MSNBC's Smerconish Says that DC Mayor Gray Should Veto DC's 'Living Wage' Bill Targeting Walmart

This one is a lead candidate for top placement in this week's "Even a stopped clock is right twice day" file.

MSNBC's Michael Smerconish, whose NewsBusters archive exposes him as a Barack Obama-supporting, right-wing conspiracy-mongering faux conservative, had a perhaps surprising reaction to the District of Columbia City Council's 8-5 vote to force Walmart and other big box retailers in the city -- just the ones which aren't unionized -- a living wage of $12.50 per hour. In a Thursday evening column at the network's website, he advised DC Mayor Vincent Gray to veto it, and was actually quite logical about it (bold is mine):


In the U.S., the average wage for a full-time hourly Wal-Mart associate is $12.57, according to the company. That’s about $25,000 a year at 40 hours a week, or just above the federal poverty level of $23,050 for a family of four. But many part-time workers at the company make little more than the minimum wage.

Proponents say that where Walmart reported a net income of $17 billion on sales of $470 billion in its most recent fiscal year, it could afford to pay better wages.

I don’t find that persuasive.

Walmart’s ability to pay a super minimum wage is no more justification for paying it than would be allowing an unsuccessful business to pay less than a minimum wage.

... the business was born in a competitive marketplace, and that’s the same environment – not the halls of government – in which Walmart should have to justify its continued success.

If consumers believe that Walmart destroys more jobs than it creates, or that Walmart causes its own employees to require public assistance, or makes it impossible for mom and pop businesses to compete on Main Street, they should vote with their wallets. Walmart is nothing without the consumers who support it.

But the solution is not for government to single out an American business, any American business, for punitive treatment.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray should use his power… and veto the bill.

Yesterday, the Washington Post (HT Ken Shepherd at NewsBusters) noted that "Labor leaders ... drafted the bill originally."

Not to be overlooked is the fact that many DC residents already vote with their wallets and burn untold amounts of fossil fuels by driving to Walmart stores in Maryland and Northern Virginia to save money. Also note that this legislation was from all appearances been sprung on the company only after it began building stores. Last-second targeted legislation such as this is best seen as blackmail of highly questionable legality: "Now that we've tempted you to come in here, you can play ball with us, or eat the costs you've already incurred."

Fortunately, the company looks like it will take the loss if the veto stands. To use the Washington Post's catchphrase: It will be the poor and minorities who will be hardest hit, not Walmart shareholders.

It looks like even Michael Smerconish gets that.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.