MSNBC's Brzezinski Befuddled that D.C. Communities Want Walmart Jobs

On Monday’s Morning Joe, an all-liberal panel discussed, with co-host Joe Scarborough, the recent feud between the D.C. Council and Walmart, highlighting the standoff between the discount retail giant and city councilors over wages at three future Walmart locations in the nation’s capital.

Co-host Mika Brzezinski bashed Walmart throughout the segment, responding with a long pause and a befuddled look when Scarborough and liberal panelist Brian Shactman defended the world’s largest retailer. Brzezinski petulantly asked Shactman how Walmart’s “doing,” as though the answer alone would morally justify a policy that specifically targeted Walmart because it is a profitable, and politically incorrect, corporation:

Brian Shactman, how are Walmart’s profits? How are they doing?

Shactman acknowledged that Walmart is doing very well, but pushed back when Brzezinski implied the corporation should pay employees the $12.50 an hour the D.C. Council is attempting to require of them:

They have a low-margin business. They have over $100 billion a quarter in revenue. If they had to increase their wages like that in all their businesses, it would pretty much wipe out their profits. There’s no doubt about it.

Scarborough, for his part, criticized the D.C. Council’s attempt to force Walmart into paying their employees nearly 50 percent more than the current minimum wage in the capital city. He called the effort “Walmart-specific” and asserted:

This is a case of $8.25 an hour or zero an hour, because Walmart is going to move a lot of their stores out. They are not going to expand across the region. They are big enough and they are powerful enough to go where they want to go.

Former Democratic congressman and frequent Morning Joe panelist Harold Ford, Jr. also came to Walmart’s defense. He apparently agreed with the argument that Walmart is “more affordable for families up and down the income spectrum,” and that the corporation has “every right” to set its own wages.

That left only Brzezinski to represent the left-wing argument, snapping:

Eight-fifty an hour, is it? Eight-twenty five? That's a joke. Come on. Who disagrees with that? Does anybody here at the table?

No one disagreed, but Shactman and Scarborough both retorted that “communities want those jobs.” Scarborough added that young people also “need those jobs,” before Brzezinski responded with a long, seemingly deliberate, pause and a confused expression.

Apparently, Brzezinski doesn’t understand that jobs – even minimum-wage jobs – are a positive force in any community, especially a city struggling under the Obama economy like our nation’s capital. The D.C. Council’s bill punishes not just Walmart, but potential employees who would be more than happy to work above minimum wage but below the “living wage” the city council insists should be a wage floor for any Walmart job.

What’s more, as we’ve explained in previous posts, the bill exempts stores which have a collective bargaining agreement with a labor union. Some see this exemption as a transparent effort to punish Walmart, reward unions, and punish workers who don’t want to join a union.

Fortunately, and to be honest, surprisingly, Mika was the only liberal singing off the vacuous anti-Walmart songsheet today. Yes, sometimes even MSNBC can pleasantly surprise us.

See the full transcript below:


MSNBC
Morning Joe
July 22, 2013
7:41 a.m. Eastern

BRZEZINSKI: The mayor of Washington, D.C. is considering whether to veto an attempt by the city council to force big retailers, specifically Walmart, to pay employees more than the minimum wage. Walmart is pushing back, threatening to cancel projects for up to six stores in the area. The living wage measure would require Walmart to pay at least $12.50 an hour, compared to the current city minimum of $8.25. Mayor Vincent Gray, who lobbied hard to bring Walmart into the city, is stuck between supporters of the measure who say Walmart can easily afford it and opponents who fear the move will drive off much-needed jobs. Joe, you agree or disagree with the concept?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I disagree with the concept of actually singling out Walmart and telling them what they are going to have to pay their employees. Walmart should be able to make that decisions based on their own economic realities. You hear an awful lot of people saying, well gee, they can afford to pay $12.50 an hour. Maybe they can, maybe they can't. But that's their decision.

But at the end of the day, this isn't a question – and I saw somebody that’s in the middle of this debate say this on the mayor’s staff. This isn’t a question of whether you're talking about $8.25 an hour, the minimum wage, versus $12.50. This is a case of $8.25 an hour or zero an hour, because Walmart is going to move a lot of their stores out. They are not going to expand across the region. They are big enough and they are powerful enough to go where they want to go. And I think the fact that the city council is going against the mayor's wishes and deciding to just point a finger at Walmart specifically and attack them is short-sighted.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, no, it’s other big retailers as well. Walmart is fighting back. Brian Shactman, how are Walmart’s profits? How are they doing?

SHACTMAN: I mean, they’re doing very well.

BRZEZINSKI: Can they afford to pay their people $12.50 an hour?

SHACTMAN: The answer is yes and no. The truth is, their entire business model is based on low-wage workers.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, is that a concept for American business?

SHACTMAN: They have a low-margin business. They have over $100 billion a quarter in revenue. If they had to increase their wages like that in all their businesses, it would pretty much wipe out their profits. There’s no doubt about it.

BRZEZINSKI: So their business model is based on paying people a wage that they cannot live on?

SHACTMAN: Well, I think that sort of underscores the larger conversation, right? We talked about this McDonald’s story last week, Harold [Ford, Jr.], I don’t know if you saw it. They have these personal finance, internal websites that basically said you couldn't live off McDonald’s wages unless you got a second job that paid you almost as much. The city council is saying you can't live off that wage and have any sort of middle class life. But Joe is right. At the same time, it’s their business. They should be able to run it the way they want to as long as –

HAROLD FORD, JR.: The two concerns I have, Joe touched on one of them –

SCARBOROUGH: But, but, but the problem here is if you're going to raise a minimum wage for everybody, raise the minimum wage for everybody. But the fact is, the Washington [D.C.] City Council heralded this case as specifically targeting Walmart. Now yes, others may be impacted. But this is a Walmart-specific bill that in effect they are going after them. That's why we're talking about Walmart while The New York Times was talking about Walmart yesterday. This seems short-sighted. They are paying people that work for Walmart, Harold, what other companies consider them to be worth in the marketplace.

FORD, JR.: I was just going to amplify that point.

SCARBOROUGH: That’s up to the market!

FORD, JR.: I don't like targeting businesses. One of the reasons I'm against targeting oil and gas industry for subsidies, you're going to deal with everybody, deal with everyone. I think your point is right. And a second point you make, I think that Washington has to deal with, every city has to deal with. Walmart has to make clear, and they have every right to do this – if you don't want us coming to your town paying $8.25 an hour, we'll leave. And they have that option because of their size and scale. They also argued that the products they sell at Walmart are more affordable for families up and down the income spectrum. And one of the reasons is because of this business model. So it’s a thorny issue. And I hope Walmart makes its way to Washington, and I hope they find a way over the next several years to address some of the income inequality issues.

BRZEZINSKI: Maybe pay people a little better. I think it's an interesting look at mayors across the country, making statements about our society whether it's here in New York and the way we – our health, or in Washington and the way people are paid and what minimum wage should or should not be. Eight-fifty an hour, is it? Eight-twenty five? That's a joke. Come on. Who disagrees with that? Does anybody here at the table?

SHACTMAN: No, but communities want those jobs.

BRZEZINSKI: Up next, new research shows –

SCARBOROUGH: Well –

BRZEZINKSI: Yes, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH: Not only do communities want those jobs, there are a lot of young workers that not only want those jobs, but need those jobs.

BRZEZINSKI [long pause, looking confused]: We'll take this up in just a moment.