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Mike Rowe nails Walmart ad critics

Mike Rowe nails Walmart ad critics

“It’s a hell of a thing when someone you don’t like suddenly does something you actually agree with”

During the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, a Walmart ad aired featuring former “Dirty Jobs” host, Mike Rowe, as the narrator. The stirring ad’s message was simple, Walmart pledged to help stimulate the U.S. economy by purchasing $250 billion of American made products over the next 10 years.

The idea seems like one that would be commended by the vast majority of the American public, especially those in the manufacturing industry. Not so, for some.

Jobs with Justice, the group that bids itself as the organization “fighting for workers’ rights and an economy that works for everyone,” was none too pleased that the former Dirty Jobs host agreed to lend his voice to an ad made by – gasp! – Walmart.

After the organization called Rowe out on their Facebook page for contributing to the ad, Rowe was hit with a slew of negative comments on his own Facebook page, many accusing him of turning his back “on the little guy.” Rowe’s response was exactly on point, and represents a level of thinking — and acting —that the entire country desperately needs to arrive at.

[T]here’s nothing inherently good about being small, and nothing inherently bad about being big. My foundation supports skilled labor, American manufacturing, entrepreneurial risk, a solid work ethic, and personal responsibility. We reward these qualities wherever we find them, whether they’re in David or Goliath.

The traditional media chimed in as well. Appearing on CNN, Marc Lamont Hill declared the ad a disaster for Rowe, saying “anything that you can think of that’s bad when it comes to work, Walmart is at the center of it. This does not look good.”

So why is it so wrong for Rowe to do this? Hill continued,

He’s wrong because Walmart on the whole still does way more damage from everything from labor to environment etc., than it does [good] through this initiative.

Rowe’s response to Hill was equally compelling.

It’s a hell of a thing when someone you really don’t like suddenly does something that you actually agree with… [Hill] simply can’t address the importance of revitalizing our manufacturing base without reframing the whole conversation into a polemic against the thing he’s been trained to despise. It’s simply too hard for him to say, “Good for Walmart. I hope they succeed in this endeavor. Period.”

That hit the nail on the head, and Rowe is absolutely right about Hill and others like him who insist that an organization is wrong unless they honor every single one of their beliefs. This situation is emblematic of the inability for many in the American public to separate good actions from the perceived bad actor.

If Walmart sends some jobs overseas, then the ones they attempt to bring here aren’t good enough. If Chick-fil-a has outstanding working conditions, wages, and customer experience, but their CEO has certain beliefs about what a family should be, then the business must be boycotted and destroyed.

Yes, there are things wrong with every business. But when a business does something that is so undeniably good, it should be applauded, regardless of the fact that you’ve been conditioned to despise them.


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Excellent article.
Marc Lamont Hill is worthless other than as an example of the depth to which our culture has sunk.

    TrooperJohnSmith in reply to Rick. | February 21, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    It’s more basic than that. Hill has a long-game, because he knows that when Rev. Owl and JJ go off to that Big Hus’le in the Sky, there needs to be someone to fill that void. “Why not me?” says Hill. While being a professor of some made-up something or other is a nice gig, it doesn’t pull do the cold, hard cash that shakin’ down Fortune 500s does!

    Maybe Walmart will throw some to Hill anyway.

      Correct. Hill must be getting paid “by the word” due to his rapid delivery. He could make a lot of money replacing the guy who talked “a mile a minute” in those ads about 20 years ago. Seriously Mr Hill, take a breath now and then.

    ClinkinKy in reply to Rick. | February 22, 2014 at 7:54 am

    You’re right, but he has something that other, more qualified, talking heads don’t have. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what it is:)

This leaves a bad taste in my mouth for a different reason. I remember when Walmart used to have signs and even ads about “Bringing it home to the USA”, when in fact they were actually pushing suppliers to move production to China to cut costs. Perhaps recent rises in Chinese wages now prompt in-sourcing, but I smell cynicism here.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Kozak. | February 21, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Walmart is in business to make a profit. That’s called capitalism. If you want goods and services delivered on a welfare basis, go see obastard or dig up Stalin. Enjoy the death panels and bread lines.

      TrooperJohnSmith in reply to JackRussellTerrierist. | February 21, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      True dat!

      I always Buy American when I have a choice. At Walmart, I turn over the packages and find the Americas made product. If it’s 0300 and there’s nothing made in the Land of the Big PX available, I’ll choke back the bile and buy Chi-Com or NAFTA. Otherwise, I’ll drive over to my local Sears or Ace and find American made.

      It costs more and is a bigger hassle, but in the long run, it’s for the benefit of me, my family and my friends, as well as America.

        As a capitalist, I disagree.

        Try telescoping your position down, as logic would dictate.

        What if you only traded with your family?

        Me? I love those foreign devils who are making things for us in the most efficient possible way, innovating, living better, and cooperating in the market regardless of race, creed, color or other extraneous BS. Bring IT…!!!

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Ragspierre. | February 21, 2014 at 2:53 pm

          Yeesh, much as it irks me ;), I have to give you an ‘uppie’ for that one, Rags. Well said. 🙂

          TrooperJohnSmith in reply to Ragspierre. | February 21, 2014 at 3:06 pm

          I’m not only a Capitalist, I’m also a free moral agent and an occasional supporter of Quixotic and/or lost causes. A raconteur, really.

          And remember too, that it was Lenin who said that he would hang the last Capitalist with the rope he sold him. I’m fundamentally opposed to funding the Chi-Com’s military build-up any more than I must.

          Mainly, it’s just a personal, if somewhat emotional, illogical, choice. Plus American Made Craftsman tools have a lifetime guarantee, and while I’ve never worn one out, it’s nice to know that if I did…

          Estragon in reply to Ragspierre. | February 21, 2014 at 4:19 pm

          The best thing we can do for American workers and companies is to buy the products which most closely meet our needs at the best prices we can find.

          In the long run, the market rewards efficient quality production. Blindly “buying American” while ignoring quality and value can just reward and perpetuate inefficiency.

          The only time I pay attention to source is if I see a union label, I buy something else.

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | February 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm

          And the many thousands of Americans employed in the export/import businesses that support trading with people all over the world thank you!

          As do, I am sure, at least some of those foreign devils who have been lifted out of grinding, abject poverty by working hard to please you and me with the goods they produce.

          Like pretty much every cell phone…

        Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to TrooperJohnSmith. | February 21, 2014 at 8:06 pm

        Yeah Estragon, that is how we ended up with
        Gooberment Motors (GM)!

        Tell me where to find an American-made lighting fixture, please. I have cheap cr@p from China and expensive cr@p from China, and it all works the same: poorly. And at bottom, it is all about bad engineering.

    feel free to shop elsewhere….while you still can.
    course you could always start a business and run it how you see fit, bet you would not purposely do it in a manner that loses YOU money though would you??

    murkyv in reply to Kozak. | February 21, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Most all of the things I buy at Walmart are the exact same American Made poroducts that cost me more down the street.

Three cheers and more for Mike Rowe.

And three more for common sense.

JackRussellTerrierist | February 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Mike Rowe is a good dude.

Walmart has its faults, but the low prices of their merchandise makes many things affordable to poorer people that would not be affordable to them in other retail establishments. Target does well, too.

Walmart is also willing to go into small, rural communities where there simply is no other availability of a huge number of items they carry. They also dispatch large numbers of trucks with free necessities to victims of disasters when and where it’s safely possible to do so.

As for the labor force of their manufacturing base, it is too bad that Walmart manufactures or buys overseas a lot, but given domestic union labor costs they would not be able to sell the goods that poorer people need and want at affordable price points. Nevertheless, they still manage to employ hundreds of thousands of American workers. Many are the poorly educated and unskilled who would not be considered for employment elsewhere. They also hire retirees which provides them some extra income and keeps them active. Besides, they keep the shipping business busy. 🙂 All in all, Walmart is beneficial to our economy and society, IMO.

    Walmart had several semis of water and supplies sitting outside New Orleans after Katrina and the Democrat Governor refused to allow them in

      murkyv in reply to murkyv. | February 21, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      And they were there before FEMA

      Ragspierre in reply to murkyv. | February 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      People from all over the world come to study Wal-Mart logistics, among other management wrinkles.

      There success is not…and never was…built on just “cheap”.

      And “cheap” is not the same as “least cost”, as Sam knew.

    It’s not just the labor costs. It is the regulatory BS that goes with any manufacturing facility. If you can’t get the plans approved to build for 5 years, and you want to make….anything…you may wind up overseas.

    The EPA and other agencies should be in the business of approving what is approvable.

Is it too late to consider a Draft Mike Rowe for President 2016? Of course I’m kidding, but he speaks to and for everyday Americans than 99% of America’s politicians.

Walmart sells products that meet their intended purpose at an affordable price. That is one definition of value. It is too early to say, but it is certainly possible that the effects of Obamacare will cause an overall decrease in per capita income that cannot be completely erased by the discussed increase in the minimum wage. Decreased per capita income will likely result in Walmart increasing its revenue in the US. Consumers will buy less at higher tier stores and more at Walmart.

Increased revenue requires an increased supply of goods for sale. If more of these goods come from US manufacturing companies, the net result should be more Americans working, but the per capita income might not rise very much.

Why? Walmart’s purchasing specialists are experts at negotiating the best prices and deals. Suppliers, in order to remain profitable, may do the same with their suppliers, and will design their products in such a way to consume less labor while maintaining quality and functionality.

The best will actually find ways to improve functionality and/or quality at lower manufacturing cost. If goods are easier to manufacture and have opportunities for defects designed out, then lower skill level employees can manufacture them. Lower skill level employees command lower wages.

buckeyeminuteman | February 21, 2014 at 2:04 pm

It’s almost like Walmart is apologizing for not buying American-made products over the past 20 years which they should have been doing all along. Mike Rowe is a good guy, I don’t care that he appears in their commercial. Doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t set foot in a Walmart in over 2 years and never will again. The cheap quality of everything there, the disgusting consumerism that Walmart embodies, and the numerous small businesses that are no longer around are all reasons why I won’t give them my money anymore.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to buckeyeminuteman. | February 21, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Not everything at Walmart is cheap and crappy. One has to be a discriminating shopper to shop there unless that store is all one can afford, period. For example, I would never buy a dress for a special occasion there, but there’s nothing wrong with the quality of, say, their sweat pants and tee shirts. My husband will buy Quaker State motor oil there, fishing line, etc.. I bought a pair of jeans there seven years ago that still fit, never ripped, zipper and button are fine, pockets are intact, perfectly good. I’ve never had another pair no matter what I paid for them at Macy’s and other big department stores last as long as these have. They were made in Honduras and I think I paid about $12.

    They do carry many names brands. I wouldn’t buy my husband a tool made in China there, but I have picked up ammo, water filters, Rust Oleum spray paint, etc.. for him there. They sell kitchen tools, and incidentals like screws, cup hooks, clothes hangers and small things you need all under one roof. I bought a perfectly good toaster there that’s easy to clean, works perfectly every time, and is attractive. It was probably made in China, but it is fine and has lasted 4-5 years so far. We generally don’t eat canned food, but Walmart is the only place that carries ‘no salt added’ diced tomatoes I use in cooking.

    Maybe you’re a guy and just don’t have the ‘shopping gene’. 🙂

      buckeyeminuteman in reply to JackRussellTerrierist. | February 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      Motor oil, fishing line, small appliances, clothes, canned goods, ammo, paint? These are all items that used to be sold in their own stores that were owned and operated by entrepreneurs who hired people from the local enconomy. Can you think of an independently owned paint shop, grocery store, auto mechanic, or sporting goods store anymore? It’s very hard to find these places still around. Your laundry list of everything that you buy from one place is exactly why I do not shop there anymore.

        The town near Houston where I do my shopping has the full array of the stores you mentioned. We also have small, independent pharmacies.

        We have a Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Target, and Academy, too.

        Smaller stores adapted and found niche markets. I often go first and only to the old-line lumber yard/hardware store because I know they will have stuff you won’t find at Wally World.

        If a small operator cannot adapt, keeping it alive is like keeping a pet dinosaur. I would never say you cannot, but I would point out that it does no good.

        The simple fact is that Wal-Mart coming to a rural community actually helps the overall economy. True, the little shops that sell products that you can buy at WM for less are out of business, but those specialty stores and businesses that do not compete directly on products, or offer levels of service unavailable from a “big box” retailer, flourish, as does the overall economy.

        If you find something admirable about being overcharged just because the business is in a smaller building, you are doing yourself AND the economy a disservice. America rewards efficiency and incentivizes innovation.

        Funny how no one cried for the blacksmith or the buggy-whip maker when the car came along. Piggly Wiggly and the supermarket concept destroyed the local grocer and butcher business.

        It’s called “progress.” Like life, you can live it, or live with it.

        And except for immediate family members, most of the people they hired locally made near minimum wage with no benefits. When I first worked for a big box retailer in Albany, 6 of the 7 new hardware employees had been non-family members and managers at locally owned hardware stores. The big box was paying them more just to sell- not to manage.

        JackRussellTerrierist in reply to buckeyeminuteman. | February 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm

        Walmart is really nothing more than the old ‘variety’ stores only on steroids.

        Perhaps you’re unaware, but many of the items found in the local ‘mom & pop’ independents are also made in China. We have a local ‘mom & pop’ old time hardware and lumber store. My husband goes there 2-3 times a week for pieces of lumber, plywood, etc. for this or that (I have no idea what he’s doing with it all-something in the attic) where he will also pick up little packets of screws, bolts, hinges, pieces of sheet metal and what not rather than driving 60 miles round-trip to Lowe’s. I just looked at one of the packages of wood screws he bought this very morning. Horrors! They’re made in China!

        At that same store, I ordered a very nice quality tongue-and-groove bead board for the bathroom remodel, and it’s of a quality one would not find at Lowe’s or Home Depot, even though it would be cheaper there.

        The point is, people shop for the best they can find at the best price in the stores that carry it as conveniently as possible, be it big-box or local independent, and you’re just as likely to find some stuff from overseas in the small independents as you are at Walmart, Lowe’s, Target, or Home Depot.

    Apologizing? Nah, they exist to supply what Americans want, at a price they want to pay. Consumers know how many hours they’d have to work to buy an American made product of a certain quality vs. a foreign made product that costs less and has an acceptable quality.

    The labor costs and energy costs here make it hard for businesses to compete in a lower price market. Wal-Mart seems willing to make the investment to buck that trend, I’m glad Rowe is their spokesman.

…as opposed to the shovel ready jobs never created by government which cost tax payers how much???? jobs which never appeared in most cases and did nothing to help the economy, but did line the pockets of political bundlers.

those jobs he’s all in favor of.

Lamont Hill should become a welder or a machinist or a Wal-mart checker or a plumber and quit his day whining.

At least, Marc “Lament” Hill, contribute something of value to this country just like Mike

Greenspan used to preach how globalism would all balance out, and that even with trade deficits, “free trade” was still beneficial to US. But in testimony in 2007 or so he admitted he found a “flaw” in his theory. afaik, that flaw sorta skewered the whole “comparative advantage” theory. Along with other flaws, Greenspan’s easy money has done US a world of hurt.

Here is one link on the problems with assumptions about “Comparative Advantage”.

“Capitalism” is really about capital and means of production, so government policy needs to accommodate that internally, rather than chase it away and make Americans the foreigners’ best customer.

That is what Obama said to Brazil I believe, as he loaned a couple billion to Petrobras (enriching his pal Soros?), even as he was putting up moratoriums against US production. Deep water rigs were moved out of the gulf … probably haven’t returned yet. That is not “capitalism”, when our president attacks domestic production and advocates for Brazil.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to Midwest Rhino. | February 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    If I was not clear, that is partial response to the “global capitalism” believers above. Unions have harmed our competitiveness and sunk productiveness a la Detroit true, but government policy has also disadvantaged US.

    With governments manipulating currencies, stealing intellectual properties, and bribing officials … we have moved away from “capitalism”. Propping up our welfare nation with debt and funny money (QE), while propping up foreign production with US consumer debt, is again, NOT capitalism. Pelosi tells us giving one dollar welfare produces $1.67 (or whatever) in economic stimulus … again … NOT capitalism.

    The house of cards is getting set to fall … we are debtor nation, not so much “capitalist” nation, though we still have production.

Hill is an idiot. He is on television to spread his particular brand of race-based socialism.

It is a safe bet to find out what Hill thinks on any issue, and believe fervently in the exact opposite.

The only reason the left hates Wal*Mart is because they aren’t union. Period.

Everything else is a red herring.

American made stuff is generally better quality stuff. Finding it can be a problem.

Shoes I can find. Extremely comforatble and true to size. And come in wide. Not the latest Italian fashion styles, but comfortable and long wearing. When New Balance was made in America I used to mail order them knowing they would fir. Now, anything from an 8 EE to a 10 EEEE might be the right size. Quality control is lost when outsourcing overseas.

Lawn and garden equipment? I have some of their stuff, and its rugged and reliable. And not cheap- either cheaply made or in cost. You get what you pay for. These are the only two American made products companies I have done business with, and I’m happy with both.

There are lists of American made products. Available on the internet and searchable on google. But you have to make an effort. If anyone really thought American made would sell- they would gather capital up and in a major metro area, open a retail store carrying only American made products. I don’t see it happening any time soon. A story about that. Maytag was the last manufacturer to make over the range microwaves in the USA. Every customer survey they did showed American consumers were willing to pay $10-$20 more for an American made OTR. Surveys showed that, but actual customer behavior did not. Got that from a Maytag appliance rep.

I think a more successful retail approach would be to open a store- Best Quality Products. Don’t carry a dozen different fans- maybe 3 sizes- with a rock solid 10 year warranty from date of manufacture. Washers- one front loader model, one top loader model, with a rock solid 10 year warranty. To be made that reliable, they would almost have to be made here without cost cutting measures. And don’t make cosmetic changes every year. If it’s solid and reliable and works- leave it that way. If you need parts in 12 or 20 years, the new models will be using the same parts, so they will be available. I have seen that there is a significant sub-group of people willing to pay more for quality, moreso then country of origin.

    murkyv in reply to gospace. | February 21, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Last appliance I bought was a Maytag dishwasher.

    Not sure where it was made, but it was only “Assembled in America”

    And they still managed to screw that up by leaving off parts.

      gospace in reply to murkyv. | February 21, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      I got curious once when I purchased a modem labeled “Assembled in Mexico” and opened it up. I identified chips from both Chinas, Singapore, Japan, the United States, and a few others. A lot of items today are not 50%+ parts from any one country. A significant part of the quality control problem lies with that fact. For some critical components, the world has only one supplier.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to murkyv. | February 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      Yep, not everything made in the U.S. is the best available. I often find better quality in products from Western Europe, and they aren’t always more expensive.


I turn the channel as soon as his face appears.
He’s one of those people who believes the person who talks the loudest and the fastest is the winner.

This discussion is lame. It misses the entire point…that we hardly make anything here any more. Our mills are silent. Our factories are empty. How are people supposed to buy American-made when there IS no American-made?

I wish Wal-Mart and Mike Rowe the best. At least they’re doing something besides bloviating.

    Ragspierre in reply to creeper. | February 23, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    “Our mills are silent. Our factories are empty.”

    Except, no. They aren’t. In places they are, and have been tending that way for decades. In other places, they are building and booming.


Price of steel and labor in particular injured traditional American manufacturing, but there is some resurgence in non-union states (Automobile manufacturing in right-to-work southern states for one). Union contracts created the increases in steel and labor costs.

I’m a Detroit native, worked at the Ford assembly plant in Wixom. In its heyday, it wasn’t just the assembly plants that made Detroit affluent as the Motor City – it was also a wide network of sub-manufacturers all over the state, tool and die shops, stamping plants, sub-assembly plants, etc., in towns like Flint, Jackson, Lansing, Grand Rapids, etc., all of whom made parts for the cars and/or for all them machinery involved at auto assembly plants.

Unions kept pushing contracts upwards, manufacturers rolled over, and eventually rendered themselves unable to compete with foreign auto manufacturers. In my early adulthood, nobody had heard of Toyota or Nissan (then called Datsun), VW had just the lovable little Bug, and a Mercedes or BMW may as well have been a Rolls Royce, bought by very few.

Unions killed entire flocks of golden geese among American manufacturers, and not just the auto industry, but none of it happened without the manufacturers help by kicking economic cans down the road, usually in the form of pensions full of bennies they’ll never be able to afford or pay.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to Henry Hawkins. | February 23, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Unions harmed us greatly … but the globalism thang gave an outlet for producers to escape. Our politicians sold us down the river by enabling production to leave.

    Enriching our foreign “enemies” under the religion of comparative advantage was the way our dishonest political realm “had it both ways”, as far as satisfying lobbyists. Sure we got cheap goods, but the only thing we produced in return was financial shenanigans.

    Financial leverage enriched the derivative style traders, as we transferred production. Stock prices kept us feeling good, but it was leveraged funny money, and transient money at that, which explains why the rich are getting richer.

    Much of the world is not free and should not be most favored nations for trade. If they are made such, we should expect an even wider gap between rich and poor (as we are seeing now). “Capitalism” will mean capital will be invested in places with lower labor costs, even if that includes oppression and communism. And while we can still be more efficient in the US, unions and government coercion push production offshore.

    I’m dismayed some here ( whom I generally respect) think helping a few sweatshop workers is better than having our US unemployed deadbeats work for a living rather than receive entitlement benefits. Comparative advantage claims those deadbeats are busy producing more efficiently than the sweatshop workers .. NOT that they are playing Nintendo while falsely claiming disability for life.

    This is a vital thread to get that clear … glad the thread is not dead … sorry I’m responding late … with a couple beers and Daytona. 🙂

I am not surprised that Mike Rowe stands for his well thought out, expressed opinions. As an Eagle Scout, he has posted his response to a Boy Scout asking whether working for the Eagle Award is worthwhile. His direct, to-the-point answer is posted on his Website: