everyone else leftists. I think I’ll keep living in reality.

Not a single coherent fact in your entire post. Mine, on the other hand, have been very consistent, and backed with data (what do you have but backsass?). And you say my "MO" is to change the subject, but that’s crap. Who are you, really? Dan? Some other troll?

And yes, I will use the tools of the Left to wake up the Right. It’s better than ultimately losing. I’m a social conservative, and all this "market faith" is getting us into hot water. Capitalism is a dynamic system and great for creating wealth, but the idea that it requires no regulation is just insane.

It sure seems like your MO in every comment above. Who said capitalism requires no regulation? This is exactly what I am talking about. You keep changing the subject. All I said was that the employment base has not been destroyed. That was in response to what you said. No one was talking about unfettered laissez faire until just now when you tried to distract from the fact that you have no response to 15 or 19.

What data backed up your claim? The first link disproved your theory. The second didn’t do anything at all. Did you even read these links? It sure doesn’t look like it.

Nice job with your "troll" MO too. You never even attempted to talk about the substance of the issues. You just called me a leftist. Now you call me your troll. Seriously, is everyone who disagrees with you a troll? It shouldn’t be too hard to believe that more than one person didn’t drink the dain,Buchanan koolaid. Pretty much no one does.

Dain, the growth of income inequality in the past sixty years is beyond question. What I question is your faith--because it isn’t based on any data--that protectionism can effectively address this. Income inequality has been rising throughout the world, including in countries that rely heavily on tariffs. Also, what gives you the impression that we are a free trading nation? We have tariffs on all sorts of things; that’s why NAFTA was such a big deal (and note that inequality was on the rise long before NAFTA was signed). And agricultural tariffs haven’t prevented the relative decline of the agricultural sector of the American economy--that sector is smaller today than at any time in history.

Income inequality has been rising throughout the world, including in countries that rely heavily on tariffs. Love to see the citation on this, John.

Yes, we have tariffs, but they are pretty minimal and completely inadequate as protection. There are revenue tariffs and protective tariffs, and current tariffs don’t accomplish either very well.

Mr. Koolaid...I think I know who you are. Go back to your local blog were you belong. Saying that I ignored your "evidence" and actually doing so isn’t the same thing. If you want to discuss the minimal gains of the bottom 40% of the population over the last 30 years, and how the rising costs of housing, medicine and education utterly cancel out whatever they HAVE gained, fine...no problem.

As for the "employment base," I think you are taking me too literally. Of course people have jobs...those unemployment statistics look just great. But this isn’t as good as the economy of the past, and that’s what has been destroyed.

Professor Dain, you should worry less about who I am or what other blogs I read and more about the substance of the issues. There is a term for what you are referring to. It is called "real wages." They have gone up since your beloved 1970s, the apparent apex of Dainic civilization.

As I recall, "real wages" have gone up a whole $1...but only for college graduates? Regardless, it’s yet another aggregate statistic...meaningless.

Really, you’re out of your league. Go home.

Is "recall" a codeword for "made up"?

Nope...but it’s as good as the evidence you presented...which was zippity do dah.

Dain the social conservative = Daniel Bell and "The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism"?

Interesting...

I am seriously going to write a book called "The Cultural Contradictions of Culture"...Just for humor sake I will include a chapter called: What shopping at Wal-Mart really means!

John, Bell’s book has some serious flaws, but his major contention, that captialism slowly undermines the culture that gave it birth (and sustains it), is certainly worth entertaining. Market-worshipping Libertarians rely on self-regulation and emergent ordering (i.e., near-perfect competitive dyanmics) to justify their blind faith in capitalism; real conservatives know better. We know that civil society has provided the discipline and moral skeleton that allowed capitalism to flourish. On the other hand, corrupt cultures (say, Russia) don’t produce anything but corrupt capitalism. This explains why social conservatives are preoccupied with all social institutions, whereas Libertarians only seem to care about one - economics. I guess you could say they are also concerned about politics, but desiring to eliminate an institution isn’t what I would call "concern."

Time has proven all of Bell’s predictions were wrong. Shouldn’t that count for something when you segway into blathering about his "major contention" about "captialism."

You snipe like a troll, bb. Say which of Bell’s predictions have proven wrong and WHY, or shut up.

All of them. If you bothered to do a 5 minute google search for his name you would have found a bunch of articles explaining this.

You’re the troll. You sit here all day making crazy rants, shouting people down, insulting everyone who tries to discuss issues rationally. Then when you are beaten, you yell "troll" and tell people to shut up. Not very persuasive.

You’re a liar, pure and simple, bb. Everything I say is solidly rooted in empirical reality...I can prove it all (perhaps not to your satisfaction, but they say you should never try to teach a pig to sing). "Trolls" are people who "pop in," make snide (generally ad hominem) comments, and then vanish (or assume yet another name). I’m dain...I’ve been here...I provide evidence for what I say. I do call people names, but typically only after they’ve taken a swipe at me (as you did in comment #7 above).

I don’t think you’re a troll...I just think you’re stupid.

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