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Wal-Mart and Will – George That Is

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George F. Will has attacked what he sarcastically calls “The The big-hearted progressives on Chicago’s City Council” for passing a city ordinance requiring that big box stores like Wal-Mart pay a living wage to their employees. Will of course approves of Mayor Daley’s veto of the law.
If I recall he went into a tizzy also when Maryland made Wal-Mart provide its employees with closer to adequate health insurance.

This, according to Will, is the reason for the Chicago City Council passing the legislation:

Liberals think their campaign against Wal-Mart is a way of introducing the subject of class into America’s political argument, and they are more correct than they understand. Their campaign is liberalism as condescension. It is a philosophic repugnance toward markets, because consumer sovereignty results in the masses making messes. Liberals, aghast, see the choices Americans make with their dollars and their ballots and announce — yes, announce — that Americans are sorely in need of more supervision by . . . liberals.

Note the lack of evidence provided to support Will’s  assertion. He is doing that straw man thing that conservatives are so fond of. He is pretending not to know the economic and social justice reasons for living wage legislations and the living wage movement. If I thought Will would ever read this I would type the next few paragraph’s very slowly so that even he would be able to understand them.

In my mind at least there are in fact economic reasons for government’s to act to ensure that workers get paid enough to live on, such action to be legislative if necessary, but not necessarily legislative.  By which I mean to say that the economy as measured by the gross domestic product grows and the general welfare is promoted when workers are compensated adequately.

Here is the concept: people who have enough money to live on will spend it if they have it.  People who have more than enough money to live on might not spend it. They might save part of their surplus, which means investing it, or they might invest it more directly. But if I remember anything at all from  economics 101, a really good way to generate wealth and to multiply the value of the GDP is to have consumers consuming. Presto chango, everybody wins. Even the greedy rich people.

Right now of course we have declining real wages and a growing trade deficit, and a shrinking domestic consumer base. Why conservatives want such an outcome is beyond me, but that is what they are creating.

And no, being able to buy a ton of Pampers for $3.95 won’t solve these problems. That’s what Will and his class mates think is the benefit of paying starvation wages to workers. Stuff is cheaper to buy, and don’t poor people benefit from lower prices? Look at the data George. Not so much.
Right now, big huge chunks of the Wal-Mart work force earn near the minimum wage. There’s a lot of stuff they need that they can’t buy. Then too, if Wal-Mart employees can’t afford Wal-Mart health insurance, guess who gets to pay for their health care. Yup, everybody but Wal-Mart.

Living wages are not just good for the economy, they are also fair. It is fair that someone who works full time and contributes substantially tothe success of a company be paid enough to live on.
Finally, there are social reasons for doing what is necessary to ensure a living wage for everyone. I don’t have a source handy to support this observation, but it seems to me that raising relative living standards, and making society just a teensy more egalitarian would result in a healthier society – if you call Sandinavia healthy. Or Japan for that matter.

And why should governments intevene in this area? Mainly because conservatives have spent the last 60 years destroying collective bargaining. Welcome to Potterville, George.

I used to joke with my conservative friends that the right wants to bring back slavery. I’m not laughing anymore.

Written by slothropia

September 17th, 2006 at 9:35 pm

Posted in Wal-Mart

In His Father’s Footsteps

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Mayor Richard M. Corleone Daley has vetoed the Chicago City Council’s ordinance that would have ensured a living wage for workers in big box stores like Walmart.

Daley has ridiculed the ordinance since the council passed it on a 35-to-14 vote in July. It requires Wal-Mart and similar big-box stores to pay all workers $13 in salary plus benefits by 2010. Daley and opposition aldermen have said it stifles development.

For his veto to survive, Daley will have to make a couple of guys offers they can’t refuse.

This is not the first time in history that a mayor of Chicago named Daley has stood in the way of progress. I am pretty sure, for exmple, that Daley the Elder never shared a Chicago style pizza with Martin Luther King.

Here is how Amazon.com describes a biography of Richard J. titled American Pharaoh: Mayor Richad J. Daley, His Battle for Chicago and the Nation;

But Daley’s was a complicated legacy. While filling Chicago with modern architecture and affecting national politics, he was also held responsible for the segregation and police brutality that tore the city apart during the late ’60s and early ’70s. Throughout the book, Cohen and Taylor remind readers that Daley’s real influence came from the powerful political machine he created. When he didn’t like guidelines from national agencies, for example, he went directly to the presidents he helped get elected. When he got bad local press, people lost their jobs and his neighbors marched in his support. When Martin Luther King Jr. came to town, he was greeted by a handpicked organization of African American leaders with strong ties to Daley’s machine. It’s startling to remember that this was simply a local office; the mayor’s loyalties and prejudices affected the entire country.

Of course, the battle for a living wage for everyone that works is already joined nationally. This latest skirmish is part of that effort and will not end it, whatever the outcome.

Written by slothropia

September 13th, 2006 at 10:01 am

Posted in Chicago,Wal-Mart