Wal-Mart in D.C.

My sister, a dedicated moderate Republican, shared with me this link to this DCist story. My sister, like me, is a fan of Wal-Mart. She was struck by the stupidity of comments made by Robby Diesu. Apparently, most of DCists commentors rightly agree his comments are non-sensical.

No bones about it. Robby Diesu’s comments are off-base. Wikibin describes him as a ‘Peace and Social Justice activist who lives in Washington, DC and attends the Catholic University of America.’ A quick google search shows that Robby is pretty much a professional protester who happens to attend college.

Whether it’s organizing for nut-job Cindy Sheehan, carving out a niche for gay students at Catholic, disrupting tours of the U.S. Capitol and getting arrested, getting arrested at the White House, getting arrested outside of the Capitol, or disrupting a peaceful neighborhood with bull horn protests, I am surprised this kid has time to attend classes. He probably has to work multiple jobs to cover all of the bail to repeatedly cover the times he’s been arrested. Maybe he’s on the six-year plan. This kid would be king of the jungle for social justice activists at SLU. Camping in a tent for Haiti? Please. There’s no topping Robby!

To Robby’s comment that is getting torn apart on DCist:

“First, it doesn’t bring real economic development to D.C. and to the Brightwood/Petworth neighborhood, which is where most of the organizers live. Second, we need more affordable housing in the District. To really support local businesses, the District needs more people living here that can buy things. If we have cheaper living, people can buy more things. Third, Walmart funds anti-statehood candidates. By welcoming Walmart into the District, it’s like a slap in the face for the people who think we should have full statehood.”

I have a hard time believing that Robby is an expert on “real economic development.” Second, I love how he identifies with “most organizers” (read:union, interest-group, or unemployed). Once Robby graduates, if he already hasn’t, he’ll be an organizer, which is the same thing as an unemployed business graduate telling everyone they’re “a consultant.”

Then, Robby pivots to affordable housing. I often ask people “why do you think rent is so high in D.C.?” It’s kind of a way to litmus test their economic knowledge, and there are many answers. Quite often, people are at a loss for any answer that has ties to reality, and from there, it’s hard to take their other views seriously. What Wal-Mart has to do with “affordable housing” is beyond me. Housing will always be unaffordable in D.C., and one big culprit is land-use restrictions. If you’re limited how high you can build, and nobody will want to live 5 stories below ground, growth will go outwards if it can’t go upwards. And given that D.C.’s boundaries are finite, it limits how affordable housing can actually be. It’s not rocket science.

Wal-Mart’s motto is “save money, live better, Wal-Mart.” Robby continues that “if we have cheaper living” people can buy more things. Well, Robby. That isn’t going to happen. Living is not going to get cheaper, so what does Wal-Mart do? Offer cheaper products. The effect of which, is the same. People are enriched because the cost of living, through cheaper goods, is lessened, leaving people with more money to do other things to make their lives better.

Most of you will know that I oppose D.C. statehood. It’s contrary to what the founders intended the District of Columbia to be, and sets a horrible precedent. Making a city of 68.3 square miles into a state opens the realm of possibility that we could have tons of mini city states across the country. This isn’t ancient Greece. We don’t need over 180,000 city-states consisting of 68.3 square miles across the country. But who cares Wal-Mart supports politicians who think that a city intended to be a non-state, with the sole purpose of incubating the federal government, shouldn’t be a state? Target has funded political candidates with anti-gay views, would Robby be OK with a Target?

Further, it’s interesting how their fliers once had targets on Wal-Mart, but now do not.

Let’s analyze the points made in this flyer.

First, Wal-Mart “eliminates” 1.4 retail jobs for every job it creates. I disagree with the premise that “Wal-Mart” does this. Consumers do this by their decision to purchase goods. This leads me to two thoughts: 1.) the 1.4 jobs lost for every job Wal-Mart creates suggests that other business(es) aren’t efficient economic actors, and thus, offer the goods at higher prices, since they require more employment than Wal-Mart. 2.) if they were selling goods at the same or better prices, they wouldn’t go out of business.

But not all small businesses sell comparable goods. DCist commentor TenleyExpat says this:

I addressed this a few weeks ago in the last Wal-Mart hate thread:

Oh right, I forgot about the mom-and-pop stores that Wal-Mart will crush. The Automotive department will suck up all the talent from nearby local auto stores, like Autozone. I remember when Mr. and Mrs. Autozone started that store back in 62!

And the clothing department will put all the local clothing stores under for good! I’m sure the folks at Universal Madness will be in the unemployment line when all their customers suddenly decide that giant multicolored shirts are stupid, and what they really want are distressed polos from Canyon River Blues.

And all zero electronics stores in the area better start calling their bankruptcy lawyers, as should Gneous Music, and whatever that Jamaican place is called, because if there is one thing people go to Wal-Mart for, it’s obscure Reggae 45s and explicit hip hop from local artists.

Small, niche businesses do not compete with Wal-Mart. Quite often, it’s stores like CVS and Rite Aid. These protesters are often the same people who bitch and moan about D.C. having many places they consider to be a “food desert.” Yet, now the country’s largest grocer is coming in, teaming up with the First Lady to offer healthy food, and that’s a bad thing. I’m confused. There’s a difference between organizers like Barack and Michelle Obama and Robby, who have come to recognize that in some ways, it’s better to change the mechanism than to oppose it outright. You just end up looking like an opportunist shill and you lose credibility.

Second, the flier is opposed to Wal-Mart supporting politicians who oppose D.C. statehood, which we’ve already briefly talked about, and “other right wing” candidates. This is where you can see that they start showing their stripes. Who cares what politics business owners have? Jan, the owner of Humphrey’s is a Democrat. I worked for her. I patronized her business. Tons of examples like that exist, and when you start isolating who you will/will not buy from because of politics, you eliminate your ability to save money and make yourself better off. It’s a decision you can make, but it’s usually a bad idea to limit your choices. Alas, this is the mindset of “organizers.”

Third, small business close all of the time, regardless of Wal-Mart’s presence. And they don’t close because of Wal-Mart, they close because of consumers and consumer choice. If Wal-Mart sells pre-made snickerdoodle cookie dough for $1.88, and Jim’s Food Mart has it for $3.00, the reason Jim’s Food Mart might lose customers is because Jim isn’t able to offer his customers what they want at the price they want. Keeping Wal-Mart from opening, and Robby and his cronies forcing working class people in D.C. to shop at Jim’s Food Mart makes them poorer. Some way to advocate for the welfare of the working poor.

And finally, the flier opines about Wal-Mart’s low wages and “paltry benefits.” These people haven’t scratched the surface of the issue, as we have earlier on the blog. If I’m given the choice between an entry level minimum wage at Jim’s Food Mart and an entry-level minimum wage job with one of the world’s largest companies that provides me a shit-ton of benefits, where do you think I am going to work? Jim’s Food Mart doesn’t offer career-tracks, and most small businesses can’t. Just as consumers can choose, so can potential employees choose where they work.

Don’t like Wal-Mart? Don’t shop there.

Don’t like what Wal-Mart offers employees? Don’t work there.

But don’t deny people the right to make their consumer decisions as they see fit because Wal-Mart doesn’t align itself with your personal worldview.

Oh, for fun, here is the link to their website: http://walmartfreedc.org/.

In closing, I wanted to put down some of the comments from DCist’s commenters, which are surprisingly insightful:

This guy’s grasp of how economics works seems tentative at best. He’s complaining about the cost of living. He’s complaining about affordable housing. He’s complaining about Walmart. Does he have any idea how those factors are related? First of all, $h!t in DC is expensive because of supply and demand: lots of people and limited retail. Those dollars are going to MD and VA because cheap retail left DC forty years ago. And there’s plenty of affordable housing in DC, it’s just in neighborhoods that are outside many people’s comfort zones. He should move into a particularly stabby neighborhood with his friends and clean the neighborhood up. He’ll either increase the amount of affordable housing stock or get chased down the sidewalk by a double amputee with a shotgun. Win win.

WRD in reply to monkeyrotica
Props to that first sentence, especially.

If do shop at Walmart, they’ll save money on groceries and be better off. If they don’t like Walmart, they don’t have to shop there.

Amongst the biggest problems facing affordable housing is the supply constraint. Housing is so expensive because lots of people want to live in few units. Why isn’t this “activist” trying to do something about that?

how dare they let someone bring jobs to the district, and on top of that, cheaper products. Unbelievable!

Yeah, Walmart will ruin Petworth the way that Target ruined Columbia Heights. Wait a minute, Target brought lots of other good stuff with it and keeps tax revenue in the District.

monkeyrotica in reply to CookinKat
The fundamental flaw in their argument is that they’re saying the choice is Walmart or more mom and pop small businesses. Problem is that the District Government has consistently tried to lure large businesses and deep pocket law and consulting firms to DC, at the expense of small businesses. It’s a lot easier to lure a handful of big box stores and law firms to DC than it is to keep thousands of small businesses from fleeing to the suburbs.

As for what Walmart has to do with voting rights, I’ve scratched my head to a bloody pulp trying to figure that one out. And their website isn’t much help either. It’s just a handful of jeremiads about how Walmart is evil without explaining why they’re evil.

There’s also a pretty horrible rap song playing in the background.

++Diesu said, “he’s the one person that can say no and just stop the whole Walmart issue.”++

Really? The ONLY one? Diesu lacks fundamental understanding of both economics and of development.

Comments are closed, but we have a thread open over at Bomble.net.

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