Paul Jacob

Growing from a single Arkansas discount store in 1962 to the world’s biggest retailer and largest private employer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., today provides jobs for two million people.

In our modern world, that’s enough to make the Bentonville, Arkansas, company big labor’s “Public Enemy Number One,” with union-backed politicians (read: Democrats) organizing something of a dragnet to bring down the retailer.

Sure, we get it, they don’t like the non-union jobs at Walmart . . . or the pay or the benefit packages. But no one is forced to take those jobs. The folks who do go to work at Walmart have freely chosen that opportunity to earn a living over their other (presumably less-lucrative) offers.

And then, after going to work, they haven’t collectively chosen to unionize, either. Perhaps many Walmart employees would like higher-paying union jobs. But they haven’t apparently been offered any, and may understand that, if Walmart were forced to pay more for labor, their job offers may vanish. They may understand a truth other folks have trouble with: “you can’t do just one thing” — requiring that higher wages be paid doesn’t mean that the same number of jobs will be offered. Cause and effect don’t stop with politicians’ intent.

Walmart employees have, instead, teamed with a company so adept at its mission to “sell for less” that studies show shopping there saves the average American more than $2,300 a year and provides a greater financial benefit to the poor than does the federal government’s growing food stamp program.

Once upon a time, even a Democrat from Massachusetts understood, reminding his fellow liberals: “You cannot love employment and hate employers.” Let us hope the common sense of the late U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas has not been “interred with [his] bones.”

But hope oft wilts when in Washington.

This past week, the august District of Columbia City Council took center stage to strike at Walmart. The council has been considering an ordinance to hike the minimum wage way, way up to a so-called “living wage.”

But not for everyone — apparently, some minimum wage employees will continue to have to die for their job.

The legislation increases the minimum wage by over 50 percent, from the current $8.25 an hour to $12.50, but it does so only for people working at non-unionized big box stores with annual sales greater than a billion dollars — in other words, just Walmart and Costco. Unionized grocery stores like Giant and Safeway are specifically exempted from the law.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.