The Jaker

Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Lets make the Wal-Mart analogy
Robert Reich's editorial on Wal-Mart and what it tells us about ourselves and free market is a must-read for political strategists, because it really points a way to how Democrats can change the framing of the political discourse in our favor.

Reich points out that the somewhat obvious point that the consumer within us is at odds with the worker and citizen within us. As a consumer we love Wal-Mart's low prices, but as a worker and a citizen we deplore their lack of health benefits, their low wages, their anti-unionization, and their eradication of local businesses. Yet we still shop there (outside of NY), and at Amazon, and at McDonalds, etc.

It's a clear case of the failure of the free market. And so I wholeheartedly agree with Reich that we need "laws and regulations that make our purchases a social choice as well as a personal one". The minimum wage, which we Democrats support, is one such law. Reich's other ideas are good too:
A requirement that companies with more than 50 employees offer their workers affordable health insurance, for example, might increase slightly the price of their goods and services. My inner consumer won't like that very much, but the worker in me thinks it a fair price to pay.

I think there is also a clear opportunity here to pull a Lakoff and reframe this issue so that it benefits Democrats politically. Small businesses in rural and suburban red-state communities have been decimated by Wal-Martization. Sure, those consumers love shopping there, but they also are big supporters of local communities. We've let the administration get away with legislation privileging big agricultural conglomerates at the expense of small family farmers, and we cannot afford to do the same with retail chains. We can take hold of both these issues - talk to people about how the free market does not work for our overall interests in all cases - use Wal-Mart and big conglomerates as the example. Show them how Democrats want to save the middle class and protect workers from capitalism's marginal failures.
posted by CB @ 9:59 AM  
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