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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Give Walmart the Nobel Peace Prize!

Walmart has done more to lift more low-income people out of poverty than any charitable organization or government agency in the world

From The Times-Picayune article “Louisiana floods, but Wal-Mart, UPS keep trucks running“:

Wal-Mart trucks were among the first to deliver much needed supplies after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005. As many Katrina survivors still note, Wal-Mart trucks arrived well before the Federal Emergency Management Agency did.

Over the weekend, Wal-Mart was again among the large companies in Louisiana able to keep supply lines open and operations going despite catastrophe — this time historic flooding that devastated whole communities and shut down major roadways. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Erica Jones said the corporation’s emergency operations center in Bentonville, Ark., kicked into high gear late last week as forecast warnings of record rainfall started to roll in. Wal-Mart has about 30 locations in the affected area, including stores in the heavily flooded communities of Denham Springs and Baker.

Jones said early planning included mapping alternate routes for trucks delivering to stores in and around Louisiana. Corporate meteorologists monitored the weather and helped inform plans. Preparations were made to ramp up shipments of essential supplies — from bottled water to baby formula — to the region as it became clear conditions would worsen.

Jones said the current priority is ensuring Wal-Mart employees are healthy and taken care of and that trucks are safely re-routed to get to where they need to be. “We are shifting our resources to be able to work around the road closures and damage to facilities,” Jones said.

Big corporations have a clear motive in investing in disaster preparedness. Planning ahead minimizes the dent otherwise unpredictable natural disasters can make on revenues. And there’s a sales advantage in being able to quickly get back to providing supplies and services to customers in a time of need.

On the plus side, corporations can serve as a model for how disaster response should work. Experts point to Katrina. While FEMA’s response was lethargic and inefficient, major companies ushered in needed supplies quickly. After years of tracking disaster recovery, Jones said Wal-Mart supply managers can anticipate what a region needs as it moves from flood to recovery. In coming days, shipments will shift from diapers and water to cleanup items, including shovels, gloves and bleach.

“Once it shifts from evacuation and immediate safety to more the recovery and cleanup, we know the supplies people are looking for,” Jones said.

Don’t we hear constantly about how evil Walmart is, with frequent complaints about low wages, dead-end jobs, over-compensated executives, being anti-union, forcing mom-and-pop retailers out of business with its everyday low prices, buying products from sweatshops overseas, having a business model “based on greed and the ability of the rich to extract wealth from others, etc.

And yet any neutral observer who looks at the significant economic benefits generated by Wal-Mart in terms of everyday low retail prices for groceries, prescription drugs, clothing, and household items that generate billions of dollars in cost savings for low-income Americans, along with millions of job opportunities in cities across America for low-income Americans with above-market compensation and significant advancement opportunities, could only come to one conclusion:

Walmart is truly great for low-income Americans, and has single-handedly done more to lift more low-income people out of poverty than any charitable organization or government agency in the world.

Add to that Walmart’s demonstrated ability to deliver needed goods and critical supplies to areas following natural disasters like the recent floods in Louisiana, and usually way before FEMA or any other government agency or charitable organization arrives to assist affected residents.

In recognition of its heroic efforts to once again provide critical goods and supplies immediately to the areas affected by the floods in Louisiana, I hereby nominate Walmart for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for:

a) its ongoing and significant contributions to society by improving the US and world economies,

b) directly creating more than two million jobs worldwide at its retail outlets and helping to support many thousands of jobs indirectly for all of the thousands of suppliers to Wal-Mart,

c) mobilizing emergency response efforts following every natural disaster in America (and elsewhere) and

d) its contributions to improving the lives of millions of lower-income consumers by offering “Everyday Low Prices.”

This article first ran on the AEI blog

You can find a Portuguese translation of this article here.

  • Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.