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14 November 2005

"Come work at Wal-mart: it's much better than getting kicked in the nuts..."

We took in a free showing of Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price at our local theater; the audience were treated to a provocative documentary that presented the controversial thesis that Wal-Mart sucks.

First, the bad. The music's mixed too high, the interviewees are mixed too low, I'm not a big fan of the whole "the government's subsidies to WM could buy 10,000 teachers" use of statistics (yeah, it's true, but Wal-Mart's not the reason education is underfunded in this country), and the movie as a whole is about as subtle as a flock of ostriches spraying diarrhea in your face.

What the movie does do is an excellent job defining why precisely Wal-Mart sucks. We all know it squeezes out small businesses and ruins lives, but the movie showed the families (no liberals, they) who believed in the American Dream, did all the hard work and played by the rules and still got screwed. We all know Wal-Mart treats workers like sh*t, but the scale of the deception, the billions of dollars made by bilking workers out of 15 minutes of overtime a day, the refusal to make the tiniest concession for health care or pensions, is simply astonishing. And the exposure of a China sweatshop where Wal-Mart products are made is stomach-churning.

The movie very pointedly seems to seek out the opinions of hardline conservatives in order to defuse the knee-jerk Michael Moore critics; I'd like to think that the issues raised by this film (need for better health care, CEO excess, fair day's work=fair day's pay) will become a greater part of the national discourse as a result of this film's release.

And in the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I had made the decision to let our Sam's Club cards elapse in December a few weeks ago.

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