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DC Residents Clamor for Walmart Jobs


Washington, DC is two weeks away from ribbon-cutting ceremonies for its first two Walmarts. For the stores’ 600 available jobs Walmart has received 23,000-plus applications—38 per job. Matt Yglesias explains why this makes sense and should be celebrated:

But when you’re talking about a city’s economy, it’s important to distinguish between two kinds of job growth. One, which D.C. has had in spades, is the kind of thing where firms in the area want to hire lots of skilled workers at high wages leading to an influx of new affluent people. Another is a scenario where the people who are already living in the city get hired for relatively low-skilled service sector jobs and eventually the local labor market gets tight enough that wages have to rise for people to find positions. The D.C. area has had some of this latter form of job growth (especially relative to the truly bleak job markets prevailing in many parts of the country) but not nearly enough.

That’s the moral of the story with these Walmart job openings. To create rising employment and incomes for the many working class people in the area, you need two, three, many Walmarts. And you need new restaurants and new taxis and new hotels and new hospitals and new construction projects. These aren’t the “good jobs” in information technology and biotech that civic officials fantasize about, but the people who are really in need simply aren’t qualified for the fanciest jobs around. They need regular jobs. And they need enough of them so they can bargain for better wages and working conditions rather than being fearful of returning to the ranks of the unemployed.

By any honest account there is much to dislike about Walmart. By skimping on employee health care, Walmart forces employees onto taxpayer-funded public health programs. In a 2005 memo, Walmart admitted that nearly half of its employees’ children were uninsured or on Medicaid. A story that deservedly went viral this week reported that a Walmart in Canton, Ohio held a food drive for its own needy employees. The company has been accused of everything from condoning the torture and abuse of pigs to creating unemployment.

But it’s worth pondering why elite, often left-leaning opinions about Walmart seem to have little in common with those of the people who actually shop there and want to work there. The number of applications the DC Walmarts have received seems to be evidence that those actually dealing with unemployment have decided that a Walmart wage will help improve their standard of living. And Walmart prices increase the purchasing power of low-income people, potentially making the difference between struggling and getting by. The knock-on effects of liberal solutions to Walmart evils, like raising the minimum wage beyond a threshold the company is willing to accept, often harm the very people their proponents claim to be helping.

The DC Walmarts will provide employment and affordable goods to people who need them, and that’s a good thing.

[Walmart image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    And the Democrats want 11 million illegal aliens to compete for these few jobs, why don’t they just shiv all underemployed and unemployed American workers and just get it over with?

    • Corlyss

      I’m sure that’s down the line. You know, those goals they can’t talk about for fear of alarming the sheeple, like the truth about Obamacare.

  • Andrew Allison

    “By any honest account there is much to dislike about Walmart.” is absolutely wrong and intellectually dishonest!

    By any honest account, Walmart has found a niche and is filling it admirably. The company clearly provides value to its customers and jobs for it’s employees, all of whom are free to find a better one if they can. It’s very disappointing to see VM engage in Blue State Walmart-bashing.

    • Corlyss

      Agreed. I think I mentioned here that I never understood WalMart’s true worth until I heard uberleftie investment guru Jim Cramer describe in moving terms how until WalMart, poor men and women could not afford a decent suit appropriate for a job interview. When I heard that, my devotion to them switched from their being merely a Great American Success Story a la Sears to a decent business model that simultaneously does good works. Frankly, before it had never occurred to me that a suit appropriate for a job interview could possibly have been outside the means of an earnest and skilled poor man or woman sincerely looking for work. My embarrassing bad elitist blind spot.

      • Andrew Allison

        Right on. And today’s insistence upon a degree for a job that doesn’t require one it equally obscene.

  • lukelea

    “By any honest account there is much to dislike about Walmart. By skimping on employee health care, Walmart forces employees onto taxpayer-funded public health programs.”

    I’m not sure that is such a bad thing. Employer supplied health care is at the root of our problem here. All we need to do is expand eligibility for Medicaid until it includes virtually the entire population. What would be wrong with that?

    • Andrew Allison

      Whoa there. If the Walmart employees were unemployed, they would be not only on taxpayer-funded public heath programs, but on welfare too boot.

  • NCMountainGirl

    Jobs at Wal-Mart are also highly prized by people with large families because of the employee discounts. It is a one stop shop for many and the discount can make a substantial difference to the family budget,

  • Matthew Brotchie

    Why is it the that every time Via Meadia brings up Walmart Costco is never mentioned?

    Costco has the same upsides WRM gives to Walmart but has very few of the horrible downsides, as they continue to treat their employees much better. I have suspicions that Walmart may have an advantaged over Costco due to entrenched interests tied to our ever expanding and transparently corrupt political class.

    An example of Walmarts contribution to our two-party plutocracy :

  • Loader2000

    mmmm….retail (like restaurants) is somewhat of a zero-sum game in a local area. Walmart will create jobs in its own store, but it will also make jobs disappear in other locations where people will no longer shop. The only potential contribution Walmart makes is not in job creations, but if it can provide essential goods and services so cheaply and efficiently that it raises the standard of living of local residents. Simply providing poor people with access to more shoddy ‘stuff’ will not increase their standard of living in any meaningful way. Like WRM as pointed out several times, as a civilization, we are ‘stuff’ rich, but ‘meaning’ poor. However, if Walmart can provide food, banking services, pharmacies, basic household goods like cleaning supplies and garbage bags (things that are necessary) MORE efficiently than other places, than maybe it is doing some good.

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