Having systematically driven the traditional "small town American" hardware store, drug store, grocery store, clothing store, auto parts store, and general store out of business, Wal-Mart has been sitting around, scratching its imaginary head, wondering "What part of traditional American business can I co-opt next, further reducing the traditional American downtown business district to a desolate wasteland and forcing citizens to conduct any and all monetary transactions beneath the sheltering sky of harsh neon lights inside of our very own big, inescapable box?"

Banks? Sure, how about banks? Several years ago Wal-Mart actually tried to become a bank, but the government rejected its application, due to pressure from actual retail banks who have no desire to compete with Wal-Mart out in the middle American wastelands. They're no fools! Now, the NYT reports, Wal-Mart has simply satisfied itself with scooping up all the banking business (check cashing, wire transfers, etc.) of the working poor—people without banks or who don't trust banks or who have been shut out by banking practices or who are too ignorant to know that they should, in fact, get a bank. And who's to blame for this? Banks, pretty much.

Courtney Houlihan, 24, said she dropped her bank account because of the constant fees, including $400 for overdrafts. She now comes to Wal-Mart to cash her checks.

Banks have essentially given up on serving the working poor by murdering them with nitpicking fees and killing free checking and generally acting in a manner that makes banking not worth the money. And check cashing operations, of course, have always been bloodsuckers of the poor. In this context Wal-Mart looks like an attractive, somewhat more affordable option.

Eventually Wal-Mart will simply expand its roof to cover the entire town and any and all activities from birth to burial will be conducted under the auspices of Wal-Mart's Low Price Guarantee. Just think how much we'll all save.

[NYT, photo via AP]