One Skinny Old Bald Guy Speaks His Mind…

…Walmart looses theirs and the sh$t hits the fan. This column*, dated June 18th, by Pensacola News Journal columnist Mark O’Brien has the world of Walton all up in arms…

Wal-Mart mentality keeps us pinching pennies rather than building a future

…resulting in a corporate case of taking your ball and going home. The day it appeared, the News Journal disappeared from newspaper racks at local Walmarts. Now, in a 40 miles radius of our humble hurricane shelter, there are at least 11 Supercenters. 9 of those are within reach of a population of about 430,000 people and Wally World is in the process of building yet another just 5 miles from the one closest to us. Right down the road. Their miserable brand of market domination is pretty secure here it seems, so the petty panties-in-a-wad reaction was completely uncalled for, but completely in keeping with the paranoid behaviour that is Walmart’s SOP. The kicker is, O’Brien didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.
*reproduced in the extended section, as it seems to have mysteriously blipped off the PNJ’s site as well.

Wal-Mart mentality keeps us pinching pennies rather than building a future
Mark O’Brien
Here we are strutting around in the year 2005, so proud of ourselves, sure that we’re brilliant folks doing the right thing because we’re positively modern.
Except that maybe we’re not.
People thought they were brilliant 30 years ago when they scoffed at buying more land for U.S. 98 or planning for traffic growth in Santa Rosa County.
They thought they were thoroughly modern, although we now know they wasted a great chance to provide better transportation.
And what about the tourism promoters who congratulated themselves 55 years ago for offering land free of property taxes to entice people to build homes on Pensacola Beach?
Today, you can buy a 110-foot lot on Sabine Bay for $1.3 million and pay the government only a $410 per year lease, as the newspaper ad proclaims.
If it were anywhere else in Escambia County, a $1.3 million lot would pay $24,382 per year toward government services.
What were people thinking 30 or 55 years ago?
Yes, hindsight is 20-20, and people did have some good reasons for these decisions that had unintended results.
But Pensacola must work smarter and harder now, or someday our children will say, “What were they thinking in 2005? Was everybody on crack back then?”
Surely, we can be more than the Wal-Mart kind of town we’re becoming — cheap and comfy on the surface, lots of unhappiness and hidden costs underneath.
I like Wal-Mart prices the same as the next shopper, but there’s a downside, too.
Many Wal-Mart employees lack the fringe benefits and insurance that make the difference between existence and a good quality of life. Yet, we customers pay a surcharge from a different pocket — subsidizing health care for Wal-Mart employees who can’t afford it.
Case in point: The New York Times found more than 10,000 children of Wal-Mart employees in Georgia’s health-care program, costing taxpayers nearly $10 million a year; 31 percent of patients at one North Carolina hospital were Wal-Mart employees on Medicaid.
Pensacola has a strong whiff of Wal-Mart thinking about it, with the emphasis on short-term results rather than investing in more permanent assets.
Sure, our cost of living — at least until Hurricane Ivan — was relatively low.
But too many of our schools are failing. Drainage and roads remain inadequate, and Ivan has been both the best and the worst thing to hit the local economy.
The Times report was quoted in a new book, “The World Is Flat,” by Thomas Friedman, who reminds us that Pensacola no longer is competing with just Mobile and Fort Walton Beach for jobs, residents and services.
Engineers in China, computer specialists in Japan, call center employees in India — they have the skills to match Americans, and they will do it for less money.
Where does Pensacola fit in this global economy? Will we be just another big discount store with lots of grumbling employees, or do we dare to do more?
To do more, Friedman says, a community needs “strategic optimists,” people with more dreams than memories.
As he put it, we need, “the generation that wakes up each morning and not only imagines that things can be better, but also acts on that imagination every day.”

One Response to “One Skinny Old Bald Guy Speaks His Mind…”

  1. Heather says:

    What makes you agree with Mark O’Brien… ever? Everyone I know in Pensacola could not be happier about Wal-Mart’s decision to remove the Pensacola News Journal. If other companys would actually read the newspaper they sell, they might do the same. I have been waiting for years for something like this to help destroy Mark O’Brien, who constantly dished out his hurtful remarks. Who is he to be able judge and painfully hurt so many local citizens personally. Hopefully, Wal-mart will have what it takes. At least this time he was insulting and harming a corparation and not an individual of the our communitiy, which is his usual dose of pain to hand out….

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