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Wal-Mart: No Sale on High Wages

November 30, 2003

"At What Cost Bargains?" (editorial, Nov. 26) and your series on Wal-Mart (Nov. 23-25) raise many excellent questions. You even criticize Wal-Mart for hiring illegal immigrants, for goodness sake. Yet in your pages over the years you have repeatedly defended, even lauded, illegal immigrants.

There are now more than 2 million illegal immigrants in California, and you can't possibly believe that they all work at Wal-Mart. Would wages in many low-income jobs today be higher if there were not this steady supply of willing, non-complaining workers to fill so many gaps? Most economists would answer yes, but The Times' answer so far has been mostly to waffle on the subject.

At the very least you could do more to educate readers about the trade-offs they make between sustaining illegal immigration, with its clear relationship to population growth, and keeping prices and wages low. One American dilemma seems to be the desire to have both cheap products and high wages -- goals that are basically incompatible.

Gary Peters

Paso Robles

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At a time when American soldiers are overseas exhibiting courage, restraint and sacrifice in pursuit of foreign policy objectives, Wal-Mart and a host of other American companies have become more-than-willing co-conspirators in the race to export our nation's future.

Make no mistake: Its blind adherence to cold economic theory is indeed a foreign policy matter. On a global scale, millions of people will forever identify their exploitation and environmental ruin with one economic and political system.

Humanity, foresight and dignity cannot be quantified, yet the lack of these fundamental human values will have far more tangible byproducts than any stock dividend or balance sheet could ever produce.

Robert Nunez

Northridge

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I read with interest on Nov. 25 how homeowner groups backed by union dollars have had some success in keeping Wal-Mart out of their towns and thus protecting their local businesses. It is a shame that these groups did not exist a century ago. They might have kept out the automobile dealers and protected the businesses of the blacksmiths and livery stables.

William Bunyan

Venice

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In his Nov. 26 column, "The Real Cost of That $8.63 Polo Shirt," Steve Lopez complains about the impact of low-cost imports on our economy yet gives no proposed alternatives.

The problem is that the United States is in a one-world economy and wages in this country have increased more slowly than the cost-of-living expenses for the last 30 years. The only offset to middle-class Americans is that our lower buying power is temporarily offset with lower-cost imports, which in turn lowers our future wages.

I'm afraid that we are past the point of no return. So, what's your remedy, Steve?

Dana Swan

Newbury Park

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Why I won't shop at Wal-Mart unless it drastically changes its policies: You find someone who doesn't even have one dollar to buy food with. You say, "I'll give you a dollar -- if you wash my car, mow my lawn and paint my house." Isn't that, well, um, evil?

Steven M. Lerner

Northridge

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