Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Some gifts you can give our society and economy on Black Friday.

By Marc Jampole

With the great American holiday of Black Friday in two short days, I wanted to suggest some gifts that my cherished readers can get for American society to celebrate the holiday season. Note that I wrote “get,” and not “buy,” since these gifts do not involve commercial transactions.

Gift Idea #1: Boycott Wal-Mart until it stops its anti-union activity, and email the company to tell it that you’re not shopping at Wal-Mart until its store and warehouse employees are covered by certified unions. If enough people boycott Wal-Mart, it will be forced to unionize, just as grape farmers were forced to accept a union for farm workers after the successful boycott of grapes led by Cesar Chavez in the 1970’s.

You may be wondering how unionizing Wal-Mart will help our society. It’s simple: The more unionized workers there are, the higher the wages of everyone else. Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the country, one known for giving very low salaries to their employees (except the executives!).  If Wal-Mart were unionized, wages would increase across the board across the country.

If history can serve as a guide, with higher wages will come some increase is prices, but employers will have to swallow a good part of their increased costs. Those that don’t adjust will lose market share to the entrepreneurs and innovators who are willing to take a lower profit margin.

The net effect of unionizing Wal-Mart will therefore be to rebalance the distribution of wealth, with less income and wealth in the hands of those on top and more in the hands of the middle class and the poor. One of the lessons of economic history is that nations with a relatively equitable distribution of wealth thrive; examples include the United States in the 50’s and 60’s and Europe in the 14th century after the Black Plague drove up the cost of labor. And yes, nations in which the distribution of wealth becomes increasingly less equitable suffer precipitous economic declines; examples include the Roman Empire after about 200 CE, Spain in the 16th century, several of the Chinese dynasties and the contemporary United States.

Right now the U.S. government provides billions of dollars of subsidies to Wal-Mart because so many of its employees qualify for food stamps. Another effect of unionizing Wal-Mart will be to make a big dent in the costs of the food stamp program, thus lowering government costs.

Those who want to give the precious gift of a just society and a growing economy to the United States can email Wal-Mart about your boycott at, check the “Financial Information” box, click “Next” and then leave your message on the page that appears. And instead of buying at Wal-Mart, go to your local merchants and to national companies that treat their workers with the dignity of a fair wage.

Gift Idea #2: Write your Republican Senators and Congressmen and tell them that you will not vote for them if they take the Norquist Pledge not to raise taxes or do not recant the pledge if they have taken it in the past.  The pledge, first proposed years ago by right-wing political operative Grover Norquist, has become part of contemporary Republican ideology. Before the most recent election, 238 of 242 Republican Congressional representatives and 41 out of 47 Republican Senators had signed Norquist’s pledge, promising to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

The problem is that the federal government has been starved for revenues since the Bush II temporary tax cuts went into effect about 10 years ago, during which time we have fought two purposeless wars that have drained the federal treasury. We have to pay our debts, but just as importantly, we have to have the funds to keep investing in the economy by rebuilding our infrastructure. And we need money to respond to natural disasters like Sandy and man-made ones like the bursting of the real estate bubble that sent the country into an economic nosedive in 2007 and 2008.

But since they control the House of Representatives, the Republicans stand in the way of raising taxes. (In my heart, I believe that they would be delighted to raise taxes on anyone making less than $1.0 million or so a year. I base this belief on the Republican tax policies of the last 30 some-odd years, which have shifted the burden of paying for everything the government does from the wealthy to the middle class.)

Right now the Republicans are particularly vulnerable to reason, as they see that they have lost the election and surveys show that most Americans want to raise taxes on the wealthy. Telling Republican Representatives and Senators that getting your vote depends on their voting “Yea” on tax increases could prove to be particularly effective at the current moment, when President Obama is negotiating with Congress about new taxes.

So give some gifts that can keep on giving for years. Tell Wal-Mart and the Republicans that we won’t put up with their policies that are creating a nation of rich and poor.

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