Pondering Wal-Mart

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Following on the reporting staff's globally reported three-part series on Wal-Mart, the L.A. Times editorial page doesn't exactly have a position to argue, but it sure sees Big Questions.

What good is served if low-paid labor cannot afford to buy even the cheap merchandise lining Wal-Mart's shelves? If "always lower prices" also means "always lower wages," what does it mean to the larger economy that is still being kept afloat by consumer spending? Or to overstressed public health systems caring for workers who can't afford their employers' health plans?...

Wal-Mart is a prosperous business because it responds so aggressively to the demands of consumers. But Wal-Mart's actions fuel global wage competition. Americans must learn to ask themselves — and tell their legislators — what they want, why they want it and what the true costs of an $8.63 polo shirt are.

Columnist Steve Lopez, meanwhile, demands to know why Wal-Mart's $8.63 polo shirts cost so much.

Is that the best Wal-Mart can do? Now wait a minute. Because of the way Wal-Mart does business in America and beyond:

A. Your Uncle Ed's factory went under and he's on the dole,

B. A couple dozen merchants got rocked by the ripple effect,

C. A nail was driven into the coffin that used to be a quaint downtown,

D. That Honduran mom made $7 for 10 hours of toil,

E. A Chinese company is probably plotting to underbid the Hondurans,

F. Wal-Mart execs padded their mega-million-dollar portfolios,

G. And our taxes are going up because Wal-Mart employees who can't afford health insurance are dragging themselves into the county emergency room.

If that's the cost to you and me and everyone else, that polo shirt ought to be $5.99 and not a penny more, or we're being seriously ripped off.

Earlier post

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