Costco CEO, Jim Sinegal, rejects Wall Street’s assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street’s profit demands.
JIM SINEGAL, the chief executive of Costco Wholesale, the nation’s fifth-largest retailer, had all the enthusiasm of an 8-year-old in a candy store as he tore open the container of one of his favorite new products: granola snack mix. “You got to try this; it’s delicious,” he said. “And just $9.99 for 38 ounces.”
Some 60 feet away, inside Costco’s cavernous warehouse store here in the company’s hometown, Mr. Sinegal became positively exuberant about the 87-inch-long Natuzzi brown leather sofas. “This is just $799.99,” he said. “It’s terrific quality. Most other places you’d have to pay $1,500, even $2,000.”
But the pièce de résistance, the item he most wanted to crow about, was Costco’s private-label pinpoint cotton dress shirts. “Look, these are just $12.99,” he said, while lifting a crisp blue button-down. “At Nordstrom or Macy’s, this is a $45, $50 shirt.”
Combining high quality with stunningly low prices, the shirts appeal to upscale customers - and epitomize why some retail analysts say Mr. Sinegal just might be America’s shrewdest merchant since Sam Walton.
But not everyone is happy with Costco’s business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco’s customers but to its workers as well.
Costco’s average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam’s Club. And Costco’s health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco “it’s better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.”
Mr. Sinegal begs to differ. He rejects Wall Street’s assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street’s profit demands.
Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco’s customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers’ expense. “This is not altruistic,” he said. “This is good business.”
Michigan Republicans propose a tax credit for unborn fetuses. The same Republicans that cut the child tax credit last year.
One of the jokes I have often made about so-called personhood amendments is that if you give a fertilized egg full rights as a person, you should get to claim them on your taxes, too.
Suddenly, that joke is a lot less funny.
Michigan Republicans are now pushing a bill that would grant a tax credit to any fetus proven to be at least 12 weeks along by December 31st. Calling it an “advance” on the actual tax break the family would receive the next calendar year, the GOP frames the financial help as a chance to offset expenses with pregnancy.
“You’re recognizing the fact that people have additional expenses, another person to take care of,” [bill sponsor Rep. Jud] Gilbert said of the rationale behind allowing fetuses to be claimed as income tax exemptions. “Money saved there could be contributed to doctor’s bills and all kinds of things.”
The bill, if it passed, would provide about $160 per family and would cost the state $5 million to $10 million per year, according to the report. Hospital costs associated with a pregnancy tend to range in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, especially for women without health insurance. In the meantime, the state has continued to fight against the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the state insurance exchange.
The lack of financial impact the tax credit would offer families make it clear that this move isn’t about family support, but about reproductive rights. Zach Pohl, Executive Director of Progress Michigan, calls the move for exactly what it is — redefining “personhood” via the tax code. He said in a press release:
“This is really a backdoor way of passing extreme personhood legislation, which has been rejected by voters in states across the country. Even worse, this would create a special new tax credit for unborn fetuses, after Lansing Republicans eliminated the tax credit for living, breathing children last year. It’s time for our elected leaders to get their priorities straight and start working together to create good jobs and improve education.”
Provide extra support for a fetus while cutting off aid to those who are born? Anti-choice politicking at its best.
Well, look here, more proof that they care about fetuses more than actual children. Surprise, surprise.
When you hear straight white males lamenting the loss of their “freedom,” what’s more likely is that they’re pissed at all the freedoms being extended to everyone else.
A defining feature of the most oblivious critics of President Obama is they say that America’s is losing its “freedom.”
Ask them what freedoms we have lost since he became president and your answer will probably start with, “Now I have to buy health insurance!”
True, the insurance mandate—which begins in 2014—will pay charge you a penalty if you don’t have health insurance.
But thanks to Ronald Reagan, we’ve already been paying for each other’s health insurance for decades in the form of inflated health care costs, and this will make it possible for nearly all Americans who can’t afford it to get coverage. And if you choose not to have coverage—despite the fact that every American is going to need it at some point—it will cost you about $5 a day, which is likely comparable when averaged out over your lifetime that you’d end up paying for “free riders,” the uninsured who show up in the emergency room with no insurance or means of paying.
You also get Christian fundamentalists saying that Catholics have lost their religious freedom because the organizations they sponsor–not churches, which are exempt–have to offer insurance plans that make free birth control available to women who want it. They no longer have the freedom to deny that basic element of reproductive health care.
That’s it. That’s how they’ve lost their freedom. They have to take responsibility for their own health insurance and/or allow people to get the legal medication they want*.
And they never mention the freedoms we’ve gained since Barack Obama became president.
Gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military, students can borrow money without having being beholden to the big banks, you can tell your doctor you have a pre-existing condition without fear that you won’t be able to get health insurance later in life. Taxes have gone down, as has the deficit—yes the deficit, which is simply a promise of further taxes, has fallen faster in the last three years than in any stretch since World War II.
And these are just the new freedoms since 2009. David Frum points out that in every possible way we are freer now than we were in 1962. From being able to vote to owning a telephone to living where you can afford to live, America offers more pure freedom than at any time in our history–despite income inequality that creates an economic insecurity that more effectively limits freedom as much as most any law could.
When you hear straight white males lamenting the loss of their “freedom,” what’s more likely is that they’re pissed at all the freedoms being extended to everyone else.
Gays and lesbians, women and minorities get closer to being able to live with the freedoms of straight white males every single day. And that’s where the feeling of “freedom” slipping away comes from. They’re not afraid of losing their freedom, they want the advantages, the privileges they imagine they were afforded before America became a freer more equal place.
We all like to imagine that we’re fighting for something noble.
It’s understandable that you want to put some meaning behind the quest to defend YOUR Medicare, YOUR freedom. But if you can’t understand the irony of accusing America’s first black president of wanting your freedom, you should at least understand that freedom has never meant the right to keep others down.
*If you’ve talking to an actual libertarian, they may list some legitimate bipartisan gripes: TSA, civil liberties, targeted killings of Americans who joined Al Qaeda. These are better points. Yet many these same “libertarians” would still deny gay people the right to marry, women to the right to make their own private health care decisions—issues of liberty that don’t affect you only in theory or in the event you’ve decided to fly in a plane.
The Real Romney - Another secret recording shows what Romney really thinks about minorities, birth control, and public assistance.
In a new recording of a conference call that took place yesterday, Romney told his contributors that Obama’s strategy was to “focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote.” These gifts, Romney lamented, “add up to trillions of dollars” and were delivered to “targeted groups,” “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people”
Judge slams Ohio GOP Sec. State for vote suppression
U.S. District Judge Marbley finds that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted violated provisional voters’ substantive due process and equal-protection rights, violated a federal Consent Decree, and violated state law by–at the eleventh-hour, the Friday night before the election–shifting from poll workers to voters the statutory responsibility of recording identification information, and then directing elections boards to disenfranchise voters where the information was incomplete or missing.
[Among the judge’s findings:]
“Counsel for the Secretary unambiguously assured this Court that the Secretary understood the recording of ‘identifying information’ to be a duty ‘imposed upon the poll worker’ and that the failure to do so would not ‘invalidate ballots.’ The Court relied on this statement to the Plaintiff’s detriment. Nine days after making that representation to the Court, the Secretary ordered that no provisional ballots be counted if the identification information was improperly recorded, without [e]ngaging in fact-finding to support the change.” (PAGE 13)
“The surreptitious manner in which the Secretary went about implementing this last minute change to the election rule casts serious doubts on his protestations of good faith.” (PAGE 13)
“Herethe Secretary’s eleventh hour Directive, which disenfranchises an unknown but potentially large number of Ohio voters and violates state law, is one of the ‘rare, but serious’ violations of state election law” that violate substantive due process. (PAGE 14)
“The poor drafting of Form 12-B which, by design or by accident, purports to shift the poll worker’s statutory duty to record the form of identification to the provisional voter, did not provide occasion for the Plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief until the Secretary issue Directive 2012-54 at 7:00 pm on November 2…” (PAGE 9)
“Ohio voters reasonably expect that the Secretary of Ohio will abide by the General Assembly’s laws in administering a federal election. For an executive official of the state to [flout] state law in arbitrarily reassigning a poll worker’s statutory duty to a voter, with the result being disenfranchisement of the voter, is ‘fundamentally unfair and constitutionally impermissible.’” (PAGE 15)
read more (including a copy of the judge’s order)
I am really hoping that charges are filed here. A message needs to be sent that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
We the People, and the New American Civil War
The vitriol is worse is worse than I ever recall. Worse than the Palin-induced smarmy 2008. Worse than the swift-boat lies of 2004. Worse, even, than the anything-goes craziness of 2000 and its ensuing bitterness.
It’s almost a civil war. I know families in which close relatives are no longer speaking. A dating service says Democrats won’t even consider going out with Republicans, and vice-versa. My email and twitter feeds contain messages from strangers I wouldn’t share with my granddaughter.
What’s going on? Yes, we’re divided over issues like the size of government and whether women should have control over their bodies. But these aren’t exactly new debates. We’ve been disagreeing over the size and role of government since Thomas Jefferson squared off with Alexander Hamilton, and over abortion rights since before Roe v. Wade, almost forty years ago.
And we’ve had bigger disagreements in the past – over the Vietnam War, civil rights, communist witch hunts – that didn’t rip us apart like this.
Maybe it’s that we’re more separated now, geographically and online.
The town where I grew up in the 1950s was a GOP stronghold, but Henry Wallace, FDR’s left-wing vice president, had retired there quite happily. Our political disagreements then and there didn’t get in the way of our friendships. Or even our families — my father voted Republican and my mother was a Democrat. And we all watched Edward R. Murrow deliver the news, and then, later, Walter Cronkite. Both men were the ultimate arbiters of truth.
But now most of us exist in our own political bubbles, left and right. I live in Berkeley, California – a blue city in a blue state – and rarely stumble across anyone who isn’t a liberal Democrat (the biggest battles here are between the moderate left and the far-left). The TV has hundreds of channels so I can pick what I want to watch and who I want to hear. And everything I read online confirms everything I believe, thanks in part to Google’s convenient algorithms.
So when Americans get upset about politics these days we tend to stew in our own juices, without benefit of anyone we know well and with whom we disagree — and this makes it almost impossible for us to understand the other side.
That geographic split also means more Americans are represented in Congress by people whose political competition comes from primary challengers – right-wing Republicans in red states and districts, left-wing Democrats in blue states and districts. And this drives those who represent us even further apart.
But I think the degree of venom we’re experiencing has deeper roots.
The nation is becoming browner and blacker. Most children born in California are now minorities. In a few years America as a whole will be a majority of minorities. Meanwhile, women have been gaining economic power. Their median wage hasn’t yet caught up with men, but it’s getting close. And with more women getting college degrees than men, their pay will surely exceed male pay in a few years. At the same time, men without college degrees continue to lose economic ground. Adjusted for inflation, their median wage is lower than it was three decades ago.
In other words, white working-class men have been on the losing end of a huge demographic and economic shift. That’s made them a tinder-box of frustration and anger – eagerly ignited by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and other pedlars of petulance, including an increasing number of Republicans who have gained political power by fanning the flames.
That hate-mongering and attendant scapegoating – of immigrants, blacks, gays, women seeking abortions, our government itself – has legitimized some vitriol and scapegoating on the left as well. I detest what the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Rupert Murdock, and Paul Ryan are doing, and I hate their politics. But in this heated environment I sometimes have to remind myself I don’t hate them personally.
Not even this degree of divisiveness would have taken root had America preserved the social solidarity we had two generations ago. The Great Depression and World War II reminded us we were all in it together. We had to depend on each other in order to survive. That sense of mutual dependence transcended our disagreements. My father, a “Rockefeller” Republican, strongly supported civil rights and voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid. I remember him saying “we’re all Americans, aren’t we?”
To be sure, we endured 9/11, we’ve gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we suffered the Great Recession. But these did not not bind us as we were bound together in the Great Depression and World War II. The horror of 9/11 did not touch all of us, and the only sacrifice George W. Bush asked was that we kept shopping. Today’s wars are fought by hired guns – young people who are paid to do the work most of the rest of us don’t want our own children to do. And the Great Recession split us rather than connected us; the rich grew richer, the rest of us, poorer and less secure.
So we come to the end of a bitter election feeling as if we’re two nations rather than one. The challenge – not only for our president and representatives in Washington but for all of us – is to rediscover the public good.
Abdul Waheed, who lives in North Waziristan
This report got a lot of U.S. press coverage. But one thing you didn’t see in the press coverage was any official U.S. government response. And that is a severe problem. The normal situation would be: someone raises a criticism, the government responds, and then as a citizen and news consumer you can attempt to weigh and judge the criticism and the response. But you couldn’t have done that in this case, because there was no official U.S. government response to the report.
However, a group of Americans just had a slightly different experience, because we went to Pakistan on a peace delegation against the drone strikes, and the Acting U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Hoagland, agreed to meet with us, and answered questions on the record about the drone strikes. So we experienced a deviation from the U.S. government’s official policy of no public dialogue on the drone strikes.
And here is a disturbing fact that we learned: the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, who appears in general to be is a well-intentioned and informed person, is either ignorant or is in denial of basic facts about U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan which have been reported in mainstream press accounts.
In our second meeting with Ambassador Hoagland, we asked about the impact on the civilian population of Waziristan of having U.S. drones constantly flying over them, poised to strike. Leah Bolger, President of Veterans For Peace, asked: “Would you concede that the constant buzzing of drones overhead 24 hours a day, is a form of psychological warfare?”