The most delicious moment in the WMDS hysteria came last week, when civil rights icon Andrew Young had what some are calling his Mel Gibson moment. Hired as a flack for Wal-Mart, Young gave an interview to the black-owned Los Angeles Sentinel in which he celebrated Wal-Mart's role as a destroyer of small, locally owned stores. Wal-Mart, he explained, "ran the mom-and-pop stores out of my neighborhood. But you see, these are the people who have been overcharging us - selling us stale bread, and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans, and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."
His remarks about Asians, Arabs and Jews sounded bigoted, particularly coming from a civil rights crusader and former U.N. ambassador. Although it's hard to tell if his liberal confreres are more offended by his denunciation of supposedly predatory ethnic groups or his defense of the company Democrats are demonizing.
Regardless, the delicious part is that Young was basically right on both counts. It costs a lot of money to be poor. Go into a small grocery store - whether owned by blacks, Jews, Arabs or Koreans - in a poor neighborhood and you'll be stunned at how expensive basic foodstuffs are. Poor people can't afford to drive to the suburbs to shop at mega-stores. And small-business people - often "middleman minorities" such as Koreans or West Indians - can't afford the cheap prices and updated inventory that come with the economies of scale that the big chains enjoy. These ethnic entrepreneurs aren't ripping off the poor. They are providing a service that big corporations won't, often at considerable risk.
Now, Wal-Mart wants to provide the inner-city poor the same billions in savings it has delivered to suburban and rural areas, creating more jobs for the inner-city poor than it supposedly destroys in the process. But the Democrats are standing in the way because labor unions hate Wal-Mart's policies and because Wal-Mart bashing has a placebo effect on Bush-bashing addicts.
It's horrific politics and silly public policy - but a joy to watch.