Whether or not you shop at Wal-Mart, you’ve already benefitted from the mega-retailer’s ceaseless efforts to cut prices. A 2005 study found that the nationwide expansion of the store had driven down everyone’s cost for food-at-home, commodities and overall consumer products. Competition among retailers drives down prices for all shoppers.
Meanwhile, by one estimate, Wal-Mart saved consumers at its stores a quarter of a trillion dollars in 2006. And that was several dozen price cuts ago. But you need to live near one to benefit directly. And in our nation’s capital, many residents could be denied the opportunity to shop at Wal-Mart, because the city’s government has decided to try to “help” residents by targeting that company.
On July 10, the D.C. City Council passed a bill called the “Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013.” Columnist Charles Krauthammer says the measure is “almost like a bill of attainder” because it’s so narrowly aimed. It says that “retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger” would be forced to pay a minimum wage of $12.50 per hour, as opposed to the $8.25 that’s the minimum wage everywhere else in D.C.
The law also only applies to new stores, so it’s a perfect example of crony capitalism: existing retailers such as Target and Home Depot are benefitting from the D.C. government’s ability to limit their competition. Unions benefit too. Any unionized retailer, such as Giant or Safeway, would be exempt from the new law.