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Published: Sunday, 7/15/2001

Wal-Mart delivers dose of capitalism in action

Some items while thinking “reality TV” is pretty lame:

CAPITALISM 101: Well, it looks like big, bad Wal-Mart is going to receive a green light from Toledo. Good for us.

Wal-Mart will have a dramatic impact on the local retail scene. The good: Consumers will benefit from the across-the-board low prices. The bad: The company's nonunion employees will receive wages and benefits that are far below union standards. The ugly: Some businesses will go under.

Those who fear change should fear Wal-Mart. It's not going to be business as usual, that's for sure. It's going to be survival of the fittest on a relatively large scale.

And that's a good thing. It's capitalism in action.

A good example of Wal-Mart's impact can be found in my hometown (population 10,500). The transformation has been rather remarkable since the store opened 13 years ago.

Before Wal-Mart's arrival, downtown could best be described as “sleepy.” Now, it's a virtual ghost town. There are vacancies galore. Go ahead, blame Wal-Mart for destroying Main Street USA.

At the same time, though, don't forget to give Wal-Mart credit for spurring economic development nearby. Without a Wal-Mart, my hometown wouldn't have a McDonald's, Arby's, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Holiday Inn Express.

There's a new “main street” in my hometown. And it's better than the real one. Wal-Mart is the center of the new business district, which is about two miles from Main Street.

BOO HOO: If you heard a mysterious whining sound last week, it was probably Toledo's radio talk-show hosts crying about Sally Perz's decision to pass on the mayoral race.

The conservative talkies pointed the finger at The Blade, saying Ms. Perz did not want to subject herself or her family to the inevitable media scrutiny. I don't feel sorry for Ms. Perz. Media scrutiny comes with the territory - especially when the job pays $136,000 per year. Without media scrutiny, conditions would be ripe for political corruption.

To me, media scrutiny is analogous to drug testing - which, ironically, many conservatives support. If you are clean, you have nothing to worry about. It's just not a pleasant experience.

GROWING OLD: Turning 40 was no big deal. In fact, I was kind of looking forward to the crossing over to “middle age.” Now that I'm 2.5 years into my 40s, I still don't feel old. Oh, I definitely look my age - receding hairline, bags under my eyes, the 'ol spare tire, etc. - but I feel like I'm in my 20s.

Thankfully, I'm not susceptible to panic attacks. Otherwise, I might have had one yesterday - my high school graduating class held its 25-year reunion. Talk a dose of reality. Funny, a 25-year high school reunion hit me harder than any birthday could.

HALF A SIX PACK: Three questions this week. I'm offering 100 points for each correct answer. (Note: Click on the link below and check out reader response to last week's questions.)

1) Because he was less than forthcoming regarding his relationship with missing intern Chandra Levy, don't you find it harder than it should be to give Rep. Gary Condit the benefit of the doubt?

2) Given his “compassionate conservatism” sales pitch to voters, weren't you surprised that President Bush was considering a regulation that would have allowed government-funded - repeat, government-funded - religious charities to discriminate against gays?

3) With China having executed more people in the last three months - 1,781 - than the rest of the world in the last three years, don't you wonder how many of those were wrongly convicted?

E-mail Russ Lemmon at rlemmon@theblade.com



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