The reason for Wal-Mart’s declining fortunes is identified in the memo, but hardly requires much analysis: the further pauperization of low-wage Americans means even fewer of them can afford even the cheap, poorly made, lead-tainted products Wal-Mart peddles. It’s almost scary to think: the memo admits that even poor people can’t afford Wal-Mart anymore. “Save Money – Starve Better.”
One imagines the trust-fund-raised brood of Sam Walton reconsidering their policies of adding more billions to their personal balance sheets by cutting back on workers’ benefits (the subject of another leaked Wal-Mart memo) and squeezing more and more margins out of sweatshop workers in the dark third-world mills that constitute Wal-Mart’s empire of cadmium and union-busting. On second thought, they are probably incapable of such moral and economic self-reflection.
But what is even more interesting than the obvious Keynesian point – suddenly discovered by Wal-Mart CFOs – that a falling tide scuttles all boats, even yachts, is the leak itself. Wal-Mart is the leakiest company in America. Its history of leaks includes memos about defeating worker protection laws (hire more part-time workers), to strategies for cutting workers’ health care benefits (hire more part-time workers), to failed improbable PR campaigns to “upscale,” to iPhone release dates. In short, somebody in the Wal-Mart upper echelons, probably a lot of somebodies, enjoys seeing their own company squirm in public. Surely most of Wal-Mart’s management have been assimilated into the Borg Collective and actually believe their own press releases that encouraging child labor in Pakistan is Good for the World™. But the few normal people there must find Wal-Mart’s evil as conspicuous as a tarantula on Lady Gaga’s décolletage. And they must be the leakers.
It is heartening to consider that even in the bleak landscape of Tea Party Occupied America, there still exists moral people who toss rusty spanners into the market evangelist clockwork.