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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/21/11

What Could America's First Lady Be Thinking?

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Eugene Elander
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What could she be thinking?  America's First Lady, Michelle Obama, is touting America's Worst Corporate Exploiter, Wal-mart, as a model of potential nutritional food improvement!  No, this is not some bizarre skit on Saturday Night Live, it is a recent reality.


There, for all to see, was Michelle Obama standing in what looked like the fruit-and-vegetable aisle at a Wal-mart, surrounded by Wal-mart top executives, and praising the world's largest corporation (and now America's largest food retailer). What earned the First Lady's praise is Wal-mart's proposal to take as much as five years to encourage healthier eating by reducing fresh food prices and by cutting harmful ingredients in some of its multitudinous processed foods.


Our First Lady has taken on the problem of childhood obesity in America as her signature cause, so perhaps it is understandable that she might consider all of those exploited children who make Wal-mart products in Chinese factories to be role models for not being overweight.  How could they possibly be overweight, working up to seventy hours a week, often at pay levels below even China's minimal standards, and getting by on very little food as a result?  Is that near-starvation model the one we want to endorse for America?


Note, of course, that Wal-mart carefully avoids some major causes of childhood obesity, such as excess amounts of sugar added to soft drinks.  Soft drinks are very profitable, and if there is one thing Wal-mart never does, it is tampering with its profit potential.  For that same reason, the endless supplies of french fries, high-salt soups and similar items, unhealthy snack foods, chemically-treated prepared foods, sugary candy and cookies, and all the rest, will undoubtedly remain readily available at all Wal-mart grocery operations.


On the other hand, by going through the motions of moving towards better nutrition, Wal-mart will undoubtedly put numerous health food stores, farmers' markets, and other small purveyors of nutritional items out of business -- just as they have bankrupted numerous small retailers in so many other fields in which Wal-mart competes.  And not just small retailers, either -- J.C. Penney, Sears, and others are barely surviving.


But then, when it comes to Wal-mart's unfair business practices, the list is legendary.  Not too long ago, the majority of Walmart's hundreds of thousands of female employees filed a well-documented class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination in pay and promotions.  And Wal-mart is legendary for its union-busting activities; even whispering anything about organizing its workers gets you fired.  And while Wal-mart does insure many of its managers, the beneficiary, of course, is Wal-mart.  They are the poster company for exploitation.


There is nothing wrong with the First Lady's encouragement of good conduct on the part of American corporate leaders such as Wal-mart.

There is, however, something fundamentally wrong with Michelle Obama's singling out one of the worst and then appearing to endorse the firm for one small and preliminary example of good conduct in nutrition.  That apparent endorsement is worth many millions of dollars to Wal-mart, and will undoubtedly be used by this firm in multitudinous and nefarious ways.  If Michelle Obama feels the need to shill for such a sleazy  company on such flimsy grounds, whatever could she be thinking?



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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)

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