Editorial: War on low-income consumers

As part of last week’s mad rush by the Legislature to remake the planet — you know, commanding the climate to cool, universalizing health care — the Democrats threw in two other measures, both designed to advance their party’s national agenda by demonizing Wal-Mart.

A curious target, this retail phenomenon, because few businesses have done more to democratize the American marketplace than the late Sam Walton’s inspiration out of Arkansas. So popular was this economy-of-scale merchandiser that one Hillary Clinton, an upcoming governor’s wife, in 1985 happily joined its board of directors.

She’s long since off that board, for obvious conflict-of-interest reasons. But the decent interval since her departure has allowed the New York senator to stay mute through her colleagues’ anti-Wal-Mart chorus.

No such history inhibits Delaware’s Sen. Joseph Biden or Indiana’s Sen. Evan Bayh, both potential presidential contenders in 2008, from bashing Wal-Mart. SaidBiden recently: “My problem with Wal-Mart is that I don’t see any indication that they care about the fate of middle-class people. They talk about paying them $10 an hour. That’s true. How can you live a middle-class life on that?”

Never mind that in 2005 the average hourly wage in retailing was $10.85, in range of Wal-Mart’s. And never mind that, according to Global Insight, nationwide expansion of the company’s competitive price reductions from 1985 to 2004 lowered the consumer price index by 3.1 percent, making the world’s largest employer an inflation fighter to rival the Federal Reserve.

And never mind that other studies show how, when Wal-Mart comes to town, it creates more jobs than it displaces. All this prompted Investor’s Business Daily to muse: “Imagine a private group that pays billions in taxes, creates millions of jobs and sells things at ultra-low prices. Too good to be true? It’s called Wal-Mart — and Democrats, for some reason, want to kill it off.”

The party, in Bayh’s words, consider Wal-Mart “emblematic of the anxiety around the country, and the middle-class squeeze.” So here in California the legislature is sending Gov. Schwarzenegger one bill that would require local governments to conduct economic impact reviews before allowing “big box” retailers to open up shop.

Another would force the company to pay local government legal fees if it challenges “anti-Wal-Mart” restrictions and loses (the closest you’ll see the Democrats coming to “loser pays” tort reform). You do wonder.

The Bay Area has known its share of anti-Wal-Mart passions, most recently in Hercules, where officials realized their anti-competitive afflatus to bar the store. And Sacramento has forced consumers, many of them low-income, to drive well into the Central Valley to take advantage of Wal-Mart prices.

Does this really make political sense? Why would the Democrats want to alienate these consumers?

editorialsOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Health care workers in the intensive care unit at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, with Alejandro Balderas, a 44-year-old patient who later died. Even in California, a state with a coronavirus vaccination rate well above average, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly doubled in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. (Isadora Kosofsky/The New York Times)
Why COVID took off in California, again

‘The good news is: The vaccines are working’

Lake Oroville stood at 33 percent full and 40 percent of historical average when this photograph was taken on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Tribune News Service)
A kayaker on the water at Lake Oroville, which stands at 33 percent full and 40 percent of historical average when this photograph was taken on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Oroville, Calif. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Tribune News Service)
Facing ‘dire water shortages,’ California bans Delta pumping

By Rachel Becker CalMatters In an aggressive move to address “immediate and… Continue reading

Students practice identifying species in the school garden at Verde Elementary in Richmond during summer camp. (Photo courtesy of Verde Elementary)
Reading, writing and bike riding: How schools spent summer helping students recover from pandemic

By Sydney Johnson EdSource Bicycles typically aren’t allowed on the blacktop at… Continue reading

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission launched a pilot program that offers up to 90 percent discounts on water and sewer bills for eligible customers. (Andri Tambunan/Special to ProPublica)
How does 90% off your water bill sound? Here’s who qualifies

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced this week it is launching… Continue reading

Most Read