Long Live Walmart Debate introduction by Robert Rosenkranz
Few American businesses are as polarizing to the nation’s people as Walmart, which many believe is pushing out smaller businesses and dominating the marketplace while paying its workers low wages and relying on cheaply made foreign goods, as opposed to those manufactured on American soil. With the brick-and-mortar retail industry in its entirety now facing diminishing sales as Americans increasingly shop and spend online, however, some believe Walmart provides critical job opportunities to low-skilled workers while encouraging commerce and growth in rural or under-served areas.
So, would a long, successful future for Walmart benefit America most, or would the nation gain a larger advantage if the big-box chain’s popularity and presence in the United States were to subside?
Yes, Walmart’s presence in the marketplace is a benefit to the American people.
Arguing in favor of the motion that Walmart’s presence and success in the marketplace is a benefit to the American people are John Tierney, a contributing editor of the City Journal, and Richard K. Vedder, an economist and the author of “The Wal-Mart Revolution.”
Arguments Made in Favor of the Motion
Those in support of Walmart “living long and prospering” noted its employment of the nation’s low-skilled workers, who may not otherwise find ways to make a living. They also referenced the big-box retailer’s widening efforts to uphold sustainable business practices by relying on renewable energy and supporting responsible production methods, identifying the company as a leader in national sustainability efforts.
Supporters also referenced how Walmart has shown its ability to revolutionize rural and under-served areas by drawing customers to new areas where they are then likely to spend on other small businesses, such as restaurants and other mom-and-pop retailers. They also argued that Walmart’s low prices allow lower-income Americans to afford life’s necessities while freeing up more of their hard-earned money for things that improve their overall quality of life.
No, Walmart’s presence in the marketplace is not a benefit to the American people.
Arguing against the motion that Walmart’s presence in the American marketplace is beneficial to its people are Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of “The Retail Revolution,” and Amy Traub, the associate director of policy and research at Demos.
Arguments Made Against the Motion
Those opposed to Walmart’s continued presence in the American marketplace refuted the argument that Walmart offers opportunities to lower-skilled workers by arguing that, instead of giving them opportunities, the retailer is taking advantage of them. They argued that Walmart employs people who may not otherwise find jobs, and then provides them with minimal training, pay, benefits and so on because the retailer knows they would be hard-pressed to find employment elsewhere.
Opponents also considered Walmart the epitome of corporate greed, referencing the astronomical salaries of its executives and comparing them with the low pay given to its workers. Furthermore, opponents noted, the low prices of goods on Walmart shelves force smaller retailers to also reduce prices, which in turn causes many small businesses to “go broke” and ultimately shutter. Finally, by selling cheaply produced products, they argued, Walmart is hurting the environment, because these products do not last and many ultimately make their way to landfills, forcing Americans to buy more.
Pre-Debate Poll Results
Prior to the debate, 30 percent of audience members were in favor of the motion that Walmart should live long and prosper, while 25 percent were against it and 45 percent were undecided.
Post-Debate Poll Results
After the debate, 48 percent of audience members were in favor of the motion that Walmart should live long and prosper, while 38 percent were against it and 14 percent were undecided.