Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is a senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org
editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News
MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety
of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate
and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the
first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go
to Liebau index]
a Parade Down the Road to Nowhere
Jesse Jackson’s Cynical Opposition to Wal-Mart
Platt Liebau] 4/19/04
Jackson showed up two weeks ago to oppose Wal-Mart’s
subsequently unsuccessful bid to expand into Inglewood, it was
anything but good news for the minority residents of that community – the
very people whom Jackson claims to represent.
Jackson was short on facts, but long on incendiary, race-based
rhetoric. “It [Wal-Mart] is a confederate economic
Trojan horse,” he declared. “Confederate”?
Perhaps insofar as its headquarters is in Bentonville, Arkansas – but
by that definition, wouldn’t Bill Clinton, Jackson’s
erstwhile spiritual advisee, be a “Confederate,” too?
billion in annual sales, 1.3 million employees and 20 million
visiting its stores each day around the world,
it’s quite a flight of fancy to characterize Wal-Mart as
a regional store. But then again, Jackson has never been one
to let the facts stand between him and a television camera – or
a good sound bite, for that matter.
Inglewood’s Mayor Roosevelt Dorn – a
leader who, unlike Jackson, has actually sought and won political
office – understood what having a Wal-Mart in his community
could mean for its residents. He talked about the 2500 temporary
construction jobs, the 1500 permanent new jobs and the tax revenues – up
to $5 million – that could flow into the city’s coffers.
Not a small boon for a community that is riddled with poverty,
just for letting Wal-Mart take over a lot that currently sits,
undeveloped and idle.
Bernard Parks, who represents the district that includes the
in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, also is a supporter
of Wal-Mart. He told The Los Angeles Times how the Wal-Mart in
his area paid to upgrade the shopping center where it was located,
and how it brought as many as a million people into the area
in only the first month it was open (thereby boosting other local
businesses). Councilman Parks, like Mayor Dorn, is apparently
a real African-American leader – someone trying to find
solutions to the problems of urban America, rather than being
content just talk about them.
But Wal-Mart’s opponents in Inglewood seem content to
leave things just as they are – blighted, undeveloped and
with a majority-minority population that is underserved or overcharged
for the products they buy. Critics like Jackson may claim that
Wal-Mart jobs are “worthless.” Of course, not everyone
can enjoy Jackson’s own high-flying lifestyle. But in a
community where 22.5% of residents live below the poverty line,
unemployment runs at 8.4% and the median household income is
$34,269, a job paying an average of $9.88 an hour in Southern
California is nothing to scorn – especially when it may
help teach otherwise unemployable youths the skills they will
need to advance up the job ladder as they age.
None of that,
however, is Jackson’s concern. He has the
luxury of jetting into Southern California, mouthing his race-baiting
platitudes, and then heading off to preen in the spotlight of
another national controversy. His long-time friends and patrons
who run the unions – (non-union) Wal-Mart’s most
determined critics, and not incidentally, reliable contributors
to the Democratic Party – fear the competition and the
lower prices that Wal-Mart will bring. For Jackson, that’s
reason enough to let the poor and minority residents of Inglewood
forgo the opportunity to enjoy lower prices and a better-developed
ever change Jackson’s mind about Wal-Mart – unless,
of course, Wal-Mart suddenly followed in the cowardly footsteps
of those who pay off Jackson’s favored interests in order
to silence him (a highly unlikely prospect, given the principled
leadership of Wal-Mart’s President and CEO, Lee Scott).
But there’s reason to believe that at least some residents
of Inglewood have been changing their minds about Jesse Jackson.
Business owner Felix Washington told Channel 2 News, “You
got deaths occurring all around you, gang violence and that kind
of stuff. That’s what I’d like to see... Reverend
Jesse Jackson [address] – let’s talk about that.”
that would cause Jackson a problem – he’d
have to admit that the $5 million in tax revenue that Wal-Mart
would have brought to Inglewood could have paid for plenty of
new police officers. It’s just easier to jet off in search
of the next news conference.CRO
Note: Carol Platt Liebau is a shareholder of Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc. Her husband, a professional money manager, owns the stock
on behalf of his clients.
CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and
commentator based in San Marino, CA.