Feb
8

Stupidest Question Of The Day




Posted at 18:04 by Tintin

pollyanna_platt

Charles Platt asks the stupidest question of the day. No, it may even be the stupidest question ever asked (apart, perhaps, from “Et tu, Brute?”):

If Wal-Mart was such an exploiter of the working poor, why were the working poor so eager to be exploited?

Uh, I have no idea, Charles, you think maybe it might be, well, THIS?

60 Comments »

  1. Rusty Shackleford said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:10

    “Working poor”? I thought everybody who worked hard in America became rich.

  2. El Cid said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:15

    If Wal-Mart was such an exploiter of the working poor, why were the working poor so eager to be exploited?

    Who says the working poor were “eager” to be exploited? That seems an awfully large emotional assumption. Maybe they were lackadaisical, or lethargic, or entirely tepid about being exploited.

  3. Joe Max said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:21

    Wal-Mart sells false economy.

    I’m old enough to remember when a toaster cost the equivalent of, say, $40-50 adjusted for today’s prices. However, the toaster was built in the USA, it was built like a tank, it was expected to last for ten years or more, and if it malfunctioned, there were these other local businesses called “small appliance repair”, that would fix the toaster for another $10-20, adjusted.

    So a family would have to shell out a larger chunk of change up front for a toaster, but they bought ONE toaster, maybe two, in their lives.

    Now Wal-Mart sells cheap Chinese-made crap toasters for $10-15, they only last a year or two before breaking down, and they’re not worth fixing. So we just have to buy another one. Over a few decades, “the poor” (and everyone else) end up paying MORE to toast the family bread than when we made the “more expensive” American-built appliances and sold them to each other.

  4. N__B said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:27

    Because the stimulus bill doesn’t cap their salaries at $500,000, so they haven’t had their incentives to work destroyed the way the poor bankers have.

  5. mdh said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:29

    why were the working poor so eager to be exploited?

    The ones who work there, or the ones who shop there? That is the question.

  6. Gary Ruppert said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:30

    The fact is that Wal-Mart provides better benefits than the Unions. Wal-Mart effectively negates the reasons for Unions existing, and that’s why the Unions want to sink their fangs into Wal-Mart.

    There has not been a single business that has been Unionized and Improved. Unionization rots business. Ask GM and Ford.

    Oh yeah libs, how many jobs have been lost since the Pelosi/Reid junta took over Congress in 2007?

  7. Sarachim said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:31

    Nitpick: “Et tu, Brute?” is from the play. Platt, on the other hand, is all too real.

  8. Gary Ruppert said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:31

    O know when we in the heartland go job hunting, we’re always seeking that job with the lowest hourly wages, least benefits, fewest hours, and most demeaning working conditions.

    Fortunately for us, Wal-Mart offers all these, and more!

  9. Gary Ruppert said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:32

    “O”, or should I say “I”?

  10. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:40

    Just say “Owwww!”

  11. Jennifer said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:46

    …why were the working poor so eager to be exploited?

    Because not-starving is better than starving?

    Just a wild guess there.

  12. Prudence Goodwife said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:47

    Oh yeah libs, how many jobs have been lost since the Pelosi/Reid junta took over Congress in 2007?-

    Why stop at ’07 how many jobs have been lost since 1860 when the Lincoln/Republican junta took over congress?

  13. mark f said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:57

    Scott Johnson thought that question was “one of the many mysteries that Platt unravels in short order in the course of his excellent, good-humored report.”

    Somehow one doubts Power Line’s prissiest and most pretentious author has ever set foot in Wal-Mart. I suspect this passage more accurately sums up Johnson’s enamourdness:

    To my mind, the real scandal is not that a large corporation doesn’t pay people more. The scandal is that so many people have so little economic value. . . . So why would anyone expect them to be well paid?

    Nothing like a little confirmation bias to start your Sunday morning off right! We really are just plain better than those poor hoopleheads!

  14. PeeJ said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:00

    Ahhh, wingnut logic at work. Let’s see…is it cause then effect or effect then cause? I can never remember. Thankfully, there’s a place on the interwebs that helps me when this happens.

  15. tigrismus said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:02

    If Wal-Mart was such an exploiter of the working poor, why were the working poor so eager to be exploited?

    Because if there’s one thing the working poor are known for, it’s the vastness of thoroughly unrestricted, non-exploitative economic choices available to them.

  16. Brian said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:13

    But why are applicants per job at Walmart consistently higher than those of its retail competitors throughout the 80′s, 90′s and 2000′s, in both recessionary and non-recessionary years?

  17. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:24

    Brian said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:13

    But why are applicants per job at Walmart consistently higher than those of its retail competitors throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, in both recessionary and non-recessionary years?

    Advances in weed genetics.

  18. Righteous Bubba said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:27

    It would indeed be a shocker if Wal-Mart, in driving competitors out of all sorts of small towns through the last 30 years, did not get more applicants per job than its retail competitors.

  19. a right winger™³²®© said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:40

    Hmm, as a consumer of right wing propaganda product™, I simply string words together to make a nice salad.

    Take that, Lieberals! In your face!

  20. henry lewis said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:40

    Wal-Mart effectively negates the reasons for Unions existing…

    That’s one way of putting it. Walmart always deals with unions in good faith.

  21. PeeJ said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:41

    1. Why does Microsoft get more applicants per job than Dick & Jane’s software boutique?

    2. Location, location, location.

    3. People are stupid.

    4. People often act against their own best interests. (cf. GOP voters)

  22. mdh said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:44

    Oh my. I thought this was a link to his madness (same topic) at boingboing last week.

    [facepalm]

    I guess that was just a warm up.

  23. noen said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:47

    Charles Platt pulled this same stunt over at BoingBoing and had his ass handed to him.

    Life at Wal-Mart

    If you haven’t heard of Adam Shepard, this illustrates my point. His remarkable book Scratch Beginnings, now being promoted through http://www.scratchbeginnings.com, describes how he went through an experience far more gruelling than my brief flirtation with low-paying work. He placed himself in a homeless shelter with $25 in his pocket, found a job as a day laborer, then worked for a moving company, and after 10 months had a pickup truck, an apartment, and $2,500 in savings. His conclusion: People can still make it in the United States if they are willing to live carefully on a budget and work hard.

    Somehow that kind of news is never as popular as denunciations of the free market written by professional handwringers such as Barbara Ehrenreich.

    He is also a Climate Change denialist.

    Climatic Heresy: 1

    Human activity may indeed be affecting the climate, but after reading the calm, methodical statements by the “deniers,” I’m no longer willing to believe that anyone has a complete model of the complex, chaotic systems that determine global temperature, and I regret that the simplistic fear-metaphors used by people such as Al Gore have tended to demonize those who simply feel that the evidence, at this point, is still inconclusive.

    The man is a buffoon and ended his stint at BoingBoing prematurely. I think the reason “butthurt”.

  24. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said,

    February 8, 2009 at 19:55

    Megan has helpful advice.

    And if there is a being/person/elf on this planet who is expert in productive employment, M. McArdle is that being/person/elf.

  25. Anonymous said,

    February 8, 2009 at 20:37

    People can still make it in the United States if they are willing to live carefully on a budget and work hard.

    Well, he’s right, sort of – they can make it. As long as nothing unforeseen happens, like, say, getting sick or injured. Of course, if that had happened to Chuck or Adam, they’d simply have called an end to the “experiment” and used their ample resources to solve the problem. A plan of action unfortunately not available to real-life Wal-Mart workers in the same boat.

  26. Engelbert Humperdinck said,

    February 8, 2009 at 20:41

    This ho needs a crash course in communism.

  27. Mike in Teh Heartl...er,..Shoulderland said,

    February 8, 2009 at 20:47

    Wal-Mart was such an exploiter of the working poor, why were the working poor so eager to be exploited?

    Because they’re poor?

    Or, in the case of the illegal Mexican & Venezuelan store cleaners, because they were locked in! *

    Gary Ruppert said

    Oh yeah libs, how many jobs have been lost since the Pelosi/Reid junta took over Congress in 2007?

    = How many jobs have we lost since reality caught up with Dick & Dickier’s Great Imperial Adventure , and No-Billonaire-Left-Behind Program?

    A day in the life of the eager non-unionist :

    Wal-Mart Manager :” Real Gary Ruppert, after you punch out , come see me .

    Real Gary Ruppert : “OK”

    ……. a few minutes later ..

    Real Gary Ruppert :” What’s up massuh?”

    W-MM : “Take what’s on this pallet , and stock Aisle 3 & Aisle 4. Come see me when you’re done.”

    ……….~ 3hrs later

    Real Gary Ruppert :” Massuh, I’m done sweeping the warehouse . Anything else? ”

    W-MM : “No, I guess that’s it. Have a nice day ”

    Wal-Mart Response to getting caught doing the above : ” We need to get serious, and spend more on lobbying”
    (Really! Saw it in Business Weekly, sometime in ’06)

    * Platt mentions Target . Two close relatives worked for Target, including one that had prevously tolerated Wal-Mart for a short time . Target seems a lot more worker-friendly , especially in the areas of pay, and dignity. Target didn’t make them sing the company song every morning.

    One of the above , with two others, had the ob of overseeing when the store was undergoing the yearly top-to-bottom cleaning. The (legal, recent college grads) Russians weren’t locked in, or locked out of any area with a phone. When their boss , a Czech sub-contractor tried to screw them out of OT , and their last paycheck , the three Target employees rode his ass, including INS & FBI related threats , and got him to pay up. (Unlike W-M , who used the sub-c for plausible deniability.)

  28. Lesley said,

    February 8, 2009 at 20:54

    Judging from the photo, I’d say Charles is Gone With The Wind, his wind to be precise.

  29. Lesley said,

    February 8, 2009 at 20:57

    Here’s a story Charles can sink his dentures in.

  30. Bitter Scribe said,

    February 8, 2009 at 21:22

    My company just cut salaries deeply across the board. (It was done on a scale; mine came out to 15%.) Since I didn’t immediately storm out in disgust, that means, according to Plattian logic, that I was eager to work for less money.

    I’d like to stay and discuss this, but thanks to the layoffs that accompanied the salary cuts, I have to eagerly work on Sunday.

  31. Smut Clyde said,

    February 8, 2009 at 21:49

    I for one am impressed by the eagerness with which poor people in the 3rd World spend their time foraging on rubbish dumps looking for scraps to recycle.

  32. Dorothy said,

    February 8, 2009 at 22:12

    Nitpick: “Et tu, Brute?” is from the play.

    That’s true. According to Plutarch, Gaius Iulius Caesar’s last words were “Kai su teknon”–a phrase which a) is Greek, not Latin, and b) basically means “You too, my son?” And since Brutus was significantly younger than Caesar, rumors of dalliances between Caesar and Brutus’s mother abounded.

    (OMG! See, Mom: minoring in Classics was NOT a waste of time!)

    Also,
    He placed himself in a homeless shelter with $25 in his pocket, found a job as a day laborer, then worked for a moving company, and after 10 months had a pickup truck, an apartment, and $2,500 in savings. His conclusion: People can still make it in the United States if they are willing to live carefully on a budget and work hard.

    How much debt did he carry with him to that shelter? And what was his credit rating when he got that apartment?

    And just out of curiosity, what does he suggest people do when the government cuts off funding for that homeless shelter (at the insistence of, um. people like him)? Or when there ARE no jobs as day laborers because the housing and construction market is in the toilet right now? Or when the price of filling up his pickup went from $30 to $120 in seven months?

    Oh, wait, we’re not supposed to ask those kinds of questions, are we?

  33. MS said,

    February 8, 2009 at 22:14

    Recently I was having a talk with an old friend who is going through a very difficult financial period (hardly unique, of course). Somehow it came up that my wife and I will not buy at WalMart or Sam’s. He said that he wasn’t in a position to do that. He had to make every dollar stretch to the max in order to provide for his two kids and his wife, who is unable to work due to health problems.

    He’s a smart guy, and he understands that he is undermining his, and his children’s', long term prospects, but when it comes to putting food on the table today, or not, he is really trapped, especially with kids to feed. He truly understands the dilemma, but doesn’t know how to get out of it.

    My wife and I have no kids, and a considerably larger income, so we can afford to pay a little more for stuff (not to mention we just need less stuff) without it really affecting our lifestyle in any significant way. I didn’t really feel I could tell him he shouldn’t go to WalMart.

    I think lots of people find themselves in this predicament.

  34. purpleOnion said,

    February 8, 2009 at 22:26

    It is because they see their own behave in such a low-life manner that they assume everyone does the same thing. It is the “of course” I’m an asshole; we are all assholes,” syndrome. This only works for assholes and sinners. If one tries not to do asshole things to people and sins only occasionally, it is eons apart from “since we are all assholes, you can’t hold me responsible for doing what ‘everyone’ does.” There is a difference between a person who derives pleasure from being an asshole and someone who tries not to be pleased by his asshole behavior.

    While it is possible, from one perspective, to view humanity as a large gathering of assholes, it is also possible to see their childish nobility, their insane self-sacrifice, and their lack of will not to murder unarmed adults and children on command, as a life long challenge of not doing asshole things to other people. It should be understood that the struggle not to be an asshole to others is a handicap, (asshole challenged.) The avoidance of assholes is not a right and they cannot be shipped off to colonies of assholes. Nothing boils one’s patriotic blood more than the attempt to take his right to be an asshole away.

    Even unsuccessful attempts not to be an asshole, at least some of the time, are perceived, by serious assholes, as a weakness. If one avoids being an asshole, when an asshole is clearly called for, a type of retardation is suspected.

  35. Another kiwi said,

    February 8, 2009 at 22:28

    *engages serious microchip*
    I agree MS, the economy pretty much sucks at the moment, even here in the socialist paradise of NZ people are caught between the “starving rock and not starving, hard place”
    We do have to watch the right while this is going on, particularly the well-paid right, because they will will use the downturn to grind the faces of the poor, if they can.
    Your friend is right to do what he has to to look after his family but he should also remember that he had no choice and when his family gets back on it’s feet find out about what went on.

  36. Mentis Fugit said,

    February 8, 2009 at 22:38

    Joe Max said,

    Wal-Mart sells false economy.

    Vimes’ Boots:
    Early in his career, while he is still a nearly-impoverished Watchman, Vimes reflects that he can only afford ten-dollar boots with thin soles which don’t keep out the damp and wear out in a season or two. A pair of good boots, which cost fifty dollars, would last for years and years – which means that over the long run, the man with cheap boots has spent much more money and still has wet feet. This thought leads to the general realization that one of the reasons rich people remain rich is because they don’t actually have to spend as much money as poor people; in many situations, they buy high-quality items (such as clothing, housing, and other necessities) which are made to last. In the long run, they actually use much less of their disposable income. He describes this as The Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ Theory Of Socio-Economic Injustice.

  37. Smut Clyde said,

    February 8, 2009 at 22:49

    The avoidance of assholes is not a right and they cannot be shipped off to colonies of assholes.
    Australia is full.

  38. John D. said,

    February 8, 2009 at 22:51

    Dorothy: Actually, Caesar’s last words were (and I quote):

    “Either these curtains go, or I do!”

  39. Smut Clyde said,

    February 8, 2009 at 22:55

    they cannot be shipped off to colonies of assholes.
    In the interests of full disclosure, I should explain my theory for why the Netherlands is now a liberal paradise… it’s because they persuaded most of their racist right-wing ratbags to migrate to NZ in the 1950s.
    [Theory is based on a sample of N=3, but one of those cases was an ex-girlfriend's parents, so it counts double].

  40. WereBear said,

    February 8, 2009 at 23:10

    Joe Max said,

    February 8, 2009 at 18:21

    Wal-Mart sells false economy.

    And that’s your nutshell.

    Six years ago we bought a coffeemaker for three times what WM charges, and we still have it. We’d have bought six coffeemakers from WM by now, so we’re ahead.

    However, we had the extra scratch to lay out for that coffeemaker, plus the shipping because we had to buy online to get that quality. If you don’t have the dollars at the end of the week, or can’t buy ahead to wait for the coffeemaker to arrive, you go to Wal-Mart.

    Every six months.

  41. Lesley said,

    February 8, 2009 at 23:14

    JESUS H CHRIST. Try swallowing this without gagging.

    Ironic that some lowly paid clerk – who apparently doesn’t realize he’s a pawn – would act like he’s the CEO of the Bank of Screw You and Your Little Dog Too. It’s sad when minimum wage Americans think they are self-made men.

  42. Mr. Roarke's Brand Salad Dressing's Poops said,

    February 9, 2009 at 0:15

    Platt is such a gigantic cobag words do not suffice. I presume everyone saw he threw Boing Boing a giant curve of global warming denial? Also, Sifu Tweety mentioned he’s a transhumanist. So he’s like Wired’s Glenn Reynolds.

  43. handy said,

    February 9, 2009 at 1:22

    JESUS H CHRIST. Try swallowing this without gagging.

    I love how in the comments you have the obligatory lone “voice of reason” who doesn’t get all the outrage about a company merely trying to collect what is rightfully theirs, the good glibertarian he is. Yes, because large multinational companies ALWAYS do the right thing, it’s these deadbeat gradmas who we have to look out for.

  44. Arky said,

    February 9, 2009 at 2:05

    Ya’ll are so unfair. Because they don’t wear $3,000 suits and live in million dollar homes, the poor were asking for it.

    Wal*Mart didn’t intend to exploit them, but it saw the poor sashaying around without health care, openly flaunting their desperate desire to feed their kids and pay at least some of the bills and it just lost control.

  45. Arky said,

    February 9, 2009 at 2:06

    Also, you misspelled “pratt.”

  46. Interrobang said,

    February 9, 2009 at 2:17

    He placed himself in a homeless shelter with $25 in his pocket, found a job as a day laborer, then worked for a moving company

    Which is great, if you’re a single, white, able-bodied male. Barbara Ehrenreich automatically didn’t have the same opportunities for advancement when she did her little sociological experiment; a woman who reads as poor and uneducated is almost entirely guaranteed to stay in poorly-paid service occupations forever. Change any one of those variables (white to non-white, male to female, able-bodied to disabled) and he’d have quit in disgust after the first three days…

    I agree with his basic premise, just not the way he reads it. White, able-bodied men do still have a fair amount of potential upward mobility in the US. Unfortunately, there’s more of the rest of us than there are of him…

  47. Caveat said,

    February 9, 2009 at 2:24

    That is, without qualification, the funniest damned thing I’ve seen in weeks.

  48. tensor said,

    February 9, 2009 at 2:33

    “The scandal is that so many people have so little economic value. . . . So why would anyone expect them to be well paid?”

    The eternal paradox which is wingnut welfare…

  49. Smut Clyde said,

    February 9, 2009 at 2:44

    “The scandal is that so many people have so little economic value”

    I am shocked, shocked! that a globalised free market has taken away the continued reason for existence of so many people.

  50. Batocchio said,

    February 9, 2009 at 3:10

    I take it Charles Platt is pro-union, too, then? Jeez…

  51. mark f said,

    February 9, 2009 at 13:08

    I take it Charles Platt is pro-union, too, then? Jeez…

    Of course not. Unions have to acknowledge the macroeconomic reality that some workers just aren’t worth giving a shit about. That’s why they work at Wal-Mat, and besides, it’s not like they’re slaves.

  52. Ken said,

    February 9, 2009 at 16:05

    he’s right, sort of – they can make it. As long as nothing unforeseen happens, like, say, getting sick or injured. Of course, if that had happened to Chuck or Adam, they’d simply have called an end to the “experiment” and used their ample resources to solve the problem

    Funny you should say this – that’s EXACTLY what happened with Adam Shepard. Ten months in, his mother got sick. Unlike actual poor people, he didn’t have to make the decision of “spend everything I own to be there for her or continue to scratch out my life and not see my extremely ill mother?” – he simply quit his “experiment”, got on the phone, and went home on daddy’s dime.

    In other words, he failed. But like most “self reliance” wingnuts, he simply ignores the data that proves him wrong (i.e., the last 2 months of his 12 month game) and declares success.

  53. actor212 said,

    February 9, 2009 at 17:04

    If Wal-Mart was such an exploiter of the working poor, why were the working poor so eager to be exploited?

    Wal-Mart drives the very people Adam Smith had in mind when he posited laissez-faire capitalism, the small business owners and entrepreneurs, right out of business, and this jackass thinks they WANT to be working at sub-optimal jobs in sub-minimal conditions?

    Lordy, we really do need a new education system for the right wing…

  54. OB-GYN Kenobi said,

    February 9, 2009 at 17:22

    There has not been a single business that has been Unionized and Improved.

    Mining.

  55. Major Woody said,

    February 9, 2009 at 20:03

    Yeah, sure, OB-GYN. You’d have us all paying through the nose for expensive coal and, um, whatever else is mined, fiberglass or whatnot. If those damned miners would go back to working 70 hours a week without benefits or paid vacations like in the good old days, their owners (I mean, their employers) wouldn’t have to export all the jobs overseas to Canada or wherever. Damned socialists.

  56. OB-GYN Kenobi said,

    February 9, 2009 at 21:33

    Shrug. We’re already paying for electricity generated by burning good old 100% American Union-mined coal.

    (grin)

    I wonder why anti-unionists hate America? And American coal?

  57. The Goddamn Batman Feels Cory Doctorow's Pain said,

    February 9, 2009 at 22:32

    Platt used his connections at Boing Boing to spam that blog with a bunch of crap that he couldn’t get published at Wired. I’m surprised that he hasn’t ended up at Big Hollywood already.

  58. Big Bad Bald Bastard said,

    February 10, 2009 at 3:13

    Rebuttal of Adam Shepard

    Still you’ll never get it right,
    ‘Cos when you lay awake at night
    Watching roaches climb the wall
    You can call you dad and he’ll stop it all.

  59. satyr9us said,

    February 10, 2009 at 19:29

    Charles Platt’s fascination with Wake-Up Wal-Mart is so flattering (I’m proudly with that crew of haters).

    His faultless logic is further explored here.

  60. charles platt said,

    August 12, 2013 at 7:33

    Any of you patronizing elitists ever actually worked at a Walmart?

    No, I didn’t think so.

    If my comment had been placed in context, it referred to people who have worked at one Walmart, relocated, and chose to seek a job at another Walmart. Just because they are desperate and exploited? That of course is a very patronizing attitude, but typical. The idea that people on a low socioeconomic level might be smart enough to know what they want has never been popular among those who believe in the power of social engineering to cure all ills–whether we want it or not.

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