The unemployment rate in Washington DC is 8.5%, a point higher than the national average. Compared to the rest of the nation, the District is poverty and crime-ridden. Given these facts, you’d think the DC Council would welcome the nation’s largest employer to the area. But that’s failing to take into account the fact that DC politicians are reactionary economic illiterates.
D.C. lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a bill requiring some large retailers to pay their employees a 50 percent premium over the city’s minimum wage, a day after Wal-Mart warned that the law would jeopardize its plans in the city.
The retail giant had linked the future of at least three planned stores in the District to the proposal. But its ultimatum did not change any legislators’ minds. The 8 to 5 roll call matched the outcome of an earlier vote on the matter, taken before Wal-Mart’s warning.
The law, which unconstitutionally targets specific businesses with different rules (in a handout to Big Labor, it exempts unionized shops that would otherwise fit the criteria), amounts to a big middle finger aimed at the District’s poor.
Not only are politicians making it harder for them to find work, but in doing their best to keep Wal-Mart out they are reducing access to lower priced goods that could raise their standard of living. Even left-wing economist Jason Furman, appointed by Obama to be Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, understands the tremendous impact Wal-Mart has had in helping America’s poor:
Wal-Mart’s low prices help to increase real wages for the 120 million Americans employed in other sectors of the economy. And the company itself does not appear to pay lower wages or benefits than similar companies, or to cause substantially lower wages in the retail sector…
[T]o the degree the anti-Wal-Mart campaign slows or halts the spread of Wal-Mart to new areas, it will lead to higher prices that disproportionately harm lower-income families…
By acting in the interests of its shareholders, Wal-Mart has innovated and expanded competition, resulting in huge benefits for the American middle class and even proportionately larger benefits for moderate-income Americans.