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Always Low Wages, More Pollution: Why Barack & Michelle Obama Relentlessly Shill For Wal-Mart

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    By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

    Democrats in labor unions and figures like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and others were justly outraged at Barack Obama's latest wet kiss to Wal-Mart earlier this month. But First Lady Michelle Obama has been in bed with the giant retailer for years. Is this a nasty bug in the Obama presidency, or a corrupt core feature?

    By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

    Low Wages, Always: Barack and Michelle Obama Bestow More Wet Kisses on Wal-Mart

    “...the willingness of the Obama Administration to do the bidding of Wal-Mart shows just how hollow has become the pretense of elected black Democrats to representing the poor and oppressed...”

    Earlier this month President Obama visited a Bay Area Wal-Mart to praise the world's largest and most anti-union retailer for its supposed environmental responsibility. The fact is that Wal-Mart's maintenance of diesel-fueled supply chains between its stores and wherever on the planet wages are lowest and environmental restrictions are totally absent make it a major ongoing contributor to runaway climate change. The president's appearance therefore, was simply a hypocritical exercise in greenwashing for Wal-Mart.

    Though it was an insult to working people and to many of his abject and fervent supporters, it should have been no surprise. It wasn't President Obama's first wet kiss to Wal-Mart and with almost three more years in office to go it won't be his last. Still the willingness of the Obama Administration to do the bidding of Wal-Mart shows just how hollow has become the pretense of elected black Democrats to representing the poor and oppressed.

    There was a time when Democrats in the White House did not dare openly shill for the giant retailer. Hillary Clinton served on Wal-Mart's board of directors through most of the 1980s, while her husband Bill was governor of Arkansas. Even then, Wal-Mart was notorious for overworking and underpaying its workers, violating labor laws to thwart unions, and sopping up prodigious amounts of corporate welfare in the forms of tax breaks and subsidies of all kinds. Being in bed with those crooks wasn't just an embarrassment, it was a hypocritical affront to Democratic voters, so somewhere on the 1992 road to the White House, Hillary resigned from Wal-Mart's board. Similarly in 2007 with her husband on the way to the White House, Michelle Obama felt compelled to resign from the board of TreeHouse Foods, a major Wal-Mart vendor. “I won't shop there,” said presidential candidate Barack Obama when questioned about Wal-Mart at an AFL-CIO labor forum.

    Of course labor audiences in 2007 and 2008 were where Obama pledged to renegotiate NAFTA, and immediately raise the minimum wage as soon as he took office. The president never mentioned raising the minimum wage again till about 2012 when Republicans were safely in control of the House of Representatives, and instead of renegotiating NAFTA, President Obama is engaged in secret negotiations to extend it across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Evidently the Obama that promises is a different guy, and far less powerful, than the Obama that acts.

    “...The first lady allowed the unscrupulous retailer to leverage her personal image ...”

    Safely in office, Michelle and Barack Obama have enthusiastically embraced Wal-Mart. The first lady allowed the unscrupulous retailer to leverage her personal image as an advocate of exercise and healthy eating in her “Let's Move” initiative, and spouting the company line that the best solution to urban “food deserts” is opening more Wal-Mart neighborhood grocery stores. Michelle Obama's many appearances at and pronouncements around Wal-Mart have done the retailer more good than she and Hillary could ever have done in another decade or two apiece on its board of directors.

    Right now Wal-Mart is approaching 30% of the US retail grocery market, with far lower wages, fewer hours, skimpier benefits, and longer and dirtier supply chains than its major competitors. As I said a couple years ago in an article about Michelle Obama's cynical embrace of Wal-Mart:

    Wal-Mart's business model of corrupting public officials, lying about job creation numbers, rampant sex and race discrimination, relentlessly low wage and benefit levels, and aspirations to monopoly control of local markets across the country make it a bad neighbor, a worse boss, an unfair competitor and sometimes a criminal enterprise.

    Wal-Mart has been a leader in the corporate practice of weaponizing its charitable giving, turning it into a lever to open new markets in urban America, to neutralize and isolate opposition, and to curry favor with local political figures. Wal-Mart made it rain on selected charities and ministries in areas like Newark and Chicago when it needed to colonize those new markets. President Obama recognized this “achievement” in the corruption of Democratic party politics in March 2014 by nominating Wal-Mart's chief of charitable giving to head up his Office of Management and Budget.

    Wal-Mart was even allowed, along with McDonalds and other large, low-wage employers, to shape the drafting of regulations governing Obamacare, in ways that exempted the retailer from having to ensure large numbers of its workers for the first several years.

    The fiction that elected Democrats represent poor and working people and stand for safeguarding the environment is just that – a fiction. There is a new neoliberal paradigm that allows Democrats to mumble a few words about raising the minimum wage when the other party controls Congress, that claims the moment they took office was the day the oceans stopped rising. If these were curable bugs in the political system, votes and advocacy would wake enough people up to change them. But what if they're not bugs in the system at all. What if these are its core and immutable features? What then? Isn't it time to step outside their two-party, capitalist box, to dream and begin to build something else?

    Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

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    Thank you for the terrible news! I didn't realise just how bad this arrangement with the last two presidency's were and still exist. Interesting how the timeliness of the resignations of Hillary and Michelle pull into play.

    We must pull the plug on the "left/right" corporate paradigm!

    Always voting for the Democrats (aka the 'left' fist of corporate rule) as the "only realistic means to defeat those Republicans" is like pulling the emergency brake while stepping on the gas in a car that headed for a cliff. The car is still going to go over the cliff -unless we take our foot off the gas pedal and step on the brakes!!!

    Delusional Democrat party supporters and their apologists are constantly trying to intimidate the rest of us into supporting psychopaths like Obama and soon Hillary Clinton by screaming "Republicans will be worse" at us, as if anyone who dares to vote for candidates who are emphatically not corporate puppets, like Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney, are "causing the Republicans to win."

    A simple question to ask these cowardly bullies, when they start in on yet another hysterical screaming fest in 2016 about how "Republicans will be worse," is how the hell can you defeat the Republicans if you keep voting for the 1% to stay in power?!!

    We need to confront these lazy cowardly bullies once and for all, with the painful ugly fact that it is only through their continued support of corporate puppets (like Clinton/Obama, who have proudly served and blatantly strengthened the corporate elite), that the "right" fist of corporate power, the Republican party, has inevitably become more powerful than it ever was even during the hey-day of Bush's reign.

    It is long overdue that we mobilize against the corporate elite's "left" fist and give these delusional Democrat bullies the same resounding "no!" that we thought we were giving to Republicans, because we know exactly what humanity's fate will be if we don't.

    ...WHERE ARE WE?!! WHEN ARE WE REALLY GOING TO START REMOVING THE 1% FROM POWER?...

    Agreed

    I totally agree with you.  We need to remove them all to reclaim this nation from unethical, purchased people who are self-serving.

    Agreed

    I totally agree with you.  We need to remove them all to reclaim this nation from unethical, purchased people who are self-serving.

    How many more months remain

    How many more months remain in this joker's presidency?  This latest ass kiss to Walmart is business as usual - the same damn thing he has been doing since 2008.  It won't matter how much longer he is in the White House because Killary is up next and she'll continue devastation, destruction, and despair.  This time, the stupid mofos will circle wagons around her because she is female, Democrat, and Bill's wife.

    A few people are abandoning the two-party mafia but the key word here is few.  Most sheeple remain brainswashed and ignorant.  I don't know the answer but we have to spread the truth to those who will listen and not vote for ANY Dem or Repub no matter what they say or who they are.  Our efforts for survival have to be at the local level on a street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood basis.  The govt, mainstream media, corporations, and the misleadership class are our enemies right now; it's up to the people to fight back.

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