IS WAL-MART THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS? I think I'll throw my lot in with Michelle Cottle and Wal-Mart (sigh) on this one. There aren't very many industries I'd wish the Beast of Bentonville on. I'd have preferred they kept out of the unionized, value-oriented grocery sector, for instance. But insofar as I would like to unleash Sam Walton's creation on anyone, the banking industry, which Cottle correctly characterized as operating off a "screw-the-consumer business model," is pretty high up there.
Not only are the current banking behemoths grossly ripping consumers off through transaction and ATM fees, but geographical inequities abound, with large swaths of the (poor) populace lacking access to any sort of accredited, serious financial institution, and turning instead to sharkish corner stores and money order merchants. Were Wal-Mart to enter the game, many of those inequities would instantly vanish, millions of poorer folks would have access to a serious banking alternative, and some of the more useless charges and inefficiencies retained by the sclerotic banking industry would rapidly prove unsustainable. Reflexively mistrustful of Wal-Mart though I am, I've a tough time opposing that.