Walmart

Ned, Joe, & Wal-Mart

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As Ned Lamont picks up even more "Joementum" heading into next Tuesday's widely watched Democratic senate primary, it turns out that both Joe Lieberman and his challenger had plenty of time to bash Wal-Mart. Both appeared at an anti-Wal-Mart rally this week, reports the Washington Times. Lieberman made great hay of turning down a contribution from the retailer's PAC, while Lamont poured on the rhetorical "Nedraline":

"This is about waking up Wal-Mart, and this is also about waking up corporate America," Mr. Lamont said Wednesday at a Bridgeport rally against the retail giant, hosted by many of the same liberal bloggers who have boosted the former cable executive far ahead of Mr. Lieberman in the polls.

There is one small problem with Lamont's Wal-Mart stance: "Mr. Lamont, his wife and a dependent child own as much as $31,000 in Wal-Mart stock." The stock, says the Times, kicks off as much as $3,500 in dividends annually.

Leave it to these "Conn Artists" give a Wal-Mart flack the last word:

"These candidates have shopped at Wal-Mart, invested in Wal-Mart and welcomed Wal-Mart jobs," said Kevin Sheridan, spokesman for Working Families for Wal-Mart. "Now they're telling the working men and women they want to represent that they can't save money or take jobs at Wal-Mart? This is all about politics. And it's sad."

More here.

Has Wal-Mart peaked?

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  1. owning stock in a company makes criticism of held company hypocritical? I don’t get it.

    I own stocks of companies I personally would never patronize and do criticize and disagree with some of their corporate policies. Just because I would prefer that they change the way they do business doesn’t mean I shouldn’t use the status quo for financial gain. And if I can use whatever money I gained financially to fund a protest and get them to change their policies — even better.

    I don’t see how owning stock in Wal-Mart makes one unable to criticize them and their business policies. Don’t shareholders do that all the time and even put shareholders motions (that the board of directors reccomend against) to a vote at their annual meetings?

    This is a non-story. Unless the “story” is that someone running for office owns stock in a company and has turned a profit from said stock.

  2. I can totally see how Lamont’s verbal criticism of Wal-Mart’s business practices denies people the opportunity to work and shop there. Just last week, Ned Lamont’s words shattered every window in an Ansonia Supercenter, killing fifteen and wounding up to 200. Their entire stock was destroyed, and the presence of radioactive heavy metals from his verbal criticism will render the site unsuitable for employment and shopping for the next 15,000 years.

  3. $31,000 in stock generates $3500 in annual dividends?

  4. Absolutely correct, Chicago Tom. Given that there is an election, it would seem more important to worry about how these two men have voted in the past. Though Lamont’s political resume is thin, he has enough experience in the public eye to see how his policies might pan out.

  5. joe,

    That’ll give you almost enough time to plan an urban utopia for the area.

  6. “owning stock in a company makes criticism of held company hypocritical? I don’t get it.”

    You “don’t get it”? Jesus, Tom, that’s pretty much the standard definition of hypocrisy. By owning stock in companies, you are INVESTING in them. You are ENCOURAGING them to expand, you are HELPING THEM SUCCEED.

    If you encourage a company to succeed, if you help their bottom line by investing in them, and then turn around and bash their practices, you’re being a hypocrite.

    And as for your “isn’t that what shareholders do” quip, well, that’s a pretty inapt comparison. Shareholders, for the most part, criticise the company because it does things that hurt the bottom line, and in turn, hurt their investment return. Which makes perfect sense. But Lamont isn’t worried, at least in his diatribes, about WalMart’s bottom line—he’s worried about their supposed social impact, etc.

    Let’s summarize:

    Investing in a company + criticizing things that hurt the bottom line = consistent, responsible.

    Investing in a company + criticizing them publicly for profiting = hypocritical.

    All criticism is not created equal, Tom. Sorry.

  7. “I can totally see how Lamont’s verbal criticism of Wal-Mart’s business practices denies people the opportunity to work and shop there.”

    Right, Joe, because everyone knows that the only form of causation is direct causation!

  8. “Just last week, Ned Lamont’s words shattered every window in an Ansonia Supercenter, killing fifteen and wounding up to 200. ”

    That’ll teach Lieberman to mess with a candidate who’s been exposed to the Terrigen Mists.

  9. Chicago Mike,

    $31,000 in stock generates $3500 in annual dividends?

    That was the first thing I pounced on. The Washington Times is like most rags it seems, with ignorant editors and writers who are showing yet another area of everyday life they know absolutely nothing about.

    Which brings us to Nick Gillespie, who somehow quoted it but didn’t seem to question it?!

    For the unitiated, there is no way a healthy company’s stock yields 10+% in the US unless perhaps it is in a cyclical industry, and retailing is not cyclical. Maybe 30 years ago, but not today.

    I know nothing about WalMart dividend payout ratio, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a zero got left off or added on here. $310,000 in stock perhaps, or $350 in dividends. The latter seems more likely, especially since 3500 seems more rounded off than 31,000. Not to mention what would he be doing with $310,000 in stock in a single company and bashing it?

  10. A simple question, if anybody knows:

    Has Lamont ever used his position as a Wal-Mart shareholder to advocate for change in the company’s practices? You know, doing things like speaking out at a shareholder meeting.

    If he has done that, then he is not a hypocrite for criticizing Wal-Mart now. If he hasn’t and has instead pocketed his dividends and only now criticizes Wal-Mart because there is a political advantage in doing so, then, yes, he is most definitely a hypocrite.

  11. Evan! said:
    If you encourage a company to succeed, if you help their bottom line by investing in them, and then turn around and bash their practices, you’re being a hypocrite.
    Yet when a shareholder does this, it doesn’t count. Why? Because it doesn’t fit Evan!’s poorly constructed argument, that’s why! I suspect Evan! has no idea what goes on at shareholder meetings. And why is corporate responsibilty on the part of Walmart or other multinationals not a concern of the shareholders?

    Finally Evan!, claiming that Lamont and Lieberman’s opposition to Walmart can be boiled down to opposition to “making a profit” highlights your simplistic ignorance.

  12. Evan! says, “if you help their bottom line by investing in them…”

    And how, precisely, does Alice’s purchase of stock from Bob benefit Wal-Mart?

  13. Something about that is wonky. Wal-Mart is currently priced at about $45 per share and trading at a roughly 16.5 P/E. $31,000 would be 688 shares, just about. At the 16.5 P/E, Wal-Mart would be reporting annual earnings of about $2.73 per share, which would make Wal-Mart’s earnings on Lamont’s shares about $1876. Now, if you know any company that’s going to pay nearly twice in dividends what they earn per share…well, they’re made of magic.

    Of course, that’s assuming he bought it today, and looking at the div/yield of .67, I’m going to guess that he has fewer than 688 shares and that the $3,500 has an extra zero.

  14. Shareholders, for the most part, criticise the company because it does things that hurt the bottom line, and in turn, hurt their investment return.

    Evan, I don’t know what companies you have looked at, but many stockholder’s initiatives HURT the bottom line (which is why the board of director’s reccomends against it)

    A perfect example is Rite-Aid (which I own stock in)
    Every year there is a shareholder initative to be voted on. The purpose of the initiative is to spend revenue to do a discrimination analysis and to audit minority hiring / promotion practices. The Board of Dir. always reccomend against it because they believe its a waste of money and unnecessary, yet here are the shareholders getting the initiative on the ballot EVERY year. So when you say : Shareholders, for the most part, criticise the company because it does things that hurt the bottom line, and in turn, hurt their investment return
    I have to call shenanigans. Not all shareholders are rabid libertarians who think anything hurts the short term bottom line is bad for a company.

    This isn’t an initiative to “help” the bottom line. It’s a shareholder protest of perceived unfair company policies / practices and an attempt to right a perceived wrong.

    Furthermore, as a shareholder of a company, many people (including myself) believe that paying a living wage and better benefits is good for the company, long term, despite the hit on the balance sheet. Many people feel a well compensated worker pool is more loyal, productive and hardworking and better to have then low paid non loyal workers.

    It seems you are the one who doesn’t get it. Not everyone sees pressuring corpoprations to be “better” as bad for busines or the bottom line. As many libertarians love to say “value is subjective” and many people (maybe even Mr Lamont) see real value in paying a living wage with good benefits to the employees and by having good moral business practices.

    A shareholder has absolutely every right to criticize — and for you to sit here and say its hyppocritical because it doesn’t conform to your narrow libertarian view of what is “good for business” is just off the mark.

  15. Attending a corporate annual shareholders’ meeting is among the more enjoyable “free theatre” experiences available. Free coffee and pastries; rub shoulders with old white people in navy blazers and kooky gadflies. Between the pure spectacle of shareholder-rights gadflies like Evelyn Y. Davis and the Kabuki dance of the CEO with detractors (on topics including: share performance and finance; union relatons; environment; quality of consumer products), it’s a total blast and worth the price of admission. I recommend every person make the effort to attend at least one.

    The Comcast one was Comcastic.

  16. Man wal-mart sure pisses off the left…i really haven’t figured out why.

    It is as if Walmart is killing american boys in Iraq, or starving its citizens, or funding terrorists in latin america or something

  17. Just a quick note to say that I don’t think owning stock in a company precludes a person from criticizing that firm. In fact, it might even make criticisms more valid, or at least engaged (maybe). But come on: Ned Lamont grandstands in front of an audience and fails to disclose a bit of info that surely they would have liked to have known? Puh-lease.

    Unlike former Reason intern turned author Jeremy Lott, I’m not going to defend that sort of hypocrisy.

    Re: Dividends and stocks. I freely admit that I am lost when it comes to calculating such amounts. Apologies for putting my bullshit detector on snooze.

  18. But come on: Ned Lamont grandstands in front of an audience and fails to disclose a bit of info that surely they would have liked to have known?

    I dunno…I dont see the problem.

    Until Lamont is elected and has to actually vote on legislation that might effect Wal-Mart, I don’t think most Lamont supporters give a shit whether or not a guy worth a couple hundres million owns 30K in Wal-Mart stock somewhere. And I believe (although I may be wrong) that he has already made most of his tax-returns public, which would show Wal-Mart Dividend Income most likely, so its not as if he was being sneaky or deceitful.

    I just don’t see the hypocricy. Owning stock in a company doesn’t somehow imply that he is not being genuine or honest when he thinks they should be more responsible and treat their workers better nor does it show that he doesn’t really believe in the issues he is speaking out against. It just proves that he thought they were going to be profitable and he want to get a piece. It’s savvy business sense.

    It seems quite ironic for this kind of criticism to come from a libertarian board. I’m curious — I don’t remmeber too much discussion around these parts about John Roberts when he actually ruled on a Vanguard case while having some money tied up in Vanguard accounts — Ill dig through the archives though to be sure.

  19. This tempest reminds me of the criticisms leveled at Mr. Bailey. I’d spend more time worrying about the stocks held by my representative in Congress than about those held by a journalist who owns stock in the industries he writes about. In both cases, disclosure is my chief concern. Everybody wants to make money on the stock market, after all. Just let me determine for myself if the joker with the stocks seems to be influenced by his interest.

    Lamont deserves the hypocrisy label in this instance, from where I’m sitting. No, merely owning stock doesn’t mean that you control the company or endorse everything it does, but it does mean that you benefit from its behavior. Not to mention that none of the complaints about Wal-Mart are new. He invested in the company knowing full well its business practices. If he were just criticizing one aspect of the business, fine, but he’s trying to cash in on the general animus directed at Wal-Mart by many left-wingers. He should sell his stock and boycott the company if he feels strongly about it. It’s not the worst sin on earth to do what he did, but it does take his credibility down a notch.

  20. Evan! said:
    If you encourage a company to succeed, if you help their bottom line by investing in them, and then turn around and bash their practices, you’re being a hypocrite.
    Yet when a shareholder does this, it doesn’t count. Why? Because it doesn’t fit Evan!’s poorly constructed argument, that’s why! I suspect Evan! has no idea what goes on at shareholder meetings. And why is corporate responsibilty on the part of Walmart or other multinationals not a concern of the shareholders?

    Finally Evan!, claiming that Lamont and Lieberman’s opposition to Walmart can be boiled down to opposition to “making a profit” highlights your simplistic ignorance.

  21. ChicagoTom,

    It’s not a huge case of hypocrisy, but I still see it as hypocrisy. What if it were Haliburton or tobacco stock? Or stock in a company that was using slave labor? If you want to play the political game of bashing a company, be prepared to be asked why you own stock in it.

    The left is a bit hoist by its own petard here, because the answer, “I’m making money here, folks”, won’t fly. One of the advantages of being a Republican or a Libertarian is that you can get away with saying that sort of thing 🙂 I’d have less issue with Lamont if this were, say, GE, and the complaint was about some GE subsidiary. But we’re talking Wal-Mart’s core business here.

    Besides, Wal-Mart hasn’t performed all that well in the last few years, if I remember correctly.

  22. ProL, I see where you are coming from.

    I always knew Hypocrisy as “the act of pretending to have morals or virtues that one does not truly possess or practice”

    I don’t believe that attacking the practices of a company you own stock in somehow indicates that Ned doesn’t really believe or practice what he preaches, but I guess I can see how someone might want to hold people to that kind of standard. I think its a bit unfair though.

    You can deal with the world we live in, or you can wait until it’s as you think it should be to deal with the world. Like I said, I own stock of companies that I would never patronize. I then take some of those profits and send them to candidates who would legislate changes in corporate policy. Hypocrisy, or Financial Jujutso? I would argue the latter.

    It would be different if Lamont were accepting campaign contributions while attacking them (like Lieberman did — although he says he returned them already) — that to me would be hypocritical.

    Furthermore, Wal-Mart hasn’t always had the same kind of negative attention they enjoy today. In fact 5 – 10 years ago very little was said about Wal-Mart business practices. Its quite conceivable that he bought the stock then – before they became such a pariah. Who knows. Not that it matters.

    It just seems to me that owning stock in a company indicates nothing other than a belief that this company will prosper in it’s current marketplace (irrespective of whether you agree with the regulations around that marketplace). It isn’t an endorsement of its business practices. So at least for me, it doesn’t seem hypocritical.

  23. It’s not a cut-and-dried issue, certainly. I guess I’m saying that to publicly state your disgust for a company you own stock in is a bit problematic. To do so in the context of a shareholder action is one thing, but to do so in a political venue is another.

    Frankly, I think guys like Lamont are hypocrites. He can spout “common man” and anti-big-business rhetoric to win Democratic votes all day, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t believe it with any real fervor. Guys like him, Kerry, Bloomberg, Bush, et al. sound like real pricks when they talk about the little guy being stomped on by the “evil rich”. I mean, these guys are the evil rich. At least the Republicans don’t philosophically have a problem with wealth, though the “compassionate conservatism” movement makes people like Bush similarly hypocritical.

  24. Post attempted for third time @ 12:56 EST

    Server squirrels completely paralyzed.

    Here goes #4.

    If it can be shown that Lamont was a shareholder activist who fought to get Wal*Mart to change policies that the anti-big-box crowd dislikes, I’d give him a pass on the hypocrisy charge. I won’t hold my breath on that.

    Everybody remembers that H. Rodham Clinton was on Wal*Mart’s board back when Bubba was the Governor of its home state, right? (No bribery there, huh?) If she blasts the chain stores, that’ll break the hypocrisy meter.

    Kevin

  25. Pro Lib,

    You assume that liberals have all wealthy people and all corporations in their sights when they complain about “the evil rich,” and you are quite mistaken.

    While there is certainly a segment of class warriors and thick thinker who perceive the world that way, people like John Kerry and Ned Lamont do not denouce wealth or profits as such, but the bad behavior of those wealthy individuals and corporations who they feel deserve it.

    If you can find an example of John Kerry saying that rich people are evil, I’d love to see it.

  26. Lieberman vs Lamont, the left vs the left, let’s hope that neither side runs out of bullets.

  27. I’m afraid that we’re all beginning to miss the point. Wal-Mart has become a political symbol– an empty one for the Ned Lamont (hyperwealthy- just throwin that out) left. It’s meaningless and the constant bashing of Wal-Mart is thrashing of a drowning political movement, grasping at any straw that will keep it afloat.

    However, if we use the ‘a dime invested or made invalidates any opinion’ screed of the you-know-who’s, one can find Lamonts Wal-Mart investment… amusing. Although objectively I have no problem with him aiding (and profiting from) Wal-Mart’s expansion and market domination while he criticizes them for their expansion and market domination. That’s his business.

  28. I just thought of something.

    ChicagoTom says, “It would be different if Lamont were accepting campaign contributions while attacking them (like Lieberman did — although he says he returned them already) — that to me would be hypocritical.”

    Is there a way Sen. Lieberman could have spun things so he could keep the money and continue bashing Wal-Mart? “Proof that Wal-Mart can’t buy my vote!” or some such.

    Does anyone think that argument would fly with voters? The only alternative seems to be Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    (If anyone cares: I like Wal-Mart.)

  29. Joshua Corning:
    You honestly can’t figure out why Walmart pisses off the left? (They piss off (1) people who prefer quality to crap and (2) individuals also, but I digress). Don’t you mean that you know why Walmart pisses off people, but you don’t agree with it? I apologize, but your posts are so poorly written, and your analyses are so shallow, that one can never be sure.

  30. You want to real hypocricy?

    Today we get this from the Lieberman camp:

    US Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT)called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the Ed Schultz show, a nationally syndicated radio program Friday, RAW STORY has learned

    Now here is Senator Lieberman’s public record:

    From Fox News:
    Lieberman told Fox News that the calls for Rumsfeld’s ouster are a distraction from the larger picture.

    “We’re in the middle of a war – you wouldn’t want to have the secretary of defense change unless there’s really good reason for it and I don’t see any good reason at this time,” Lieberman said.

    And this from an OP-ED penned by Senator Lieberman in WSJ’sOpinion Journal:
    Secretary Rumsfeld’s removal would delight foreign and domestic opponents of America’s presence in Iraq.

    Now up until 2 weeks ago, Mr Lieberman was publicly telling anyone who would listenthat we are making progress in the war in Iraq. So what changed that made Lieberman demand the firing of Rumsfled? I dunno for sure, but the latest poll showing him trailing Lamont by 13 points seems likely to have been a catilyst.

    “vote-whoring” seems a tad more appropriate in this case.

  31. joe, I doubt seriously that Kerry has avoided playing the class warfare card. It is absolutely untrue that the Democrats have not attacked the wealthy for the mere fact of their wealth. It’s hypocritical, of course, because the Dems, like the GOP, are financed principally by wealthy individuals and corporations.

    I feel like Diogenes when I start talking about the integrity of politicians.

  32. I can totally see how Lamont’s verbal criticism of Wal-Mart’s business practices denies people the opportunity to work and shop there.

    Then, “local”/”state” gov’ts(see Maryland)–(under assault from the same left-wing communist assholes who support Lamont) start passing legislation that only applies to one entity in their entire jurisdiction… That won’t affect their business (or future decisions on new sites) at all!

    BTW, joe- Lamont is an owner of Wal-Mart!!!

    I’m positive it’s quite re-assuring to hear a “trust-fund baby”- turned politician try to tell me how to run my business!

    Lamont– over $2.9 million in income- and had barely $10,000 in charitable contributions…

    Just another demonstration of “Democratic” charity- If a “leftist” does not have a gun against his head, he usually ‘donates’ nothing!

    “Gee, but I did give some of Daddy’s money away… it was A TAX SHELTER”– Ned Lamont

  33. “joe, I doubt seriously that Kerry has avoided playing the class warfare card.”

    See, noe you’ve gone from “attacking the rich for being rich,” to “playing the class warfare card” – a phrase that gets thrown at every expression of concern for the poor, or every denunciation of policies that inappropriately favor them.

    Neither of these lines of argument have the slightest bit to do with class warfare. Declaring that an argument is illegitimate if the target is wealthy, declaring that it is never appropriate to question whether the wealthy are being unfairly favored by policy – THAT is class warfare.

  34. …which is exactly the tack that Wal Mart’s defenders, both those who do it for money and those who do it for love, take in response to their opponents’ arguments.

    People complain about specific Wal Mart business practices, like their union busting, their lousy pay, their lack of benefits, their relationships with sleazy contractors, and the denizens of Wally Wold start shouting out: you hate capitalism! You hate national chains! You hate low prices! You want Wal Mart to shut down!

    Uh, no. I want Wal Mart to pay its people better, use its clout to support, not undercut, decent contractors, and allow its workers to organize if they want to.

  35. I could beat the snot out of fletch’s so called argument (it’s actually quite tempting to bitchslap him about that “daddy’s money” quote, using the inheretance tax as a fulcrum), but nobody who uses the term “communist asshole” is worth it.

    Although I’m quite sure Pro Libertate will come along and denounce him for his class warfare.

  36. Now, joe. I just don’t think much of most of the people in politics. I’d have more sympathy for a politician who really wanted to help people, even if I disagreed with his means, but I think that, of the major political figures, only a handful rise to that standard. Most of them are playing us like fiddles. That was the point of my Diogenes comment, by the way–I keep looking for an honest guy in DC and keep getting disappointed (with the really rare exception or two). Now I’m going to have to live in a tub 🙂

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