THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK….The liberal anti-anti-Wal-Mart backlash seems to be picking up steam. First up is John Kerry advisor Jason Furman making the liberal economic case for Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart?s low prices help to increase real wages for the 120 million Americans employed in other sectors of the economy. And the company itself does not appear to pay lower wages or benefits than similar companies, or to cause substantially lower wages in the retail sector. Although there may be a dispute about the magnitude of the cost savings for consumers, no one disputes that they are large. In contrast, the effect on workers is relatively smaller and far from obviously negative.

At worst, to the degree the anti-Wal-Mart campaign slows or halts the spread of Wal-Mart to new areas, it will lead to higher prices that disproportionately harm lower-income families.

Next up is a friend making the cultural case via email:

The access to something like a sophisticated-enough-looking, urban-enough-looking, really dirt-cheap lifestyle that this store provides to rural folks is a really big deal to them. The customers I interviewed when I was a reporter at the —— don’t just love this store in the way, say, I love Best Buy, they love it because they think it promotes them in class, lets them decorate their home in a way that all the middle class people do.

Third in the batting order is Ed Kilgore making the tactical political case:

In the southern small-town, rural and exurban communities I know best, and among the low-to-moderate income “working family” voters Democrats most need to re-attract, Wal-Mart is considered pretty damn near sancrosanct. And if Democrats decide to tell these voters they can’t be good progressives and shop at Wal-Mart, we will lose these people for a long, long time….If you think we’ve been damaged as a party by culturally conservative working-class perceptions of us as people who want to take their guns away, you ain’t seen nothing yet if we become perceived as the party that wants to take Wal-Mart away.

Finally, here is Rosa Brooks making the feminist case:

For frantic women who juggle careers and children, what’s not to love about stores that sell practically everything under one roof? One of my female friends, a union labor lawyer who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Wal-Mart, nonetheless confesses a penchant for Target. “I get a perverse thrill whenever I’m there,” she admits.

And let’s face it: Who would really rather go back to the age of small mom-and-pop stores? How did women live before the advent of the superstore? Actually, we know the answer. They generally didn’t work, which was just as well because they had to spend a couple of days a week meandering from butcher shop to green-grocer to baker, not to speak of all those trips to the drugstore, the shoe store and so on.

Food for thought.