Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blame Walmart

This is about meaningful work.

Listening to NPR, hearing stories about people who don't have work, can't make ends meet.  I blame Walmart.  Hear me out.  Walmart rolls into a community and puts up a big efficiency box.  You can get everything you need there and you can get it cheap.  Auto parts, bike parts, groceries, clothing, pharmaceutical, office supplies...  it's all in there.  None of it was made in this country, by the way, no one under that roof, save maybe a couple managers, makes a living wage.  If you're a consumer and cost and time are your highest priority (gotta get home to watch TV), Walmart is appealing.  One-stop shopping and the lowest prices ever imagined.  A more short-sighted and selfish consumer the world has never seen.

So Walmart moves in and offers the services/products of 20 specialty stores.  Your local gas station, oil change place, sporting goods store, grocery, pharmacy, clothing store, housewares shop... none of these places can compete with the price and convenience of Walmart, so they shutter their doors and the employees go to work at Walmart.  But Walmart doesn't need all their employees, specifically they don't need any of the white collar workers like management or owners.  They only require one manager, one accountant for the entire store.  19 managers are out of work.  19 middle class workers now go to work for minimum wage.  Because the jobs aren't skilled, they can share across departments, so while the oil change place on main street used to employ 10 guys full time, Walmart makes it work with 5.  So 5 guys take a pay cut and 5 go unemployed.  The local bike shop gets it the worst.  Ever been to the sporting goods department at Walmart?  There isn't a bike mechanic under that roof, there's not even a single employee that can tell you the difference between a presta and schraeder valve.  There goes another 8 positions, formerly filled by passionate, inspired individuals, who now can't find work in their field of expertise.  This has social and health implications as fewer people get into cycling when the bike they buy was put together with the fork on backwards... but this is primarily a rant about economics so back to the point.

Distribution is streamlined, so there's only 3 trucks making one delivery per day instead of 20 trucks making 40 deliveries to individual businesses.  This is great from an environmental aspect, I admit, but delivery and trucking jobs are meaningful and pay well.  They also keep the community connected.  You know your UPS man?  Your mailman?  They know you.  17 of those jobs are gone now too.

Of primary concern is that 20 business owners, engaged and invested in their work and community are now working for a faceless mega corporation.  Their work went from meaningful to meaningless.   Their job requires no skill, has no positive impact on the world/community and they're easily replaced.  Their value as a worker is basically nil.  They wonder now why they get up in the morning...  Of course we're facing unprecedented unemployment;  we've allowed Walmart to concentrate the wealth of an entire nation of skilled business owners in the hands of 5 individuals in Arkansas with the last name Wal.

Ok, so we hear about the economy and there's a huge segment of this country in the role of the victim.  They can't get meaningful work, but they shop at Walmart.  They can't afford to make informed choices, so they walk through those sliding doors and put another nail in their own coffin and pop one in their neighbors while they're at it.  We are the economy.  WE ARE THE ECONOMY.  Did you fucking hear me?  If everyone in this country skipped their weekly Walmart trip for a year, the entire Economy would flip on it's head and the available jobs in this country would be more than enough to keep everyone meaningfully employed.  The choice is yours, economy.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


This is how we roll in the High Country.  This bad boy's hour meter read 0000.  Plan to return it with at least 15...  we'll see.