By Scott Tibbs, March 30, 2011
Last week, Bob Zaltsberg's "Monday morning" column drew over 150 comments because of a debate over one of the Left's favorite targets: Wal-Mart.
The elitism of the Left was on full display, with Leftists deriding Wal-Mart and the people who shop there. Even Zaltsberg, who argued that some in Monroe County would consider Wal-Mart a positive contribution to their quality of life, felt compelled to write that he has "never even been in Walmart." What purpose does that serve?
In the comments, an anonymous poster said he was "happy to hear Bob say he's never been inside a Walmart." A member of the Monroe County economic development commission responded to an argument in favor of Wal-Mart by saying "Bedford is still open. Move there." Is this the kind of intolerant elitism that we want from our government officials? If you cannot afford to patronize businesses on the square you do not belong in Monroe County?
A lot of people argue that our unique economy, with a wide variety of local business, is what makes Bloomington special. It is great that we have so many thriving local businesses, in addition to the national chains. But I would counter that there is one very big factor that makes our economy as vibrant as it is: Indiana University.
The reality is that IU is the economic engine of Monroe County. The students provide a huge boost to the local economy (including the local businesses the elitists brag about while they dismiss Wal-Mart) and IU employs a huge number of people in the city. Without IU, Bloomington would be just another small city in south-central Indiana, just like Bedford or Bloomfield or any number of small rural cities and towns.
The academic elite can look down their noses at other communities that that embrace "low-cost big-box retail, retail monoculture, and low-wage employment" if they choose, but it is not the policies of local government that makes Bloomington a vibrant place to live and work. That would be Indiana University.
The reality is that many people choose to shop at Wal-Mart because the store offers a huge selection and competitive prices. It is convenient for many to be able to get electronics, home supplies, groceries and gasoline all at the same place. Arguing between Wal-Mart and local businesses, though, is a false choice. The two can coexist!