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Re: [The-Burnsville-Socrates-Cafe] 6/11/13 questions and discussion

From: ken b.
Sent on: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 4:22 PM
Bummer that I have not been able to make the discussions lately. Of the many questions posed, I feel the one chosen (8, goods and services...) is the most difficult to sort out. There are just too many aspects and variants within the question itself. FDA, USDA, EPA, do not appear to be on the consumers side as of late, they are there for BIGCORP.
Question 5 is easy, do away with that jolly fat man, it is just the first HUGE lie or misconception parents relay to there children. Unforgivable in my book. Unfortunatly I was not present in my daughters infant/toddler years, and when she told me at age 8 she knew santa was not real I was greatly relieved.
Question 10 is the easiest of ALL. What is the meaning of life...? It is rather simple, the meaning of life is to find your gift...the purpose of life is to GIVE it away.
Thanks all and PEACE,
From: Dick S. <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Wednesday, June 12,[masked]:10 AM
Subject: Re: [The-Burnsville-Socrates-Cafe] 6/11/13 questions and discussion

Of interest … since J. P. keeps bringing it up, here is a link to the June 12, 2013 edition of eSkeptic which contains Donna L. Halper's article on fact checking.
"If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out."

Sent from my iPhone 4S.

On Jun 12, 2013, at 8:04 AM, Jon Anderson <[address removed]> wrote:

6/11/13 questions and discussion

1-is ignorance bliss?8
2-when someone starts answering a question with "look", what thoughts cross your mind?4
3-does humanity need to be led around by the nose?8
4-do we really have the right to pursue happiness?5
5-is it time to execute Santa Claus?12
6-what's the role and scope of privacy in America?11
7-is corporate growth sustainable?6
8-should the goods and services we consume include the social and environmental costs associated with their production?13
9-can we trust the government?7
10-what is the meaning of life?7
11-is it natural to be good?5
12-can we legislate immorality?


should the goods and services we consume include the social and environmental costs associated with their production?

Steve: at Walmart a large number its of employees are on some kind of government assistance, meaning that's one way Walmart can sell for less. There are things that pollute our air and water, those are real costs. Or production costs? Government regulations are expensive. Trade imbalances with China (who plays by lesser rules) are expensive.

Meg: I found a statistic: 80% of Walmart workers (Daily Kos is my source, a politically left organization) are receiving assistance.

Steve: then we have to compare it to the general population.

Steve: I'm not a big fan of excessive regulation or of competing with countries that sanction child labor, sweat shops, etc. Perhaps the only way to deal with it is taxation/tariffs.

Andrew: the Texas plant that blew up. Texas markets itself as a low-regulation state. That plant blew up after not being inspected for years.

Steve: although OSHA is federal.

Andrew: Rick Perry uses a lot of rhetoric to attract businesses to Texas and it usually includes an emphasis on Texas' minimal regulations on its industries. What is fair? When shareholders must be answered to regulations are always at risk for being violated or not created at all. Federal regulations may be needed to prevent the bad side of that.

Jim: Walmart provides low cost products and its employees aren't earning enough. To make it "fair," wages ought to go up. There is a social good to that, but higher wages results in lesser hiring and there's a social good to keeping them working instead of on welfare. I end up with a dilemma but I don't buy the argument that people don't do things against their economic interests -- people don't choose to work for less than they would get if they stayed at home and simply collected benefits. There will always be a transfer of cost.

Steve: isn't that a transfer of wealth from customers to workers, not cost?

Jim: it's a subsidized situation. Profit must be made.

Steve: you're assuming they can't raise prices.

David the Elder: it's corporate welfare to Walmart, isn't it? A transfer of wealth to a company that pays little or no taxes?

Jim: it gets resolved when we start getting rid of the subsidies.

Dick: I once heard if a Walmart employee had to shop at Walmart they couldn't afford it. There's something wrong with that picture. It violates Henry Ford's philosophy that he should pay his employees enough for them to be able to afford his cars. Most grocery stores operate on a 1-1.5% profit margin. I would like to know what Walmart's profit margin is.

John: I don't know where to begin. As to how many people at Walmart are getting public assistance, I am skeptical of that. Is it medicare or social security assistance? Since the Welfare Reform Act generally the emphasis is placed on working.

David the Elder: when I managed a Byerlys, I watched union stores pay 22.5 an hour. Target paid 15/hr. Walmart was less than that because one of my employees had quit Walmart to work for me due to its low pay.

John: Minnesota is one of the few areas of the country that unionizes. Generally, across the nation the research I've seen is that Walmart isn't much different from its competitors when paying wages.

Meg: [online search:] Walmart's profit margin is 3.2%. Target's is 4.2%.

Andrew: an average Costco employee makes $40K, Sam's Club $17K.

John: perhaps that's true. The question then is: should rates of pay be regulated? I think the market should set the rate of pay. For others with unique problems we'll need government assistance. To the question of pollution, there is a good theory for putting taxes on things that harm others (Carbon Tax). As to workplace abuses in Third World countries: at the beginning of any industrial revolution this is how it goes and it eventually gets better for those workers. Farmers' living standards improve by working in factories.

Jon: so why are there nets installed at Foxconn's (Chinese factory that produces Apple products) dormitories to prevent employees from jumping off the roof?

Steve: or Bangladesh's shoddy factory construction (big fire killing hundreds last month)?

Vivian: do our corporations bear any liability for those things?

Andrew: Western corporations' using countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, South Korea seems feudal, with the West in the "castle" giving those countries all the ugly work. If true, the point wouldn't be to improve those countries' living standards and it would be more likely a relationship that maintains in stasis their current troubled state.

John: one of the advantages of the Affordable Care Act is that it will effectively provide health care for all. That helps markets work. Walmart has lowered prices and that benefits all of us.

Steve: could it be at the expense of taxpayers?

John: it depends on whatever alternatives there are.

Marla: Minnesota recently considered raising the minimum wage, might that have affected social services?

John: small minimum wage increases usually don't do much harm. Large ones do. If that legislation had passed I think it would have done harm.

David the Elder: there aren't many people in Minnesota who make less than our present minimum wage (9.50).

Meg: I get irritated with welfare too. Questions: there are people willing to keep low paying jobs in order to continue receiving assistance. I have a friend/co-worker who made this choice. She was raised in a blighted neighborhood in Detroit where the culture includes government assistance as commonplace. That neighborhood also included an ethic that said anyone who made more than the rest should share it with others around them at home, making increased earning less attractive.

Jon: that's a battle between what's familiar vs. what's best. Humans do often choose the familiar over the better because the better is unknown, unexperienced.

Margarete: the global market ought to be emphasized. Global oversight/regulation may be necessary, but we'll likely never reach true fairness. Some of the checks and balances will be reached by export/import. Greed is what we suffer from most, both individual and group/corporate.

Jim: what's the difference between greed and self-interest?

Margarete: greed is all bad. Self-interest is not.

Jim: it's superficial to say pay differences between stores equals different moralities.

Ron: the word we're using, "externalities," sounds ambiguous, hard to measure. We're better off estimating these costs. Measuring them in detail becomes yet another externality.

Steve: it's not impossible. Air quality is already measured at every power plant in America.

Ron: does anyone know if Walmart's part timers have 401K/profit sharing? Are they educated enough to save it for retirement/"rainy days"?

Chris: I actually did work for Walmart just after college. There was intense anti-union propaganda. Management discouraged autonomy and independent thought very skillfully/subtly. It's probably not possible to regulate that kind of thing. Walmart doesn't entrap their employees, instead Walmart benefits from those employees' lack of initiative to seek out better paying jobs.


If there is a problem you can do nothing about, why be upset? If there is a problem you can do something about, why be upset?

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