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Wal-Mart is worried if poor people receive fewer benefits

April 3, 2014 |

By G. Michael Dobbs news@thereminder.com There are many factors that can affect a business. Ask any business owner and he or she can reel off any number of outside elements that either boost or depress a business. I’ve never heard a business admit that changes in public assistance could be an issue for them until now. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. recently filed its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission that detailed the various outside events that could affect its earning potential. The following is an excerpt: “Our business operations are subject to numerous risks, factors and uncertainties, domestically and internationally, which are outside our control. Any one, or a combination, of these risks, factors and uncertainties could materially affect our financial performance, our results of operations, including our sales, earnings per share or comparable store sales or comparable club sales and effective tax rate for any period, our business operations, business strategy, plans, goals or objectives. These factors include, but are not limited to: general economic conditions, including changes in the economy of the United States or other specific markets in which we operate, economic instability, changes in the monetary policies of the United States, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, other governments or central banks, economic crises and disruptions in the financial markets, including as a result of sovereign debt crises, governmental budget deficits, unemployment and partial employment levels, employment conditions within our markets, credit availability to consumers and businesses, levels of consumer disposable income, consumer confidence, consumer credit availability, consumer spending patterns, consumer debt levels, consumer preferences, including consumer demand for the merchandise we offer for sale, the timing of consumers’ receipt of tax refund checks, changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans …” Did you see that at the end of the excerpt? “Changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans” is the phrase that interested me. Wal-Mart seems to be admitting they would suffer if government assistance programs were decreased. Yes, I know that people in the lower economic brackets undoubtedly shop at a place that stresses its very low prices. Everyone has to stretch their dollar these days in the 99 percent. I wonder, though, if other retailers worry if their profits would be adversely affected if there were changes in what people describe as “welfare programs?” Would it be fair to assume that Wal-Mart is concerned about their base of poor people? According to Bloomberg News, Wal-Mart employees receive $2.66 billion in government aid annually. How does that jive with the actions of the company’s political action committee, which spent, according to a story in the Huffington Post last year, millions of dollars to support conservative causes and Republican candidates? Wal-Mart is concerned about the poor. It helps create them. Buy locally Speaking of business, the folks in charge of the construction of the new University of Massachusetts (UMass) Center at Springfield Welcome Center at Tower Square made an interesting point I’ve not seen for a while. In the press materials they distributed at the opening of the center they included a list of the local contractors that were involved in the design and renovation and furnishing of the new office. There were 15 local businesses listed from architects to electricians to sign makers and as we all know local businesses keep more of the dollars here than out-of-area businesses do. Thanks UMass for investing locally in more than one way. Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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