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A Half-Century of Walmart. Economic Savior or Evil Empire?

In Business, Economy, Entertainment, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on July 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Singer, songwriter Jessica Frech’s satirical music video, “People of Walmart” has attracted more than 6 million viewers, and probably offended just as many. (Jessica is in the upper left square of this screen shot from her video.)

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

Most people don’t realize that Walmart is the world’s largest private employer. According to a recent article in Time magazine’s business section, only the U.S. Department of Defense andChina’s People’s Liberation Army employ more people than Sam Walton’s massive dynasty of discount. On July 2, Walmart turned the half-century mark of rolling back prices and shaking up the competition.

On that date in 1962, Sam opened the very first Walmart store inRogers,Arkansas. Fifty years and four-thousand, three-hundred-ninety-nine stores later, the chain employs more than 2.1 million people and sets the standard by which other budget retailers are measured.

Along with those who appreciate Walmart’s contributions toAmerica’s economy, there are equally as many who regard it as an evil, impersonal, corporate monster. And they may be correct, after all, it would have been impossible to become the discount retail leader without doing some damage to the competition and holding fast to as much of its own money as possible along the way to get there.

Impenetrable by unions and continually slammed by the liberal left, the bargain behemoth continues to rake in the cash, bringing in a whopping $443 billion last year. Revenue like that must please the company’s shareholders, who, ironically, are probably the last people to set foot in one of its stores (at least while someone’s looking).

But what is Walmart, really? Is it evil? Or, is this just the price that has to be paid for corporate efficiency and unprecedented business growth? Do small towns really dry up and blow away when Walmart moves in?

The pros and cons of Walmart are probably more a matter of perspective than fact. Walmart shoppers are hard to categorize, but the common image is the middle to lower class, interested in getting the lowest price possible on toilet paper while caring nothing about the environment in which it is sold to them.

Well if you believe singer, songwriter Jessica Frech’s point of view in her satirical YouTube music video, People of Walmart, shoppers simply cannot be categorized. They come in every shape, size, color and creed, from every socioeconomic background and lifestyle. They come at every hour of the day and night in search of, well, a great deal on whatever it is they need.

It’s worth mentioning also that many Wallyworlders found Jessica’s music video terrifically offensive because it uses actual photos of Walmart shoppers in their native habitat. Even so, People of Walmart has been watched by more than 6.1 million viewers. People of Walmart 2, released last November, already has more than 1.6 million views. Apparently people weren’t that offended.

The economic effects by Walmart on local communities are as mixed as its clientele, probably more so than people generally know. According to a 2009 study, most negatively affected by the big box giant are those mom-and-pop retailers selling products in direct competition, such as small, higher-priced grocery, clothing and dry-goods stores.

The research also indicated that retailers offering products and services not available from Walmart tend to do better if in close proximity because people are already prepared to spend the money.

As for Walmart’s overall effect on and property values, new research released by the National Bureau of Economic Research startled the company’s critics. A 2001-2006 study of 159 new Walmart stores found that homes within a half-mile of each actually increased in value as much as 3-percent. Local tax revenue also increases substantially.

Like it or not, Walmart is here to stay. Anytime a business or an individual is successful, they will always have critics and even enemies. Fifty years ago, it’s doubtful that Sam Walton could have imagined what his small shop would eventually become.

Today his company provides jobs, affordable food and clothing, and the most unusually diverse array of patrons any retailer could imagine. So, happy birthday Walmart! Keep the rollbacks coming and, please, could someone fix the wheel on that one shopping cart that just won’t roll when you’re in a hurry?

50 Years Later, Oh, That View Is Still Tremendous

In Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, Science, State News on February 21, 2012 at 6:36 am

Col. John Glenn on his first orbit aboard Friendship 7 in 1962

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines


In 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was commissioned to getAmericainto the space race and beat the Russians to the moon. President Kennedy had set a public deadline of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s but no one even knew if it could be done. To make it happen, NASA had to invent new technology and learn new skills previously conceived of only in the pages of comic books.

To get things started, NASA established Project Mercury and seven test pilots were chosen from various branches of the armed services to be the first American astronauts. Sitting in tiny capsules atop converted ballistic missiles, these brave men learned how to break the bonds of gravity, achieve orbit, navigate and then return safely back to earth.

On February 20, 1962, Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr., a Marine Corps fighter pilot fromCambridge,Ohio, blasted off fromCape Canaveralto become the first American to orbit the earth. Only the second Mercury flight, Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule and splashed down safely in the ocean after completing three orbits. The mission lasted only 4 hours, 53 minutes and 23 seconds but it was long enough to allow the United States to catch up to the Soviets.

Glenn’s mission was considered a great success especially considering it happed less than a year after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard flew the firstU.S.space shot aboard his Mercury capsule, Freedom 7. Shepard and Glenn had paved the way for the future of theU.S.space program, and within a few years, Project Mercury had achieved all its objectives.

The next series of missions, Project Gemini, allowed the astronauts to leave the relative safety of the capsule and the new two-person spacecraft that was more maneuverable than the Mercury craft. The Gemini vehicles were also used to develop docking and rendezvous technology, vital to the lunar landings.

By 1967, however, NASA had hit yet another growth spurt. Project Apollo replaced Gemini and, along with a few of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, nine new pilots were selected. Things were moving at a feverish pace and NASA was making good time to fulfill Kennedy’s promise but that achievement did not come without a price.

Each and every mission had multiple objectives ranging from simple tests of new equipment to advanced flight evaluations. Whatever the purpose, procedures were established in order to minimize danger. Ultimately, however, space flight was dangerous and these men were test pilots and sometimes things didn’t go as planned.

In January of 1967, Apollo 1 Command Pilot Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee died in a fire during a ground test of the command module capsule atCape Canaveral. The accident forced several design and safety procedure changes and delayed manned Apollo flights for nearly two years.

When the first manned Apollo mission launched in October of 1968, many in Washington felt the Apollo 1 accident was caused by haste and carelessness and pushed for the program to be shut down before more money and lives were lost. Work continued, however and today Neil Armstrong’s immortal words from the Sea of Tranquilitystill resonate across the generations.

Between 1969 and 1972, there were six successful moon landings. In 1973, NASA launched America’s first space station, “Skylab,” and by 1977, the first space shuttle, Enterprise, was ready for flight control and landing tests. The space shuttles were retired in 2011 after three decades of service.


None of these later accomplishments would have been possible without the bravery and fortitude of those first 7 space pioneers. Ironically, John Glenn was one of the first astronauts to leave the space program (to pursue a career in politics) but he is also the only Mercury astronaut to return to space after retiring.

In 1998, Glenn flew as a payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery at the age of 76 – the oldest human ever to fly in space. Here’s to John Glenn on the 50th Anniversary of America’s first orbital flight.