Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. recently approved the airing of two Marine Corps public service announcements, "Family Photos" and "For Country." . . .According to Capt. Maxwell Boucher, a project marketing officer of the Advertising Section of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command (Quantico, Virginia), this is the first time that the Marine Corps has used an in-store television network for recruitment pitches (Ayalin, 28 Mar. 2005).During the spring and summer, viewers will have the opportunity to see the PSAs played daily along a wall of televisions in the home theater department and on separate televisions located throughout each store.
"Bill G. Harmon, a Virginia native, stops to watch the U. S. Marine Corps' 'Family Photos' public service announcement at Wal-Mart's home theater section in Stafford, Va. The commercial features the original footage of the Marines and Navy Corpsman who raised the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, an island in the Pacific Ocean, Feb. 23, 1945" (Photo by Staff Sgt. Marc Ayalin).
Each PSA will be played every hour from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., in 2,600 stores nationwide. The "Family Photos" PSA will play from March 21 through April 17. The second PSA, "For Country," will air May 16 – June 12 and then again from July 11 – August 7. (Staff Sgt. Marc Ayalin, "Wal-Mart Helps Sell the Marine Corps," 28 Mar. 2005)
Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman claims that "messages of pride and patriotism seen in the PSAs are a good fit with the company's values" (Ayalin, 28 Mar. 2005). That will be news to Wal-Mart workers, customers, and suppliers: "More than 80 percent of the 6,000 factories in Wal-Mart's worldwide database of suppliers are in China" (Peter S. Goodman and Philip P. Pan, "Chinese Workers Pay for Wal-Mart's Low Prices: Retailer Squeezes Its Asian Suppliers to Cut Costs," Washington Post 8 Feb. 2004, p. A1); and "more than 70 per cent of the commodities sold in Wal-Mart are made in China" (Jiang Jingjing/China Business Weekly, "Wal-Mart's China Inventory to Hit US$18b This Year," China Daily 29 Nov. 2004). Wal-Mart spent about $18 billion on imports from China last year, which accounts for roughly 12% of the US deficit with it (Jiang, 29 Nov. 2004). Patriotism and capitalism just don't mix, or rather in a match between the two, capitalism wins every time, trapping American and Chinese workers, as well as other Asian workers, in the "balance of financial terror" that "hinges on the willingness of foreign central banks to add to their Treasury portfolios to protect the value of their existing Treasuries" (Nouriel Roubini and Brad Setser, "Will the Bretton Woods 2 Regime Unravel Soon? The Risk of a Hard Landing in 2005-2006," February 2005, p. 33). The balance between Asian capital's dependence on the US consumer demand and the US economy's dependence on Asian central banks -- in which China is the pivotal player -- is precarious. China and the United States, teetering on the edges of financial precipices, may tumble together any time.
The precipice on which China teeters is a summit of credit and investment bubbles created by the undervaluing of its currency. The Chinese power elite's dependence on rapid export-led economic growth, necessary to absorb hundreds of millions of former peasants uprooted by restoration of capitalism in the country, has compelled them to resist appreciation of the renminbi. To prevent the renminbi from rising against the dollar, China's central bank has intervened to prop up the value of the dollar, accumulating vast dollar reserves (so have other foreign central banks whose national economies depend upon exports to the US market). "Growing [dollar] reserves -- barring offsetting actions by the central bank -- imply an expansion of the money supply and can fuel the excessive credit creation that gives rise to bad lending. . . . The current stock of non-performing loans in the financial system [of China] is officially estimated to be 40% of GDP, and could well be between 60% and 70% of GDP" (Roubini and Setser, p. 18). Central banks' interventions have "kept US Treasury interest rates lower than they otherwise would have been" (Roubini and Setser, p. 15), financing the enormous US budget and current account deficits at low costs but also leading to a mountain of credit and real estate bubbles, as Americans "borrow[ed] against the rising values of their homes to support their current consumption" (Roubini and Setser, p. 15) rather than vigorously demanding higher real wages and threatening the interest of the US power elite.
The world of bubbles is a world in which Wal-Mart, as well as other multinational corporations, has thrived: (A) low-price goods produced by low-wage workers overseas, (B) sold and consumed by low-wage workers at home, (C) earn big profits protected by low taxes made possible by a big budget deficit. The ABC of multinational capitalism as it exists now, however, is all dependent on cheap credit at home and abroad. That's the weak link of the US Empire, locked in the economic policy of Mutual Assured Destruction with Asia, that even "the few, the proud, the Marines" would be powerless to defend.