Why Walmart Is a Threat to Organic Food

Let me guess?

Because eating organic food will no longer have that upper class elitist thing going for it if you don’t have to buy it at Whole Paycheck?

Because it will no longer be a statusy thing if those proles who shop at Walmart are also eating organic.

There was actually a time when Walmart’s slogan was “Buy American, shop at Walmart.”

Maybe we should encourage local sourcing and organic no matter who does it.

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/food/why-wal-mart-threat-organic-food

Walmart will turn organic food into another low-cost input that shortchanges consumers, workers and the environment for a fast buck.

(The exact same way Whole Foods is currently doing.)

By Arun Gupta
May 1, 2014

Only after I decided to pursue freelance journalism fulltime, thereby joining the ranks of low-wage workers, did I enter a Walmart for the first time. It was in Southern California, in the spring of 2012, and I was trying to go easy on my wallet as I crammed my car with supplies before embarking on a cross-country reporting tour.

I reluctantly ventured inside a Walmart near San Diego, but I discovered immediately why its slogan, “Save Money, Live Better,” is a lifeline for the economically distressed. In the average superstore there’s a phenomenal 142,000 separate items at astonishingly low prices: button-down shirts for $10, a large bag of potato chips for a buck, a fat tube of toothpaste for two bucks, 25 cents for a metal fork, 10 oranges for a dollar. One former Walmart worker in California told me everyone he knew shopped there because, “Walmart is cheap as shit and it’s convenient.”

So when Walmart announced in April that it was invading organic turf by introducing the Wild Oats food line in 2,000 stores, some food-justice advocates were excited about the possibilities. They believe that Walmart’s buying power, which accounts for a 33 percent share of groceries sold nationwide, will enable it to offer lower prices for consumers, expand the market for organic farmers, and lessen the use of toxic pesticides and global-warming fertilizers. It’s a classic win-win, showing how the free market can solve problems it helped create.

It’s wishful thinking. Alarm bells should be ringing now that Walmart is going organic. One Walmart executive explains it will “disrupt” the organic market by reducing inefficiencies and encouraging consolidation. Lower prices for consumers mean fewer organic farmers, declining farm incomes and agricultural wages, and remaining farmers will be forced to industrialize further to produce more goods at lower prices.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/food/why-wal-mart-threat-organic-food

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Emily Letts: “This is My Story”

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The Nature of Capitalism and the Challenge for the LGBT Community

From The Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-beyer/the-nature-of-capitalism-and-the-challenge-for-the-lgbt-community_b_5252841.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

Dana Beyer

This past week the controversy about Jo Becker’s book chronicling the marriage equality movement proceeded apace, with her own newspaper, The New York Times, which sponsored her investigative work, panning her efforts. Adam Goodheart wrote:

History does show that, as Ms. Becker proposes, a small team of canny strategists can sometimes force revolutionary change — more so than politicians or philosophers. [Rosa] Parks herself was a member of such a team, not the simple seamstress that legend has made her.

The [Hollingsworth v. Perry] case, though, was hardly such an instance. The gay rights movement’s success has owed less to dramatic single triumphs than to inexorable, yet incremental, social and cultural changes: the kind that occur daily as gay couples move into middle-class suburbs, Bible Belt teenagers come out to their parents, and television shows feature gays and lesbians without fanfare or controversy.

Like the Scopes trial, the Perry lawsuit made good theater — but not a revolution.

Had she shown some humility and marketed the book solely as an exhaustive look at the intricacies of the Perry lawsuit, I expect none of this would have happened, and rather than defending herself on her current book tour, she would be riding a wave of acclaim for an embedded look at the work of a remarkable legal effort, spearheaded by the law’s most unexpectedly remarkable duo, Ted Olsen and David Boies. The book has not even made the top 25 on the New York Times bestseller list this week.

Another, far more important book, which might make a revolution, did make the bestseller list, and it’s quite a remarkable achievement that it did. This book has become so popular that it has sold out, and given that it’s over 700 pages long, the demand is both remarkable and exciting. The book is Professor Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and may be this generation’s equivalent of Das Kapital. The difference, though, is that Piketty is a first-rate economic historian and researcher who has made significant efforts to not allow any ideological bias to taint his findings, a concern that never influenced Karl Marx.

Piketty’s thesis is simple and based on 200-plus years of economic data from the industrialized world. As summarized by Steven Pearlstein:

There is nothing inevitable about the dominance of human capital over financial capital, and that there is inherent in the dynamics of capitalism a natural and destabilizing tendency toward inequality of income, wealth and opportunity.

Another reviewer, Thomas Edsall, points out:

Capitalism, according to Piketty, confronts both modern and modernizing countries with a dilemma: entrepreneurs become increasingly dominant over those who own only their own labor. In Piketty’s view, while emerging economies can defeat this logic in the near term, in the long run, “when pay setters set their own pay, there’s no limit,” unless “confiscatory tax rates” are imposed. … [T]raditional liberal government policies on spending, taxation and regulation will fail to diminish inequality.

In other words, unregulated capitalism tends toward greater and greater income and wealth inequality because the return on capital is much greater than economic growth. What distributes the fruits of economic growth among the people is not capitalism, as described by Milton Friedman, but government intervention to rein in the excessive returns on capital. The more perfect the market, the greater the unequal rates of growth, and the growing wealth inequality.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-beyer/the-nature-of-capitalism-and-the-challenge-for-the-lgbt-community_b_5252841.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

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The Piketty Panic

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/25/opinion/krugman-the-piketty-panic.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=3

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty, is a bona fide phenomenon. Other books on economics have been best sellers, but Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t. And conservatives are terrified. Thus James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute warns in National Review that Mr. Piketty’s work must be refuted, because otherwise it “will spread among the clerisy and reshape the political economic landscape on which all future policy battles will be waged.”

Well, good luck with that. The really striking thing about the debate so far is that the right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty’s thesis. Instead, the response has been all about name-calling — in particular, claims that Mr. Piketty is a Marxist, and so is anyone who considers inequality of income and wealth an important issue.

I’ll come back to the name-calling in a moment. First, let’s talk about why “Capital” is having such an impact.

Mr. Piketty is hardly the first economist to point out that we are experiencing a sharp rise in inequality, or even to emphasize the contrast between slow income growth for most of the population and soaring incomes at the top. It’s true that Mr. Piketty and his colleagues have added a great deal of historical depth to our knowledge, demonstrating that we really are living in a new Gilded Age. But we’ve known that for a while.

No, what’s really new about “Capital” is the way it demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, the insistence that we’re living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved.

For the past couple of decades, the conservative response to attempts to make soaring incomes at the top into a political issue has involved two lines of defense: first, denial that the rich are actually doing as well and the rest as badly as they are, but when denial fails, claims that those soaring incomes at the top are a justified reward for services rendered. Don’t call them the 1 percent, or the wealthy; call them “job creators.”

But how do you make that defense if the rich derive much of their income not from the work they do but from the assets they own? And what if great wealth comes increasingly not from enterprise but from inheritance?

What Mr. Piketty shows is that these are not idle questions. Western societies before World War I were indeed dominated by an oligarchy of inherited wealth — and his book makes a compelling case that we’re well on our way back toward that state.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/25/opinion/krugman-the-piketty-panic.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=3

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