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Thank You, Wal-Mart, For A Cheap Christmas

Posted: 11/09/08 05:04 PM ET

"Operation Main Street" Just Another PR Hoax

By Al Norman

The headline on Wal-Mart's press release this week simply makes no sense: "Wal-Mart Backs Main Street."

After having ravaged Main Street merchants for the past 46 years, how could Wal-Mart "back" Main Street by any stretch of the imagination?

It turns out that Wal-Mart's promise is not to Main Street---but to "thousands of rollbacks...targeting the needs of American families and communities." Wal-Mart has vowed "to lead on delivering a Christmas that costs less."

Wal-Mart's PR team thought that helping "Main Street" sounded good--even though businesses on Main Street will tell you that Wal-Mart is the Grinch who stole their Christmas. This October alone, 38,000 jobs were lost in the retail sector. Those bells you hear ringing are definitely not coming from Main Street cash registers.

As part of Operation Main Street, Wal-Mart is cutting prices for the next seven weeks, with a particular focus "on the prices of items families want and need most." Wal-Mart says that shoppers will be "amazed" at the depth of their price cuts on such essential items as: Betty Crocker potatoes; a General Electric 14 speed blender; and the board game Battleship. Most American families need Battleship, and it's hard to imagine what life on Main Street is like without the Littlest Pet Shop Play Pack.

A cheap Christmas is perfectly timed for those "Wal-Mart Moms," many of whom must have voted last week for Obama. The New York Times magazine described these white woman as "slightly older and more downscale...more culturally conservative and more attuned to economics--who look most like the pivotal swing-voting bloc in 2008." If Wal-Mart Moms were supposed to pivot the election to McCain---they blew it! What has been pivotal for many of these Wal-Mart Moms is that their husbands have lost work, and the Moms themselves have had their hours cut back. Wal-Mart cannot help these families with their mortgage costs, or with their hospital and doctor bills---but the retailer is bringing down the cost of Betty Crocker potatoes.

Many Wal-Mart shoppers are working less, thanks, in part, to Wal-Mart's lack of appetite for American products, and a relentless pursuit of cheap labor in Third World sweatshops. We'll celebrate a cheap Christmas by default this year, as the American economy sours, and families cut back on their presents. If Wal-Mart were willing to be brutally honest, their Main Street press release would proclaim: "Our price rollbacks have led to American job rollbacks."

Wal-Mart's aim is to cut the cost of Christmas with "deeper values" for customers. But what Americans deeply value is a steady job at a decent wage--and those are hard to find at Wal-Mart, the nation's largest employer. GM may be laying off hundreds of workers and running out of cash, but Wal-Mart is doing its part for transportation by taking $10 off the Power Wheels Barbie Princess Lil Quad Ride-On.

So thank you, Wal-Mart, for bringing us a cheap Christmas. As America's manufacturing base hemorrhages to China, Thailand, and Vietnam, and Wall Street implodes, it's comforting to know that we can still get an 8" Home Decor Digital Picture Frame with iPod-Ready Input for only $99.

Wal-Mart, we thank you from the bottom of our Main Streets.

Al Norman is the founder of Sprawl-Busters, and the author of The Case Against Wal-Mart. His website site is http://www.sprawl-busters.com