Wal-Mart to attempt to boost economy

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NEW YORK (AP) — Why wait on Washington when there’s Wal-Mart?

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer and the biggest private employer in the U.S. with 1.4 million workers here, said Tuesday that it is rolling out a plan to help jumpstart the sluggish U.S. economy.

The plan includes hiring more than 100,000 veterans in the next five years, spending $50 billion to buy more American-made merchandise in the next 10 years and helping its part-time workers move into full-time positions.

Wal-Mart said its initiatives are meant to highlight that companies don’t have to wait for lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to fix the economy.

“We’ve developed a national paralysis that’s driven by all of us waiting for someone else to do something,” Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. business, said Tuesday at an annual retail industry convention in New York. “The beauty of the private sector is that we don’t have to win an election, convince Congress or pass a bill to do what we think is right. We can simply move forward, doing what we know is right.”

“America’s largest retailers play an important role in our nation’s economy and in the well-being of millions of lives,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “Retailers like Wal-Mart could provide the nation with a much needed economic boost by paying higher wages and providing stable scheduling — while still remaining profitable and continuing to offer low prices.”

The centerpiece of Wal-Mart’s plan is a pledge to hire veterans, many of who have had a particularly difficult time finding work after coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wal-Mart said it plans to hire every veteran who wants a job and has been honorably discharged in the first 12 months off active duty. The program, will start on Memorial Day.

In addition to hiring veterans, Wal-Mart plans to spend $50 billion to buy more products made in the U.S. over the next 10 years. According to data from Wal-Mart’s suppliers, items that are made, sourced or grown in the U.S. account for about two-thirds of the company’s spending on products for its U.S. business.

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