Letters to the Editor

Other costs

June 14, 2007


To the editor:

In contemplating whether a new Wal-Mart is a good idea, here are some things to consider:

Typically, counties that add a Wal-Mart have a net loss of retail jobs. Much of the money the stores obtain leaves the community, since big box stores buy little locally. In fact, a recent study by Civic Economics (www.civiceconomics.com) on behalf of the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Association, determined that chain stores offer about 60 percent of the economic benefit of locally owned businesses. Similar results have been found with studies in Maine, Chicago and Austin (www.newrules.org/retail/econimpact.html).

According to Stacy Mitchell in her book "Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses," as big box stores have spread, the average number of miles driven per household for shopping has increased by 40 percent - an increase of 95 billion miles a year for the entire United States. Add to that the polluted run-off that results from big box stores, which create more pavement that generates such run-off, and it is clear that there are adverse effects beyond economic ones for such "development."

While it makes sense to have more shopping closer to people's homes, what is really the best way to achieve that? Why don't we support better development of local people and projects instead? Why do we insist on looking to outsiders to save us, when those who care most about this community are here already?

Douglas M. Crawford-Parker,



bisky1 10 years, 10 months ago

95 billion? sure would like to see how that was calculated.

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 10 months ago

Wal-Mart is great for the economy of China.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 10 months ago

That comes out to about 3 1/2 miles per day, per family (assuming 75 million families.) It's 5 miles one way to Wal-Mart from where I live, and 1 1/2 miles to downtown-- the difference is precisely 3 1/2 miles. So I would say the calculation is uncannily accurate, and likely infallible.

DaveR 10 years, 10 months ago

To the best of my knowledge, everything that Mr. Crawford-Parker says is true. The question is why it is true.

The underlying problem, so far as I can tell, are local zoning ordinances.

It's zoning that gives you the box stores, it's zoning that gives you the four lane expressways running through the middle of town, it's zoning that tears the heart out of downtowns, it's zoning that drives small businessmen out of business, it's zoning that's responsible for the horribly low energy efficiency of the typical American town (efficient cars, inefficiently used), etc., etc., etc.

Lawrence is not in any way unique in this. Lawrence does not create its own zoning rules from whole cloth. There is a general, national consensus of what zoning should be. Localities adapt these mis-begotten entities as need be. Lawrence does a better job than most.

It doesn't make any difference which box store you get on west 6th. None of them are good. All of them are bad, and for precisely the reasons that Crawford-Parker states.

Are there solutions? Yes, but none of them are fast & none are cheap. All of them require rebuilding or seriously modifying most of what's been built since 1950, and that's a lot. I gave up a long time ago. I don't think America is brave enough. I think we'll collapse into third world status first.

But for what it's worth: Zoning is about the organization & packaging of people. Current zoning laws favor cars over people, and, as time has passed, it's now cars that dominate people, to the disadvantage of people. Other packaging methods produce other results.

I was impressed by the courtyards that can be seen on the north side of the Cathedral in Santa Fe, NM. Briefly put:

Take an entire city block, a large one. Ring the outside with downtown-type shops, three or four floors high. Ring the inside with townhouses, with the fronts facing the inside, which will be a common park. Put a two-story parking garage underneath it.

Result: small shops on the ground level, offices (and perhaps light manufacturing) above them, population to serve as both employees & customers embedded throughout. Build a dozen of these, and,

Car use declines. Gas consumption declines. Crime declines. Small shops are favored over large.

I don't imagine everyone will want to live like this, but I believe that enough will that we can seriously talk about national energy independence. Because if zoning isn't on the table, anything else is a fantasy. But know this: The solution is in our hands.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 10 months ago

Such a logical approach is anti-American, DaveR. Why do you hate America?

crono 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm sick of reading about Wal-Mart. I don't know if anyone else feels the same way. Every day, some new letter to the editor repeats arguments that have appeared in the pages of the LJW before.

Isn't it time we devoted our time, and our letter to the editor space, to something more worthwhile?

tolawdjk 10 years, 10 months ago

I seldom agree with right_thinker's perspective on things, but in this case he's spot on.

Fine, we'll support locals....where are they? Where is the local hardware store that has opened in the last 5 years? Where is the local merchant of cheap plastic trinkets? Food? Housewares?

Are all of these "people" waiting in the wings to spring upon the scene if Wal-Mart #2 is not approved? That must be it.

The community doesn't support new local businesses because there -aren't- any new local businesses except for the occaisional restaurant or maybe antique/kitsche shop. Am I supposed to shop at a store that has nothing I want just because it is local?

And what is this drivel about money leaving the community because Wal-Mart doesn't buy local? Where exactly is the local community plastics plant? Where is the local manufacturer of clothing? Macaronni and cheese factory? Paint factory? Did something get developed on the old Farmland site that I missed last night?

The reasons your cited studies state what they do is because most local manufacturers cannot produce on the level that Wal-Mart would require. Joe's Clear Tape could probably supply one town's Wal-Mart(s) in tape, but 3M can do that regionally and nationally. Why would Wal-Mart want to deal with 150 "Joe's" when he can deal with one "3M"? Bob's Big Store of Stuff, however, just has one Big Store of Stuff and Joe can meet his needs easily, plus he's just across town.

It's not Wal-Mart's fault, its not Bob's fault. Hell, its not Joe's fault as Joe is doing what he wants, has a successful business and makes enough to buy his boy the G.I. Joe with the Kung-fu grip.

But that's not good enough for Bill and Betty Bitcher. Oh no, they want to buy the things they want from their neighbor that are made by their other neighbor. They world doesn't work that way, but they want it that way, and by damn, they are going to bitch until it does happen that way. Which is fine. It's America, knock yourself out, no one can stop you.

But it might be more productive to go bitch to the city commish and have them try to get some -real- jobs. Jobs attached to companies that make things on a scale that Walmart needs. Then you can "buy locally" whereever you shop.

DaveR 10 years, 10 months ago

That's the thing about the trap we're in. If you change zoning to favor people over cars (and, in the process, favor local merchants over imported big boxes), and car use declines as a result, you're going to be opposed by car makers, gas dealers, tire manufacturers, fast food dives, highway builders & everyone else. Literally, the entire weight of the US economy depends on zoning being left exactly the way it is.

We are at the end-game, playing out our losing hand. Having lost essential elements of local culture through ill-conceived zoning, corporations, waiting eagerly in the wings, took over. These corporations eventually grew in power, beyond the ability of their host governments to control them. At that point, ever eager for a bigger bang for the buck, they shipped jobs abroad. The goal was the cheapest possible product at the highest possible price. And this they have done.

The formula of no jobs & high prices is the very definition disaster. But, here again, Lawrence is ahead of the curve. No-jobs, no-jobs, no-jobs, has been the Lawrence mantra for many decades now.

Wal-Mart is not the issue. The future of Lawrence, the future of every city & town in the country, is big box stores. Right now, Wal-Mart leads the pack, but they will fade, as others have before them. To be replaced by yet another. Until the system itself grows weary & morphs into something as yet unimagined.

Do you want to know how bad the import situation is? Back in 2002 I made train trips from New York to Baltimore. While passing through New Jersey I saw mountains of containers, stacked by the water's edge. Thousands & thousands of them. I thought they were full of goods. I was wondering how many terrorist bombs were hidden among them.

What a silly person I was! Turns out, they're all empties. We import lots & lots, but we export next to nothing. The result is discarded Big Mac wrappers, on a national scale. Discarded shipping containers, in giant heaps. A few of the lucky ones have found an after-life: Portable On Demand Storage, or PODS. (Where did you think they came from?)

Dear Bozo on the Bus: America likes those who tell it good news. Bill Clinton has that skill. I confess that I do not. I would give anything to have it.

Jamesaust 10 years, 10 months ago

"Typically, counties that add a Wal-Mart have a net loss of retail jobs."

Duh. Exactly how would you reform a retail environment marked by the inefficient application of resources - including labor - with losing jobs? W-M is nothing if not efficient in controlling costs and famously passes those saving onto consumers. Let's keep in mind that saying "net loss of jobs" is just another way of saying "redeploying resources from less efficient targets to more efficient targets." There have been millions of jobs lost in agriculture just over the last decades but I don't hear anyone demanding that ag efficiency be halted in its tracks and reversed so that people can return to backbreaking labor in the fields of America.

"In fact, a recent study by Civic Economics ... determined that chain stores offer about 60 percent of the economic benefit of locally owned businesses."

Dollars-to-donuts - unlike this letter's author - I've actually read the report beyond the news release. Like all other such reports, it achieves its result by ignoring the ying while focusing on the yang.

From the report, a taste of its one-sided blindness: "Buying a book from an online merchant such as Amazon there is basically no economic impact at all for San Francisco." That is simply a false statement.

As the report itself cautions: "When looking at the economic impacts that follow it is imperative to remember that these impacts measure only the money left in the local economy after the initial purchase is made.[emphasis in the original]" Well, yeah - if you stop looking beyond whose pocket the initial dollars were 'pocketed' in, then sure, non-local retailers don't benefit the local economy much.

BUT locals ARE the non-local retailer owners. Indeed, in this example San Fran has FAR above-average concentrations of owners of non-local retailers including Amazon. There's no profit distinction at the end of the day between a business enterprise and its owners. Goodness, isn't the California State Employees Pension Fund (the largest pension fund in the U.S.) a heavy investor in Amazon? Are we to believe that a cosmopolitan city such as this has below-average equity ownership? (Or Lawrence?)

Of course not. You'd just get an answer different than what the people paying for this "study" want.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 10 months ago

How has outsourcing saved any money?

How has outsourcing curtailed cost of living increases?

How does purchasing low end products save money?

Face it big boxes have plenty of shortcomings not good for land use. They are too big, out of scale and out of tune in small towns. They are hard on local businesses and on the families, relationships, and communities sustained by those businesses. They create huge traffic burdens. They usually pay low wages, even within the generally low wage retail sector. They provide few benefits or protections to employees. *Their profits are exported out of town all the way to China.

None of the above are acceptable when speaking of land use in Lawrence,Kansas. Simply put Lawrence,kansas cannot afford to use our land that would promote any of the above.

We would probably rather have other businesses come to town. Light industry and professional services provide higher wages, stable taxes, and fewer demands on our infrastructure.

A common conclusion of big box studies is that big boxes create little in new retail sales and new jobs. People don't spend more, they spend in different places, and the jobs follow them. This is economic displacement not economic development

DaveR 10 years, 10 months ago

Efficiency in the manufacture & sale of goods is the natural goal of the manufacturer.

But it's not the overall goal of the society he lives in. The overall social goal is the largest number of happy people with the least effort. If the government in charge also wants to be rich & do Big Important Things, then it's important the largest number of happy people are also reasonably well-off. Subsistence farmers pay no tax. Subsistence mom & pop enterprises, such as mine, pay very little tax, which can be a problem, but I digress.

Happy people are sleepy people & such sleepy people are glad to pay reasonable amounts to keep things going. On the other hand, unhappy people can cause lots of problems. At the moment, America is full of unhappy people.

Unhappy people result when things are seriously out of whack. Giving them a fancy new big box store will make the owners of the big box store happy for a long time, but will make everyone else happy only for a day, maybe two.

The solution is, of course, better government. We supposedly elect our leaders, and while we can argue about what good that's done us, it remains true that we do not elect the leaders of Wal Mart, and never will.

Government, like any creative activity, is about trade-offs. Trade-offs are about balance. Things must be kept in balance or collapse eventually results.

So if Wal Mart gets a big shiny new store, what does Lawrence get? How about a big Wal Mart subsidy for the T? Why not ask them to subsidize two new routes: One from the new Wal Mart to 9th & Mass, the other from the new Wal Mart to the old Wal Mart? Why the heck not?

Jamesaust 10 years, 10 months ago

"you agree that wal-mart does hurt local businesses, and reduces local jobs"

W-M hurts local retail businesses directly and reduces local retail jobs. However, you also will need to add back in the value of reduced expenses to local consumers. If I shop at W-M (I do not, in fact) and save $10 and then in turn spend that $10 at, say, Free State Brewery (assuming I wasn't going there anyway) then in fact zero TOTAL jobs have been lost (assuming food service and retail employee labor at equivalent efficiency) and TOTAL local business might under some scenarios improve (some businesses focus on price and others on service or selection, with the sum of each specialization greater than what the alternative would be if all retailers offered a standard mix of these factors - this is a fundamental economic principle).

One personal example: long, long ago, I wandered into a local hardware/sporting goods shop to buy a baseball. It was one of the very few places where such goods were to be found. They kept baseballs in a large bin with little price stickers on them. Those "in the know" knew that if you dug below the top layer of baseballs and found a lower one, it was older and had never been re-priced, and a bargain could be had. All great, I suppose, but not exactly inventory management. I'm quite positive that the store had to raise its prices in general to make up for the lost value seeping out from mispriced inventory. They just didn't have the time to specialize nor the competitive mandate to focus on that issue.

Jamesaust 10 years, 10 months ago

"Efficiency in the manufacture & sale of goods is the natural goal of the manufacturer. But it's not the overall goal of the society he lives in."

Efficiency in the manufacture, growth, distribution, and sale of goods is the natural goal of the manufacturers, growers, distributors, and sellers of those goods.

Efficiency in the purchase of those goods are in the interest of consumers.

All persons are contained within the set of manufacturers, growers, distributors, sellers, and consumers (invariably being double or even triple-counted). Ipso facto, efficiency is the overall goal of society. Period.

And luckily so, because efficiency is what economists call "productivity." And productivity is the SOLE MECHANISM that allows employees to be paid more wages by their employers that is not a zero-sum equation (the employee gets more only by making the employer get less or visa versa).

conservative 10 years, 10 months ago

Bozo, you forgot to factor in the 4 miles you drive around downtown looking for a parking spot. :P

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 10 months ago

You're right, tolawdjk... hardly anything is made locally anymore... and hardly anything is made in this country anymore... and Wal-Mart's demands for lower and lower prices from their venders has a lot to do with the fact that nearly nothing is made in this country anymore.

Like I said... Wal-Mart is great for the economy of China.

I know some people think that it's just fine and dandy that we make less and less and less things for ourselves in this country all the time, but I just get this cold chill when my common sense tells me that at some point this will end up being a horrible, horrible mistake.

I hope I'm wrong... but I just can't imagine how I could be.

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 10 months ago

I guess I really shouldn't say that things will end up being horrible... The most likely long-term effect will be that more and more Americans' standard of living will be lowered to that of the current average standard of living in China.

That may actually not be such a bad thing.

nettieb 10 years, 10 months ago

This may sound like a dumb question, but I'm really curious as to the responses:

Would there be as much of a fight if Target, Macy's or Dillards wanted to build there? Is Wal-Mart the cause du jour or is it just a "keeping the riff-raff out of West Lawrence"?

Emily Hadley 10 years, 10 months ago

Why would we need a new hardware store to have opened in the last five years? Ernst Hardware has been a hardware store downtown for OVER 100 YEARS. I purchased my stove-top espresso maker, my electric skillet, my cast-iron pans, my knives, my grill, doorknobs, locks, screws, nails, hooks, camping supplies, hammers, saws, drill bits, you name it-- I buy almost everything I need there. I go to Cottin's for other stuff (like big bags of charcoal and economy packs of compact fluorescent bulbs) that Ernst doesn't sell. The rest of my kitchen wares--nuke-proof spatulas, measuring cups, kitchen timers, chopsticks, my beloved Duralex glasses-- come from the Bay Leaf, and both places sell high-quality stuff, at a good and fair price, that truly lasts forever. (And I can easily walk or bike to all three!)

It is well worth it to shop somewhere when the individuals in the store have personally chosen their products according to high quality standards. I have shopped at these stores as long as I can remember, have special ordered things from catalog at all three, always have good service, and have never returned anything--who can say that about big discount store crap? Definitely not me! They figure a large portion of broken and defective crap into their numbers, before you ever get it home and realize what broken, defective crap it is.


I don't think we need any new hardware stores to meet demand. If you can't remember the last time you went into Ernst Hardware, you should definitely wander the aisles and refresh your memory! I am always surprised by something I find in there!

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

Journal-World does it again!

Crafts a headline omitting the word Wal-Mart - for a piece about Wal-Mart, and negative.

Shameful bias. Joke of a newspaper.

tolawdjk 10 years, 10 months ago

As expected, you missed the point entirely emily.

The statement of the original letter was "Why don't we support better development of local people and projects instead?"

If a store, like Ernst" has been around for 100 years, I think we can safely argue that it doesn't need support for better development. It has taken the hits from the big boxes and survived admirably. The writer seems to imply that there are a gaggle of new stores just begging to open if not for "#2" and if we would just give them our support, they would flurish. The example of "hardware" store was not to state a need, but as an example of a category of product that "#2" would sell that could be potentially in competition of one of the stores needing our support. In addition, even if one of those stores were to open with our support, it wouldn't be truely "local" because 80+% of its products would have to be imported from overseas as no one makes anything in Lawrence to sell in the first place!

Scratch that. Hallmark makes cards here. You can buy a local card to express your condolences to a friend that you are sorry they are broke because they can't get a decent job in town.

And its great that you enjoy those places and frequent them. Personally, I've never liked the Bay Leaf and Ernst is too much of a pain to get to when I have time, but that's not germaine to the discussion.

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

nettieb (Anonymous) says: This may sound like a dumb question, but I'm really curious as to the responses: Would there be as much of a fight if Target, Macy's or Dillards wanted to build there?

Almost. Wrong kind of store for that corner, prohibited by current zoning, too much traffic (though not as much traffic as Wal-Mart).

Macy's or Dillards would at least expand choices and keep and attract dollars in Lawrence.

Target lacks Wal-Mart suckiness but is still a #2, would not keep dollars here.

But all 3 are wrong per zoning.

Wal-Mart sucks, as a subject, is a separate but related discussion.

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

Local retailers cannot do much to control where goods are manufactured, except to preferentially stock made in America items when there is a choice. The problem is, there is hardly any choice in that matter and Wal-Mart and companies like it are very much at fault for driving all the manufacturing overseas.

It is still of value to a community to buy from a retail store that is owned locally, regardles of where the goods are manufactured. The arguments above, that nothing else is of value because the goods are made elsewhere, are not even arguments.

I'd like to see a trend to label more clearly where items are manufactured. The Merc, which is the brunt of much ridicule in these forums, labels many items with the distance from Lawrence where they were produced.

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

Does anyone think that a retailer might shy away from opening a store here because we have a Wal-Mart and similar stores?

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

Very few local retailers are as efficient as large corporate ones and economies of scale reduce their costs even more. Generally they can pay more money for the land, pay more in real estate taxes, pay better wages, offer more benefits, and sell at lower prices than local retailers.

Name one product made in China and sold in Walmart that isn't sold elsewhere under the same or different brand name. I bet that "Made in China" is stamped on many components in the network and on the computer you are reading this with.

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

Defender: You do get what you pay for. Sometimes the disadvantage of buying cheap-cheap is hidden, like your health is poorly supported by what you are eating, or Wal-Mart employees are disproportionately on food stamps and Medicaid, or your screwdriver is going to break in six months. But you do get what you pay for. There is no free lunch. Believe it.

At my house, we have pledged to buy more carefully and thoughtfully, looking at quality and also what our dollars support. To compensate, we consume less. It is so very easy! Think twice about what you buy, most likely half of it you don't really need. Certainly most of us eat too much. Trade those bags of over-processed food in for something real that will nourish you, and it will likely cost no more.

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

Sigmund: This phrase from a film I just saw struck me as extremely relevant.

With increased efficiency, you lose diversity.

With increased efficiency, you lose diversity.

With increased efficiency, you lose diversity.

Think about the implications of that. Especially in this context, where diversity equates to competition.

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

Sigmund: Why do you think Sam Walton thought it was important enough to buy goods made in America that he made "made in America" a centerpiece of the Wal-Mart brand? What was he thinking?

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

"Where exactly is the local community plastics plant?"--tolawdkj

It's called Packer Plastics and it's out by the Holidome and the National Guard Armory.

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

"Made in America" is a GREAT advertising slogan and even better political rhetoric, but what it isn't is good economics. As most American's are ignorant of economics they fall for those types of emotional appeals and succumb to buying inferior goods at higher prices only because they are "Made in America." Worse they vote for politicians on the left and the right that spew this highly emotionally charged xenophobic and racist rhetorical nonsense.

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

Nonsense EmJones. Buy Walmart stock and those profits come back to Lawrence. In fact with all the Government employees in Lawrence and given their savings that are in KPERS already, I would bet a substantial amount Walmart's profits (like all publicly traded corporations ) come to Lawrence.

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if Hallmark Cards or Packer Plastics sell any items through Wally World???

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

Sigmund: So Sam Walton was, or was not, good at economics?

Odd how the book about Sam Walton, written by Sam Walton, is titled "Made in America." http://www.amazon.com/Sam-Walton-Made-America/dp/0553562835

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

The notion that any meaningful amount of money comes back to Lawrence in the form of the value of Wal-Mart stock is ridiculous. Maybe one zillionth as much money benefits Lawrencians that way, as opposed to all the profit from a business going to people who live in Lawrence and then spending it all here. Getting ridiculouser and ridiculouser by the minute.

packrat 10 years, 10 months ago

I may take the time to read the report, but I wonder if it mentions the salary of the lost jobs. When I worked downtown 25 years ago, I made minimum wage. I think it was $4.25 / hour. After 6 months, I finally managed to get a job a K-Mart and made $5.75. I would like to see an academic study comparing the wages downtown to the box stores.

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

packrat: I know a college couple. She works at a local sandwich shop for $7 an hour. He works at Wal-Mart for $7 an hour.

Maybe the Journal-World could run an online anonymous survey, kind of like a poll, and people could say what they earn. It would be interesting.

packrat 10 years, 10 months ago

blackwalnut: I like you idea, even though it wouldn't be scientific. Do you know if either of your friends has access to health insurance through work?

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

Sam Walton will be known as a great retailer, but not a great economist. Retailer and economist are not one in the same. It is a myth that public corporations do not contribute to the local economies. Beyond the simplistic "employees and managers who live in the area receive paychecks (often in excess of what smaller local companies offer) which they spend locally and pay sales taxes on," many local individuals own stock in these companies either outright or in mutual funds in their investment or retirement accounts. I dare say with all the State of Kansas Employees in Lawrence, the KPERS investment in Walmart alone would swamp any benefit Los Merc provides to the community by being "locally owned." Then add the differences in property taxes paid and Le Merc is hardly a blip on the economic radar.

On a slightly deeper level, money invested in local Banks and Credit Unions do not get loaned exclusively locally. These institutions like to spread their loan risk as broadly as possible. They do not put all their loan eggs in one local basket, they geographically diversify. Money deposited here gets loaned all over the country. Likewise, all the money Walmart puts in Arkansas banks, for instance, gets loaned out nationwide as well, including Lawrence.

Even further, anytime anyone of you buys any item not locally manufactured, part of those dollars effectively "flows out" of Lawrence; cars, CDs', coffee, cigarettes, cannabis, computers. Virtually everything you buy. It is the reason "Boog dollars" were such a bust. Economies are bigger and much more complex than your little college town and your Neo-Kom self important Planning Kommission professors and your urban planning socialist Traffic Safety Kommissioner.

I prefer local or regional Credit Unions to National Banks because the depositors are the stockholders (at least in some sense) and they tend to offer lower fees, pay higher interest, and service their loans locally. But the loan paper itself gets consolidated into large portfolios and are floated into very large debt markets where they are often bought and sold many times during their life, sometimes even by people in Lawrence.

This week the City of Lawrence is going to offer nationwide a Water and Sewer Bond to finance those improvements. There is no way Lawrence taxpayers would get the lowest possible interest rate on those bonds if they only offered them only locally! Trying to keep money from flowing out of Lawrence will keep money from flowing into Lawrence and Lawrence will be the loser.

If it makes you feel good to buy locally then by all means do it. Just realize it is only a feeling with no economic reality behind it.

packrat 10 years, 10 months ago

My Ford was actually made in Canada. My brother's Honda was made in Tennessee. Sometimes it is difficult to tell what is made in America.

blackwalnut 10 years, 10 months ago

What part of this is hard to understand?

Spend $100 at a local business. Sales tax is generated for Lawrence. All the net profit enriches someone in Lawrence. That newly enriched person spends the money again, it enriches a local person again and sales tax is generated for Lawrence on that same money again. Repeat endlessly. Can you see the benefit in sales tax revenue alone?

Spend $100 at Wal-Mart. Sales tax is generated for the city. Profit goes to Bentonville. Lawrence never sees another purchase with that money, and not a penny of sales tax for Lawrence is ever generated off that money ever again. Waltons' $20 billion per heir wealth increases ever so slightly. They put they money into feathering their nuclear bomb proof compound in Arkansas, or saving up for yet another corporate jet.

Oh year, your Wal-Mart stock went up .000001.

packrat 10 years, 10 months ago

blackwalnut, You make the case too simple.

The first fallacy is that it will cost the same amount of money to purchase goods at a locally owned store as it does at Walmart. This is typically not the case.

The second fallacy is that the local store reinvests the "net profit" in another local business.

The third fallacy is that Walmart doesn't spend profit on local business.

The fourth fallacy is that Walmart profit directly increases the Walton fortune. Profit is reinvested in the company ( ie building new Walmarts, improving existing Walmarts) or to the stockholders.

The fifth fallacy is about absentee landlords for local businesses. How many local businesses actually own their land and buildings? If the landlord isn't local, the rent money flows right out of Lawrence.

All of these factors must be addressed before we can even begin to rationally discuss the true effect on the local economy.

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

What part of this is hard to understand, your scheme above goes completely flat after a dozen iterations without outside money flowing into this economy. People should seek the best prices on comparable goods that they can, regardless of local or national. Where did you learn your economics? Because I'm wondering if there is an economist, any economist, that believes what you do. You're just making this up as you go along, aren't you? If there is such an economist, please name them.

Oh I don't own Walmart stock (unless its in a pension plan or mutual fund) BUT any increase in price or dividends would be spread to all of the members of the largest group of employees in Lawrence, Government Employees, not just one person.

bisky1 10 years, 10 months ago

bozo, i've forgotten how to do simple math and my calculator won't do 95 billion, but did i understand you to say 3 1/2 times 75 million equals 94 billion? based on this wisdom i now believe no new walmart store should ever be allowed to open until the only car people are allowed to drive is a prius

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago

All those arguments above about how it's useless to buy local fail to explain this:

All over America are towns whose economy has been destroyed after a Wal-Mart moved in and put everything else out of business.

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

"Stuckinthemiddle said:

I hope I'm wrong: but I just can't imagine how I could be."

Well, one possibility is that of comparative advantage. The advantage that the low cost countries have in producing non-sophisticated goods, really the only advantage, is their low wage rate. It's pretty simple, really. If an American laborer is expected to earn 15 an hour to make shoes, while the average Vietnamese laborer is expected to earn 1, then the American laborer should have to justify this significant mark-up by being proportionally more productive. If he or she is not, then they have an artificially high wage rate in the first place. To put it another way, you don't deserve to be paid $15 dollars an hour to do such an unskilled job. Off-shoring those jobs to other countries frees up resources that, in the long-run, can be used to further our own economy in different ways than artificially high unskilled labor rates, in research and development of products that raise the overall standard of living for everybody, and hopefully has enough in there to allow for some of those laborers who lost their jobs to foreign competition to retrain and enter the workforce in a manner that is more productive to the national whole. At the same time, the other country has a basis with which to build industry, making their own economies more efficient, productive, and ultimately raising their own standard of living. I'm sure that comes as cold comfort to the seamstress or assembly line worker staring down joblessness, but in terms of total utility it's largely a win-win. Really, in addition, as countries become more and more economically entertwined, there is the possiblity that large scale conflicts will shrink in frequency, as no one wants to rock the boat and upset themselves, as we'd all be riding, more or less, on the same boat. Surely, we're a long ways away from that, but it's a better alternative than the proven destruction that protectionist and isolationist policies bring upon countries and their economies.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 10 months ago

Parking spots are available all over downtown. Maybe not in front of your point of destination.

Sometimes consumers may need to walk a half a block or more just like at a shopping center.

If I drive the closest parking within 3 blocks works therefore no time or gas is wasted searching for that elusive parking spot. Besides walking is good for the body. A national news magazine described how a once physically active person who became an employed 9-5 person managed to get exercise. Parking far away from the destination and using stairs instead of an elevator were two means used to burn those calories.

Walking,Biking or using the T virtually eliminate the parking hassle.

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago


Your thoughts are interesting. I hope the outcome is as happy as you describe. There are some potential complications, though.

NPR just this week aired a piece about how wages are rising in the new manufacturing countries like China, which will make the cost of these goods higher, which will in turn put upward pressure on labor rates in the U.S. It seems to me that in the end we will end up the the same priced goods as before, with labor rates all over the world being higher than they are now, with one difference for Americans: the jobs to make the goods are all gone. How will all Americans be able to afford the goods that are now as expensive as before?

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

coneflower: That's a possibility. Coldly, I can only say that there is never an action without positives negatives, winners and losers. The simply answer to the Chinese wage rate is simple, send the jobs somewhere else. Vietnam, India, and others that I can't think of at this particular moment all still allow for cheaper production than China. In reality, though, China gets a large amount of credit that really belongs to what is being called Factory Asia. The reason it gets the credit is that it is the last line, producing final products, in a chain than includes most of the ASEAN plus countries (most of SE Asia with Japan, China and potentially India). The brute production, and unskilled parts of the production process are generally now being started in the lower wage countries such as vietnam, where the wage rates are still cheap enough to allow for low cost.

The middle east, perhaps, in a decade or so, will perhaps allow for a new place to start. Particularly in the plastics industry, which bases most of its raw material on processed petroluem. By such admittedly rosy economic theory as above, perhaps that would allow the region to escape it resource curse (raw oil shipping only benefits the ones that control it, whereas a more developed industry or two would spread the wealth around a little) and allow for a more stable environment, that could potentially produce less dangerous lunatics willing to fly planes into buildings while they are on board. But its all up to chance, in the end. Still, its got to be better than the alternative. Ask China about how its 30 years worth of protectionist closed door policies benefited itself, in the end. (Mixed in with rediculous authoritarian controls, of course, that still persist)

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago


We could end up with thriving democracies everywhere, with enough good-paying jobs for everyone for a decent standard of living, only where the healthy competition exists on a global level instead of a national level and living standards are equal all over the world.

The other way it could go is that there could be a bunch of new feudal societies or exaggerations of existing ones. America is already going that way, with the neocons in charge making the rich richer and the middle class poorer, and all the consolidation among corporations (Kraft, the media, energy) and the virtual monopolies (Wal-Mart) taking opportunity away from everyman. The people in charge here want to exploit workers. Witness the attitudes about illegal workers - the last thing they want is to lose this cheap labor. It's an established fact in economics (even described in The Wealth of Nationa hundreds of years ago) that capitalism, completely unchecked, naturally evolves into feudalism. That's why a decent society has anti-trust laws and applies just barely enough control - adds enough regulations and applies enough socialism (e.g. progressive taxes) - to maintain the opportunity for a decent working life for everyone. America is evolving toward feudalism (losing our middle class). I'm not hopeful that the rest of the world will do any better, especially with the example America is setting and the influence that America exerts, and I have no faith that the economic powers in America care one bit about whether they help make feudal societies abroad.

Just my thoughts, and I'm no economist.

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago


Your points about the shortcomings of big box stores are excellent.

I would like to add that big box stores are ugly, ugly, ugly. They are eyesores in a community. Towns across America are growing uglier by the day because of big box stores. America was more beautiful before the concept of big box stores was born, and America would do well to be rid of them.

I love going downtown. I hate going to South Iowa and avoid it at all costs. Now they're making the big ugly at 6th and Wakarusa, which is ugly enough already, and they think we'll be fooled with extra piles of big rocks and tall grass that catches the plastic bags, or something. Ugh. At least half of Lawrence is still beautiful - and will remain so until so many little stores close that downtown deteriorates, too. Doug Compton has already made an ugly abandoned eyesore out of the Masonic Temple with his crappy rotting plywood face.

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm not an economist either, at least not yet. Wait until I get my doctorate, and we can see how things are then. All things considered, though, your thoughts are highly accurate, in my view. By no means do I wish to be perceived as advocating a totally free market, as such a system does not accurately reflect, recognize, or deal with a great number of external factors, such as environmental, social etc. Sadly, I can't give a reasonable and workable answer to your criticisms. Hell, if I did, I'd probably get a Nobel prize in my near future. The only real answer I see is to allow for rational people to function in a workable economy, and allow more rational people to govern said economy in appropriate ways to negate the negative factors that are bound to occur.

Of course, that's the rub, isn't it. And, in the end, economics, social sciences and hard sciences don't have an answer to that. We'll just have to wait and see, while remaining vigilant towards to moment and the opportunites, and the hardships, that are presented on a daily basis. But I'm something of an optimist when it comes to our ability to navigate and negotiate issues such as that.

At least in the long term. In the short term, I would think that the last few years in our country's history have shown that it can be something of a mess.

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago


I just would like to say that it is SO NICE to read your thoughtful, rational, civilized and intelligent posts in here. It's such a change of pace - sadly.

I just don't have a very optimistic view because I think selfish people are in charge of America - people who are not working for the good of all but for the good of a very few. I wish it were not so clearly true, and I hope it can be brought to an end, but I think it's too far gone, and people (Fox News viewers) will not wake up until their job is in the toilet (and then they'll believe Fox when it is blamed on immigration). Apologies for the rant but I needed that.

erod0723 10 years, 10 months ago

Outsourcing is the price to be paid for Capitalism. Capitalism always follows the path of least resistance, aka the cheapest alternative. I'm not saying I am in favor of outsourcing, but look at what it has done to Asian governments, who as little as 40 years ago were mired in extreme poverty. Outsourcing has changed the landscape of China from a strict Communist state to one that is very Capitalist in its business dealings. The pay the workers in Chinese industry make may not be a lot to our standards, but it allows these individuals to receive enough money to live on, and also many of the companies provide housing, food, and healthcare. The US is the richest country in the world, and maybe, just maybe it is time to spread the wealth to more impoverished nations. Time will be the ultimate judge on the impact that outsourcing has had on the global economy.

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

The new Wal-Mart store can offer goods to the citizens of Lawrence for the lowest possible prices because they are the most efficient. Wal-Mart, being the largest grocer, in the world will force Les Merc and every other grocer to become more efficient and lower their prices, just to stay in business. Not only will Wal-Mart shoppers be saving money, but so will every other person in Lawrence who buys groceries.

Wal-Mart will then pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes that we can use to pay $1,400,000 in corporate welfare to MV Transportation to remain inefficient and run empty buses mile-after-mile, day-after-day, burning gallon-after-gallon diesel. Isn't capitalism wonderful? It provides lower costs of groceries to all of Lawrence and pays real estate taxes to the City of Lawrence so merrill can then waste the money polluting our air!

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

coneflower: Rant away.

And down with Fox! I saw the thing on Scooter Libby a few days ago and it angered me so much to watch ("How can he be guilty when no greater charges were filed?" Duh, because they aren't going to file charges against the presidents cabinet because of frickin' politics and it ain't fair!) that I had to turn it off after a minute or two.

I, too, appreciate a rational discussion sans rediculous unprovable talking points. Sadly, such are few and far between, due to the relative ease of coughing up crap seen on punditry hour on one of the major networks versus actually taking the time to think about and defend a position. At any rate, I appreciate the compliment, and send one back your way, as well.

bisky1 10 years, 10 months ago

remember jonas there was no crime committed, i think scooter was convicted of being republican

Crossfire 10 years, 10 months ago

I like Dave's idea at1(4 June 2007 at 7:41 a.m) Take an entire city block, a large one. Ring the outside with downtown-type shops, three or four floors high. Ring the inside with townhouses, with the fronts facing the inside, which will be a common park. Put a two-story parking garage underneath it.

Result: small shops on the ground level, offices (and perhaps light manufacturing) above them, population to serve as both employees & customers embedded throughout. Build a dozen of these, and,

Car use declines. Gas consumption declines. Crime declines. Small shops are favored over large.

Crossfire 10 years, 10 months ago

What the "H" does Scooter Libby have tio do with Wal-mart? Is he looking for a new career as a Wally World stocker.

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

bisky: Missed it, so a little late, sorry.

A CIA agent was outed on national television. If you have some way to play that to where no crime was committed, then by all means illuminate me. It is possible that I am mistaken, as always.

Now, just for clarification, did you post this on the wrong thread? I only ask because there is another thread on which this is being discussed.

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

. . . this thread may briefly gain relevance again.

(crapspackle! The problem with being on the other side of the world is that you people are asleep while I'm up and bored!)

bisky1 10 years, 10 months ago

jonas, it is a crime to out a covert agent which appears to not be the case because she was not covert, and judging by your comments i assume you do not know who first "outed" ms plame

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