Living wage, dead jobs

What’s better than the minimum wage?  How about a super-minimum-wage, tailored to hit one company that liberals particularly hate?

You see, Wal-Mart wants to open at least three stores in the poverty-stricken areas of Washington, D.C., bringing a large number of jobs, and affordable products, to areas desperately in need of them.  But the normal minimum wage of $8.25 per hour isn’t good enough for the evil Wal-Mart, so the geniuses who turned our nation’s capital into a hellhole decided to create a special new $12.50 “living wage” that would only apply to huge retailers.  Then they carved out special exemptions for every huge retailer except Wal-Mart.  Take your jobs and shove ’em, Wal-Mart!

The Washington Post reports:

The D.C. Council bill would require retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger to pay their employees no less than $12.50 an hour. The city???s minimum wage is $8.25.

While the bill would apply to some other retailers ??? such as Home Depot, Costco and Macy???s ??? a grandfather period and an exception for those with unionized workforces made it clear that the bill targets Wal-Mart, which has said it would open six stores, employing up to 1,800 people.

Alex Barron, a regional general manager for Wal-Mart U.S., wrote in a Washington Post op-ed piece that the proposed wage requirement ???would clearly inject unforeseen costs into the equation that will create an uneven playing field and challenge the fiscal health of our planned D.C. stores.???

As a result, Barron said, the company ???will not pursue??? stores at three locations where construction has yet to begin ??? two in Ward 7 and one in Ward 5. He added that the legislation, if passed, will also jeopardize the three stores underway, pending a review of the ???financial and legal implications.??? While precise terms of its agreements with developers are not known, the company???s leases could be difficult to break without major financial penalties.

That’s entirely too much intelligence and common sense for the overlords of the D.C. wasteland, who set about thundering how Wal-Mart was cruel and evil for refusing to meekly pay this special higher wage.  The same thing has happened before, and the company is always excoriated as a bunch of bullies for raising objections:

Wal-Mart???s decision echoes the retailer???s first incursion into an American urban center seven years ago, when the Chicago City Council passed a similar ???living-wage??? measure. The company indicated then that the bill would cause it to scale back or entirely scrap its plans to open several stores, Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed the bill, and the council failed to override it. In March, New York raised its minimum wage only after a compromise offered tax subsidies to firms such as Wal-Mart that hire seasonal workers.

Ken Jacobs, chairman of the University of California at Berkeley???s Center for Labor Research and Education, who has investigated Wal-Mart???s wage policies, said the firm has opposed living-wage laws and other measures that target its business practices, particularly in urban markets.

???When asked about labor law, they generally say, we follow the laws of the jurisdiction in which we???re operating,??? he said. ???But it???s also clear when they say that, that they put a lot of weight on shaping the laws in the jurisdictions where they are operating.???

One prominent local proponent of the D.C. Council bill said the fight is properly placed in a national context. ???We have learned from Chicago; we have learned from New York City,??? said Joslyn N. Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO. ???Our fight here is not just a local fight. ???

A company actually wants to participate in the political process of a community where it will be paying millions of dollars in taxes?  The nerve of those guys!

Maybe the “living wage” folks will win that national fight they want, and we can have a full-blown depression, in which Barack Obama’s dreary years of recessionary unemployment are fondly recalled as the “good old days,” when folks actually had jobs, and you could buy something other than Soylent Green with your food-stamp card.  Meanwhile, the poor of Washington can take comfort in knowing that instead of 1,800 jobs at $8.25 an hour, they’ve got zero jobs at $12.50.  Be sure to thank your politicians for the love they’re smothering you with, folks!

This really is more than just a local struggle.  The mirage of government-mandated prosperity is forever pursued, at the expense of real economic growth.  Why not just pass a law that says everyone is rich?  Because no such law can override the far deeper laws of supply and demand, no matter how many charlatans promise otherwise.  Of course everyone wants to make more than the minimum wage.  That’s a very healthy ambition… right up until people start demanding it from the government, instead of earning it.  But of course, not everyone will do what’s necessary to earn it, and that’s not fair, so instead of prosperity we get “fairness,” which is misery spread thin.