Friday, June 27, 2008

Quick Thoughts on Furman's 'Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story'

Just read Jason Furman's laughable paper on Wall-Mart "Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story." Early on he writes "A Harvard applicant has a higher chance of being accepted than a person applying for a job at that Wal-Mart," as anecdotal support as to why he feels Wall-Mart jobs are great "opportunities." Talk about strained analogies!

In sections where he cites studies on Wall-Mart's economic impacts, Furman liberally quotes findings supporting his conclusions, but immediately cites inconclusiveness whenever the studies differ from his thesis.

Later, when discussing rates of exploitation various companies have in comparison, he writes:

"If Microsoft paid each of its employees an additional $5,000 or expanded its health benefits, its profits would be largely unchanged. If Wal-Mart took the same step -- and did not pass the cost on to consumers -- it would be virtually wiped out."

This assumes the only option Wall-Mart would have was Furman's arbitrary choice of $5,000! A figure lower than that seems inconceivable to Furman, who earlier in the same section of his paper speaks of "Wal-Mart's mind-boggling $10 billion in profits." Somehow there is no room for wage increases or better benefits. Nope, it's an all or nothing proposition for neo-liberal proponents.

While the paper as a whole glosses over any information contrary to his conclusions, the best part is when he addresses Wal-Mart's notoriously rampant sexual discrimination and other lawbreaking:

"Finally, Wal-Mart should obey labor laws that bar gender discrimination, unpaid overtime and environmental laws like the Clean Air Act."

For free market champions like Furman, these are legal issues unrelated to economic questions entirely. Never-mind that gender based pay gaps and unpaid overtime are economic issues by their very nature.

Furman's rosy conclusion that Wal-Mart is in fact a progressive force in society is closely tied to his wholesale apologetics for Clinton era social welfare slashing. Throughout his piece Furman refers to the gutting of the social safety net under the Clinton presidency as "making work pay." What this odd phrasing really means is making workers pay. With Barack Obama's recent appointment of Jason Furman as top economic advisor, one worries what a possible Obama administration holds in store for workers.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Parker dunks in Sparks’ win over Fever