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Ron Radosh

The Left, Wal-Mart, and the D.C. City Council Fiasco

July 11th, 2013 - 1:57 pm

Yesterday, the liberal majority of the D.C. City Council voted that if Wal-Mart opens three stores in the underserviced poor areas of the nation’s capital — inhabited largely by African-Americans — it cannot do so unless the chain raises the minimum wage of its employees to $12.50 per hour.

That action reflects how far removed from reality the council members are. Their supposed concern for the poor will only hurt those they claim to be representing. The action also displays how the arguments and activism of left-wing groups — who have for years campaigned for what they continually call a “living wage” — have had an influence on Democratic Party politicians.

In the District of Columbia, the minimum wage is already $8.25 an hour, higher than the established federal minimum wage. Moreover, the Council’s action would apply only to the three stores that Wal-Mart planned to build. It is clearly a discriminatory piece of legislation, since it targets only one employer — a firm which we all know is the chain most hated by Left activists like those of the old ACORN. (To see typical leftist arguments on the issue, read here.)

Investor’s Business Daily notes that if Wal-Mart cancels the three stores under construction and the other three that were being planned, it means a loss to D.C. residents of 900 retail jobs and 600 construction jobs — 1500 people who would be able to gain much-needed work. More important, however, is that Wal-Mart is building in areas of the city that have few, if any, supermarkets or chains at which residents can locally buy produce at prices they can afford.

The Daily editors write:

At a time when millions of marginally employed Americans are scraping by, prices at Wal-Mart average 10% to 40% below other retailers for food, clothing, medicines and many other items.

In that manner, consumers shopping at the popular chain — popular except among the denizens of the Left who get their produce at Whole Foods and other upscale chains — achieve savings totaling over $50 billion per year. On the individual level, a shopper buying his food and other items exclusively at Wal-Mart saves up to $2000 per year.

To the poor, Wal-Mart is actually “progressive.” Local resident Yvonne Williams informed a D.C. weekly free paper:

We’ve been praying for food in this neighborhood for about 40 years. … God has brought what was supposed to be here — a first-class progressive thing.

Evidently, Ms. Williams has not taken the leftist message to heart that anything or anyone “progressive” must oppose Wal-Mart, and oppose saving money when buying groceries.

To stop the chain from building the new facilities, one University of Michigan economist told IBD, was a “politically motivated ‘economic death wish.’” Fortunately, the vote passed with one vote shy of a majority, and the mayor of D.C. has said he would veto the council’s resolution. Already, the leftist Daily Kos site is urging its readers to send a letter of protest to Mayor Vincent Gray, who wisely supports the opening of the Wal-Mart stores, and to threaten to oppose him if he goes through with a veto.

The Left might recall the experience of the residents of some California towns, whose councils had passed a similar increase in the minimum wage. The result was that scores of small businesses fled to other states and communities, since the forced increase in wages meant they would have been put out of business.

As the centrist Washington Post editor Charles Lane put it, if legislators want to increase jobs and help the poor, they might actually consider lowering the minimum wage:

Minimum wage laws do indeed reduce job opportunities for less-skilled workers and even tend to reduce their earnings. … If Obama and Congress were really as serious as they say they are about reducing unemployment, they would at least be willing to discuss rolling back last July’s minimum wage increase. It would create some jobs for those who need them most, and it would not cost taxpayers a dime.

Lane, of course, knows he is being sarcastic. There is not a ghost of a chance that Democratic liberals and leftists in the House and Senate would ever take such a wise step. Instead, they prefer to think that a foolish act of legislative leftism is all it takes to create prosperity. It is akin to a leader who wants an educated populace awarding a Ph.D. to every citizen.

Once again, leftist politicians, listening to middle and upper-class leftist activists, have taken a step to assuage their guilty consciences by opposing an industry and firm that helps create jobs and thus increases economic well-being for all. As they shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, you can be sure that the fate of the poor is the furthest thing from their minds.

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All Comments   (24)
All Comments   (24)
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I believe Sam Walton's grandson is one of Obama's and the Democrat's top donors.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
The anti-Walmart movement is liberal fascism (crony capitalism) in action. Costco funds the Democratic party and far left "community organizers," the community organizers apply the Alinsky playbook and demonize Walmart, which gives the Democrats the cover they need to engage in blatant anti-competitive behavior to protect Costco's market share. Very plain and simple. This is how "national socialism" works. Play ball with the regime and you get the perks and protection. Try to go it alone and you get crushed.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
According to a radio report I heard this morning, Mayor Vincent Gray hasn't made up his mind as to whether he will veto this legislation. It wouldn't surprize me at all if he decides not to veto, thus depriving citizens in the poorest areas of DC access to both employment and reasonably priced goods.

Trader Joe's is not in the same league as Whole Foods. For the most part, they offer high quality food at affordable prices. However, I don't think they have any stores in high poverty areas.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Walmart will close down their constructions as soon as the blackmail is signed into law. The reason that Walmart is not paying what the unions want them to pay is Walmart employees would rather have a "low pay" job than no jobs so they refuse to organize and pay the union bosses at least a quarter of a mil each to blackmail their employer.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
The is only one Costco, and while they do pay their labor well, I have noticed that most leftists haven't noticed that there aren't exactly a whole lot of them in the inner cities or even in the standard lower middle class neighborhoods. There's a reason for that. I know I can't afford to shop at Costco. It's prices are above my pay grade, and they have to be so they can afford to pay their workers and still make some profit.

If the left succeeds in forcing Walmart into a Costco model, Walmart will go out of business because its normal clientele won't be able to afford it anymore and the leftists won't touch it with a 10 ft pole. Why would they? They have Costco and Whole Foods.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's true. Costco carries Veuve Cliquot, USDA prime beef, gourmet cakes, Alaska king crab, Borghese makeup, and I don't know what-all other high-class stuff. It's at a lower cost than you'd pay in regular grocery stores, but it's not necessarily for families on a budget.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
As if more proof were needed that these 'progressive' loons actually care about the people they claim to represent - this comes along. They have a hard-on for Wal-Mart and they will let nothing - including a few poor people - get in the way of punishing Wal-Mart.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I go to Target over Wal-Mart. My local Wal-Mart supercenter is terrible. The place is always trashed and they always happen to be out of what you want. Target store brands are higher quality.

As for Trader Joe's, my local TJs have lower prices on milk, eggs, and alcohol than the big chain grocery stores.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have a Giant supermarket next door (which I swing through almost daily), but I make a trip to my Trader Joe's every 7-10 days to get stuff better (and sometimes cheaper) than next door, as well as some of my favorite frozen items. My biggest gripe is that I discover something I like, it becomes a regular on my shopping list, and then they can't get it any longer. (I also have a Whole Foods just a mile away, and rarely go there.)
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's a matter of shopping around. Some of Walmart's store brand stuff is comparable to Target's store brand stuff. You just have to know what you're looking for and where. The same thing with the groceries. We buy some of our stuff at the local grocery chain and some of it from Target.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't forget that people in inner cities really line up for those Walmart jobs whatever their community organizers say. In 2006 I wrote:

"Usually, when Wal-Mart opens a new store it expects to get about 3,000 applications for the three hundred jobs. Sometimes things can get a little out of hand. When Wal-Mart opened a store just outside the city limits of Chicago recently, 25,000 people sent in applications for the 325 jobs that opened up."
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I live within walking distance of my local Wal-Mart. Good prices and good quality products. And they force the other stores around them to keep their prices competitive as well.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Small point, but please don't lump Whole Paycheck in with Trader Joe's. TJ's has lotsa weird food that isn't exactly staples, but it's cheap.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
The fascist left don't want people to be independent or to have choices; they want them, as Biden said, "in chains."
Another point to consider: knowing just how corrupt DC politics have become, I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't retaliation for Wal-Mart not coming across with big enough bribes for the Council.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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