China poses a threat to South Dakota’s economic security, all right, not with the trivial advantage of harvesting data from TikTok instead of buying personal info from myriad other sources, but with outposts of economic sabotage on the edges of small towns across South Dakota called Dollar General.
An eager reader puts these dots together:
Before serving Georgia in the U.S. Senate, David Perdue built a business career on moving jobs to China and other cheap labor countries in Asia. As CEO of Dollar General from 2003 to 2007, Perdue opened an affiliate in China and increased the company’s imports. In 2021, Kristi Noem campaigned for Perdue in Georgia, shouting that his opponent, the ultimately successful Jon Ossoff, was a communist, while ignoring the fact that Perdue had done actual business with China.
Dollar General’s Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2022 says China is a “substantial” source of its merchandise:
While we are working to diversify our sources of imported goods, a substantial amount of our imported merchandise comes from China, and thus, a change in the Chinese leadership, the effects of pandemic outbreaks including COVID-19, economic and market conditions, internal economic stimulus actions, or currency or other policies, as well as trade relations between China and the United States and increases in costs of labor, could negatively impact our merchandise costs. We experienced delays in the receipt of certain goods from international and domestic shipping origins as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and more general global supply chain constraints in fiscal 2021. Depending on the continued extent and duration of these constraints and disruptions, our supply chain, results of operations (including sales) or future business may be materially and adversely impacted. In addition, the United States’ foreign trade policies, duties, tariffs and other impositions on imported goods, trade sanctions imposed on certain countries (particularly China) and entities, import limitations on certain types of goods or of goods containing certain materials from other countries and other factors relating to foreign trade and port labor agreements are beyond our control. These and other factors affecting our suppliers and our access to products could adversely affect our business and financial performance. If we increase our product imports from foreign vendors, the risks associated with these imports also will increase, and we may be exposed to additional or different risks as we increase imports of goods produced in countries other than China [Dollar General, Form 10-K: Annual Report for Fiscal Year Ended January 28, 2022, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, signed 2022.03.18, p. 16].
Dollar General operates 71 stores in 63 South Dakota towns. Many of these stores popped up in the last decade as part of Dollar General’s plan to expand in rural America to capture poor, isolated customers. Those stores provide welcome cheap groceries for folks an hour’s drive from the nearest supermarket, but they also provide crap wages. Payscale.com lists average wages for Dollar General store workers nationwide of $12/hour or less. Indeed.com lists a Dollar General cashier position in South Dakota at $10/hour, a couple assistant store manager jobs at $12.26/hour, and South Dakota store manager positions at $36,440. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Dollar General pays 92% of its workers less than $15/hour.
Dollar General uses cheap products from China to keep its costs down. The company also apparently boosts profits by keeping store wages down. Dollar General and other dollar stores provide China with more outlets for their cheap manufacturing output while they drive independent local grocers out of business, lowering the quality of groceries available in their communities and locking more residents into subservient low-wage jobs. Dollar General thus helps China do far more real practical damage to the economic fabric of life in rural America than China may be doing by knowing how often folks in Corsica watch Charli D’Amelio dancing on TikTok.
Governor Noem has issued an order banning the state from doing business with China and other “evil” countries. But Noem campaigned for the Dollar General CEO who increased China’s grip on America’s consumers, and she has no apparent strategy for dealing with Chinese infiltration and sabotage of rural American retail.