It’s good news for residents of Washington, D.C., that Wal‐Mart is planning on opening four stores in the District. Yet Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney reports today on one curious source of opposition:
“There’ll probably be a lot of shoplifting going on. They’ll need a lot of security,” Terriea Sutton, 35, said.
Brenda Speaks, a Ward 4 ANC commissioner, actually urged blocking construction of the planned store in her ward at Georgia and Missouri avenues NW partly because of that risk. Addressing a small, anti‐Wal‐Mart rally at City Hall on Monday, Speaks said young people would get criminal records when they couldn’t resist the temptation to steal.
Of course, that’s a rationale for banning all stores, not just Wal‐Mart. Perhaps we should isolate these youths and consign them to abject poverty, so they’ll never be around anything worth stealing. (A Wal‐Mart spokesman commented that with regard to crime, “there is no more concern over these District locations than any other store locations.”)
Or we could recognize that Wal‐Mart helps pull people out of poverty. As Obama economic adviser Jason Furman reminds us:
Wal-Mart’s low prices help to increase real wages for the 120 million Americans employed in other sectors of the economy. And the company itself does not appear to pay lower wages or benefits than similar companies, or to cause substantially lower wages in the retail sector…
[T]o the degree the anti‐Wal‐Mart campaign slows or halts the spread of Wal‐Mart to new areas, it will lead to higher prices that disproportionately harm lower‐income families…
By acting in the interests of its shareholders, Wal‐Mart has innovated and expanded competition, resulting in huge benefits for the American middle class and even proportionately larger benefits for moderate‐income Americans.
Wal‐Mart could do even more good for District residents if these four new stores sold guns. That would quintuple the number of firearms retailers in the District, make self‐defense affordable for low‐income residents, and might just add some lobbying heft to the campaign to roll back D.C.‘s ridiculous gun regulations.