Washingtonians, we have a savior in our midst! If only our repellent, socialist politicians wouldn’t get in its way.
That’s the basic gist of a patronizing op-ed that just appeared on Forbes‘ website, under the headline “You Won’t Believe the Stupidity of the Latest Attack On Walmart.” The piece centers on the legislation proposed by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to require large national retailers in the District to pay a so-called living wage, which received a contentious hearing yesterday. I won’t pass judgment on the merits of the bill (just yet), but I will weigh in on the vision of D.C. that the author of the piece, Kyle Smith, apparently has.
“The latest foolish attack on Walmart is happening, fittingly, in a committee hearing in Washington, D.C., a town that is reminding us all how it is even more obtuse on the local level than on the national,” Smith writes. “The salvo is called the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA), but just think of it as yet another effort from the DGDP: the Department of Good Deeds Punishment.”
Yes, good deeds. To Walmart, it seems, profits are secondary; its mission to rescue the poor, helpless District is priority No. 1.
“Away from the tourist trail, the District still contains some blighted neighborhoods where crime and disorder discourage business and leave residents starved for corporate attention,” Smith writes. “Walmart has eagerly been reviving desolate corners of the city.”
It’s true that many Washingtonians are excited to have a big retailer coming to their neighborhoods. But it’s not because they expect Walmart to eliminate blight and crime and disorder—it’s because they want to be able to buy cheap clothes and food without having to go somewhere else.
And has Walmart somehow already revived “desolate corners of the city” before opening a single store in D.C.? Hardly; what it has done is skillfully maneuver through the city’s political landscape. Walmart has managed to move forward with plans for six stores in D.C. without attracting meaningful opposition from city leaders. It’s orchestrated successful PR stunts and photo ops, and it’s made substantial donations to community organizations that have, I’m sure, been put to good use in many cases.
But according to Smith, the resistance to Walmart’s arrival could’ve been eased with simple bribery. “You may well ask why Walmart allowed the matter to get this far: When it comes to breaking into northern urban markets, can’t one of America’s largest and greatest companies steamroll a few local-yokel pols?” he writes. “Can’t it grease the right palms?”
No, he continues, Walmart is nobler than that. Instead of palm-greasing, Walmart has admirably put Council employees on its payroll, which is totally different.
And yet that’s still not enough to get those “rebarbative” (it means abhorrent; I had to look it up, too) councilmembers on board!
“You’d think a business that not only plays by the rules (without asking for tax and zoning breaks) but is a beloved icon for the working class and goes to considerable lengths to be a good corporate citizen would be welcomed at least as warmly as, say, a heavily-subsidized sports stadium catering mainly to suburbanites and the well-off,” Smith snarls.
But Smith concludes on a hopeful note, writing that “even in statist D.C.,” the glorious free market may come out on top. Let’s hope he’s right, for the sake of our blighted, desolate city!