The latest chapter in this ongoing saga of economic perversity is playing out in Washington, D.C., as the district attempts to prevent Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from opening outlets there.
The district’s city council has passed a bill, awaiting signature of Mayor Vincent Gray, specifically targeted to block the company. It raises the district’s minimum wage to $12.50 per hour only for stores with more than $1 billion in sales and store size of more the 75,000 square feet.
Unionized stores in the district with these characteristics are exempt. In other words, the bill protects special interests and blocks entities politicos don’t want: Wal-Mart stores.
The company promptly announced that if the mayor signs the bill into law, it will cancel plans to open three of six planned stores, each of which would create around 300 new jobs.
The chain’s “low prices every day” business strategy is one of the greatest success stories in American history. Since opening its first store in 1962, the company has grown exponentially. Today, it has sales of almost a half-trillion dollars, putting it first on the Fortune 500 list for highest revenue.
According to corporate officials, the company has more 10,000 stores around the world, employs 2.2 million people and serves 200 million customers per week.
Is anyone forced to shop there? Of course not. Is anyone forced to work at a Wal-Mart? Of course not.
This mind-boggling growth happened as a result of freedom. The chain’s huge success is the result of delivering products that people freely choose to buy.
Critics claim that the company doesn’t pay enough. The company responds that its pay is at or above the industry average.
But the real issue is: Why is what the company pays the business of politicians? Unlike government — that fines you or jails you if you don’t do what lawmakers want — people work at Wal-Marts because they choose to do so.
The company says it gets anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 applications for 300 to 400 job openings when it opens a store. That’s more than 25 applicants per job.
It doesn’t appear to me that the chain has trouble convincing people to work there.
The population of Washington, D.C., is more than 50 percent African-American. The unemployment rate is above the national average. The poverty rate is above the national average. Yet politicians would rather have no new jobs at $12.50 per hour than 900 new jobs at $10 per hour.
Some claim that big discount stores displace small businesses. This is a claim. There is no definitive study that proves this claim.
But again, even if true, it would only be true because free people choose it to be so. What business is it of politicians to tell free people where to shop? What business is it of politicians to deprive people the freedom to go to a store that sells them products at the lowest prices they can find?
Low-income earners — those whom the left-wing politicos supposedly care about — happen to appreciate Wal-Mart stores’ low prices.
One thing I particularly appreciate about Wal-Mart, where I certainly shop, is the greeters. They are often disabled and other difficult-to-employ individuals. The company gives them a chance to work.
Capitalism has been a great success because it rewards creativity and hard work. Socialism has been a failure because it deprives freedom, stifles creativity, encourages envy and rewards sloth and corruption.
American success is about the miracle of freedom. When freedom is displaced by political power, everyone suffers. In this case in Washington, D.C., where politicians are blocking Wal-Mart, those who will suffer the most are the poor.
Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Center for Urban Renewal and Education.