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Wal-Mart Could Revitalize U.S. Economy

If Wal-Mart bought more U.S. made products, the economy would benefit

Imagine this: Wal-Mart, the country’s largest employer and the world’s biggest retailer – buying more made in the U.S.A. goods! It’s got the potential to put millions of people back to work in American businesses, revitalize the economy and make the United States revisit its past as a world-class manufacturer.

Admittedly, it is a far-fetched dream, one that may have some of you asking, “What kind of drugs is she on?”

According to the 2011 Forbes 500 statistics, Wal-Mart is ranked #1.  Wal-Mart is the country’s largest employer.  1.5 million are employed here in the United States, another 1 million or so worldwide.

Some history first:  Wal-Mart’s buying power is the stuff of legend in retail. Popular belief has it that Wal-Mart founder, Sam Walton insisted on purchasing U.S. goods. At first he was willing to buy from American manufacturers, but they had to tow the line. In the 1980s when the company went through its largest expansion, the “Buy American” strategy lost its shine. Walton was not interested in investing long-term in America because costs were too high. Being the shrewd businessman that he was, it was all about the bottom line.

In his autobiography, Made In America  he stated, “We’re not interested in charity here; we don’t believe in subsidizing substandard work or inefficiency, so our primary goal became to work with American manufacturers, and see if our formidable buying power could help them deliver the goods, and in the process, save some American manufacturing jobs.”   This didn’t last long.  The hunt for cheaply produced merchandise from overseas began in earnest for Wal-Mart in 1981 in Asia, where his competitors had laid groundwork.  If they floundered, Wal-Mart stepped in and took over.

Outwardly, Wal-Mart continued to defend “Made in America” but secretly increased its importing from overseas.  In the early 1980s, Wal-Mart stated that its imports were around 6%. Not so, says Bob Ortega, author of In Sam We Trust, the history of Wal-Mart. In reality they were about 40%.  Wal-Mart set up PREL (Pacific Resources Export Ltd.) to disguise its involvement in the east.  This would allow Wal-Mart to purchase products without being directly involved, on paper, that is.

Fast forward to today.   Our economy is in the tank.  The exodus from American-based manufacturing is the greed factor running in high gear.  Where once this country was a proud land and our economy strong, corporate America has sold out; sold us all out, you, me and millions of others.  It is sad that so many companies which were founded here have outsourced jobs.  The voice you hear on an 800 customer service help line, once had an American accent, now sounds decidedly Indian or Middle Eastern or Asian. Often their limited command of English is barely understandable, names they’ve taken to “sound more American,” laughable:   “Hi, my name is Joe,” but you know it has to be something unpronounceable.  Right here at home, today, Verizon, the nation’s largest phone carrier, is looking to outsource more of its customer service jobs.  My friend Pat, who is a 30+ year veteran, could lose her job.  My sister who works for J.P. Morgan Chase says there is a chance that her job will be sent to the Philippines. This leaves me to wonder:  are there going to be ANY jobs left or are we all going to have to flip burgers?

We’ve seen the gluttonous rise of Wal-Mart across this country, and now they’ve gone overseas.  Many other retailers have done the same, gleaning most of their products from China, Taiwan, India and other countries where wages are low.  Many of these well-known retailers have set up dealings like PREL.  Lowe’s has LG Sourcing  where is gets all of its store merchandise from China.  The next time you visit a store, look at the bottom of what you are buying.  Chances are it will say, Made In China or, to be politically correct and have a two language labeling system, Hecho en China.

Back to my dream:  what IF Wal-Mart alone invested more in America?   Just Wal-Mart!  What would happen if they bought more from U.S. companies right here at home?  Imagine what it would do to the economy, employment and manufacturing statistics in this country!  WOW!  An American company like Wal-Mart buying from U.S. based manufacturers would put employment numbers back on track again!

Imagine if that furniture you bought for your kid’s college dorm room was made in the U.S.A., or that set of tools you bought Dad for his birthday was made here, too.  How about the new flat screen TV, DVD player or the set of sheets you gave Grandma for Christmas?  The new winter blankets, socks, the baby shower gifts, new clothes for your kids for school and their school supplies – all made here in America. That new bicycle for your little sister or a pair of new shoes for yourself – MADE IN THE U.S.A!   The list is endless!  Everyday things that we all use or buy for others; there are so many things that could be made right here in the USA and put lots of people back to work! Keep rolling on this in your own mind!  It could have very profound effects, snowballing into a considerable amount of job growth for the United States.

Of course this IS a dream, though.  For as long as greed rules or the bottom line is king – unless there is some sort of legislation mandating the percent of purchases must be from U.S. companies, this will never happen.  As long as the pull of China is strong, Wal-Mart and other U.S. companies and manufacturers will not return to the American shores.  China has taken over the United States without firing a single shot.  They’ve got us all by the wallet and Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and others are leading the charge.  Shame on you all!

Wal-Mart’s image has suffered greatly in the last few years.  This would be a great way for them to redeem themselves and help this country in the time of need; a fantastic way to spur economic growth and raise employment.  Creating more jobs here in the U.S. would help Wal-Mart’s PR campaign as well as millions of Americans!


Author: Bernice Matherson

Humanitarian, environmental and food activist, blogging on current societal issues. My blogs cover what's in our food and how it affects our health; the effects of our seemingly small actions regarding chemical and pesticide use in and around our homes and its impact on our Earth.

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