I just returned from another excellent Walmart shareholder meeting. Ben Stiller was the mc. Michael Jordan gave some inspirational words. Miley Cyrus, Kris Allen, and Smokey Robinson performed. And earlier in the week I saw Sugarland, Brad Paisley, Foreigner, and Daughtry perform at free events leading up to the meeting. It’s been another great week of entertainment in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
And of course, the meeting discussed Walmart’s business, including its financial results and values as an organization. On that topic I’ll just repeat what I wrote after last year’s meeting: “They presented impressive evidence and compelling anecdotes of how Walmart saves money for families of modest means and, in doing so, improves people’s lives…. It struck me that if Walmart were a government program, designed to provide basic goods to low-income families at reduced prices, it would be lauded as a great success on the order of the New Deal or the Marshall Plan. Books would be written about how it worked so well. Conferences would be organized to sing its praises. But because someone is actually making a profit while serving low-income families, somehow the whole thing is ruined. It’s as if social progress can only be made if taxpayers lose money.” If you want to see more along these lines, check this out.
At this year’s meeting my puzzlement about why people vilify Walmart only continues to grow. This made me think about how the enemies one chooses says a lot about who one is. Why do some people choose to focus their energies attacking Walmart while ignoring or even embracing others who more clearly violate their principles?
Let’s take as an example President Obama. He has clearly chosen Walmart as an enemy. Obama declared that he “won’t shop” at Walmart. And during the campaign he participated in a conference call organized by the anti-Walmart advocates, WakeUpWalMart. According to USA Today Obama said: “‘I think the battle to engage Wal-Mart and force them to examine their own corporate values and what their policies and approaches are to their workers and how they are going to be good corporate citizens, I think, is absolutely vital,’ Obama said, adding he was proud of WakeUpWalMart’s work.”
So how does Obama feel about Iran, whose values and policies must be much more objectionable to Obama than Walmart’s? In his speech yesterday Obama said about Iran: “There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.” And earlier in the week Obama said: “what I do believe is that Iran has legitimate energy concerns, legitimate aspirations.” During the campaign, Obama stressed that he would “be willing as president to meet with the Iranian leader.”
Let’s see if I have this right. Obama wouldn’t go to a Walmart and thinks the “battle” against Walmart is “vital.” But he’s willing to meet with holocaust-denying Iranian leader, Ahmadinejad, without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect keeping in mind their legitimate aspirations.
I fully believe that Obama strenuously opposes Iran’s illiberal policies. The problem is not that he is ignorant of how Iran more clearly threatens his own principles than does Walmart. The problem is that he approaches Walmart like an enemy while approaching Iran like a friend.
Who you choose as an enemy says a lot about your own values and priorities.
(edited to add Kris Allen)