You are hereTruthout: Wal-Mart's Washington Shock Doctrine

Truthout: Wal-Mart's Washington Shock Doctrine

April 1, 2011- Washington, DC, is a city often maligned as a corrupt cesspool synonymous with horse-trading, dishonesty and subterfuge. But those of us who hail from DC know that the city itself has a certain something to it, despite that famous John F. Kennedy (JFK) quote about it being of "northern charm and southern efficiency." And Washingtonians are proud of the quainter aspects of their burg, which, if tourists are interested, are actually there for them to see, should they dare venture beyond inner-Babylon and the outer perimeter of the Smithsonian crawl. Sure, malfeasance on the local level and a rough modern history (thanks for the crack, Ronny. Have an airport) might make JFK's nugget of wisdom more poignant than the late president ever could have imagined .

But due to time healing the racial wounds and criminal scars of yesteryear; the positive effect of Roe v. Wade on crime rates (if you're inclined to believe theFreakonomists); rising gas prices (which have made walking cities more attractive) and government subsidization of investment in revitalization and development (Sorry, Thomas Friedman ... but city life has thrived in spite of, not because of outsourcing/financialization), inner cities in America are undergoing something of a renaissance and Washington, DC, is right up there with the best of them. While DC still has its share of concerns - poverty, crime, an HIV rate worse than much of sub-Saharan Africa - our fair city can now boast of vibrant diverse neighborhoods and a budding economy that would make the Brooklyn hipster mujaheddin weep blood in a jealous rage. We're gonna make it after all.

Or are we?

A contributing factor to the solidity of our robust local economy, no doubt, is the absence of most big-box retailers like Wal-Mart. Beyond the ruinous effects of Wal-Mart on a macroeconomic level - the outsourcing, the wage depression, the upstream bullying - study after study has shown that Wal-Marts depress wages and eviscerate jobs in and near communities they latch onto. So, while it helps DC to have the federal government as the region's biggest employer (but only so much as many federal employees retreat to Virginia and Maryland and don't pay income tax in DC), our city, without a doubt, has been blessed by a lack of Wal-Marts. Despite a multitude of failed efforts by the darlings of the Chinese Communist Party to get their filthy meat hooks into DC, only to be repelled by citizens' movements, the only traces of the parasitic retailer in the city proper is its crack team of reptilian lobbyists near its minions on Capitol Hill.

But if the world's largest corporation's machinations come to fruition, Wal-Mart may have its long sought stranglehold on DC, after all. Recently, the company announced its plans to open four(!) stores in our nation's capital. If Washingtonians don't come out against this, much of the progress our city has made since the post-Martin Luther King Jr. assassination riots and the days of crack cocaine could be reversed. All it takes is for some unfortunate event to spark a series of missteps and, before you know it, we're back in 1986, when anyone who could afford it ran like hell to the suburbs or anywhere west of Rock Creek Park. And if a certain rapacious retailer has its way, DC might find that event at its doorstep.

But considering DC politicians' penchant for scandals, it is unsurprising to find power players within the DC political establishment who think that the city should sell out to Sprawlmart. Having decided that the impending freeze of federal workplace pay won't be sufficiently hard on DCingtons, local politicians, it appears, are willing to lie prone and allow a multinational known for its scorched-earth policies to usher in a new era of institutionalized poverty in Washington. At least the British left after torching DC in 1814; Wal-Mart has every intention of staying as long as there is blood to be squeezed, like any good slash-and-burn rent seeker. How did this happen?"



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