Washington D.C.’s city council approved an ordinance Wednesday that will order “big box” retailers to pay its employees 50 percent above the city’s already higher-than-national minimum wage, a move clearly directed at a single retailer — Wal-Mart.
The retail chain announced Tuesday that it would reverse its plans to build at least three stores within the District, and jeopardize the opening of three already under construction if the council passed what it calls its “Living Wage” bill, according to The Washington Post.
Wal-Mart’s threat didn’t change any hearts or minds. The 8 to 5 vote matched a vote taken before the retail giant’s warning.
“Nothing has changed from our perspective,” Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said in a statement.
Confirming that Wal-Mart’s Tuesday statement was not a bluff, Restivo indicated that the council’s action thwarted the retailer’s plans for the three yet-to-be-built stores and the company will “review the financial and legal implications” of not opening three under construction.
Council members were undeterred.
“The question here is a living wage; it’s not whether Walmart comes or stays,” said councilman Vincent B. Orange, D-At Large. “We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.” Orange was one of the bill’s principal supporters.
This is the same sort of wrong-headed, backward thinking that led to the city of Detroit being placed in receivership. Artificially boosting the minimum wage doesn’t automatically increase the value of minimum wage earners — it just creates fewer employees.
Prices and wages are set by the marketplace — not by government edict.
Moreover, no city can ever reach a point where they “don’t need retailers.”
In attempting to raise the living standards of the city’s poor, it kept them down. Instead of being offered hundred of jobs at the District’s former $8.25 per hour minimum wage, city residents will be left with no new jobs at all.
Instead of being offered quality goods and foodstuffs at reasonable prices, they’ll continue to be left with whatever the local bodega has on hand.
Fewer jobs and higher prices, just what every struggling economy strives for.
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer minced no words in describing the D.C. council’s actions on Wednesday night’s Fox News “Special Report.”
“This is a re-grasping, unbelievably stupid piece of legislation,” he said. “These stores would be in the poorest parts of D.C. It would give people access to affordable goods and jobs where there is extremely high unemployment done with extreme goodwill, and this is an attempt to simply sabotage it.”
He noted that the District’s action was contrary to that of other locales.
“Other states and localities offering incentives as a way that they beg employers to come in,” he said. “Here is an employer who does due diligence, offers community support, and is essentially being driven out by reactionary liberals on this city council.”
This is but one more reason a strong understanding of economics should be a prerequisite to holding office.
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