SD Rostra

Re-Print on Wal-Mart

Reading Richard Rider’s post below, I can’t help but re-hash my FlashReport commentary of about 3-1/2 years ago, regarding — at the time — a proposed ordinance to regulate big box retailers…

Big Boxes and Big Brother

Proving they are more beholden to their union backers than they are their own constituents, a majority of the San Diego City Council on Tuesday told their fellow citizens they shouldn’t be allowed to save money when grocery shopping.

Some are calling the council’s proposed law a “Big Box Ordinance,” as it bans large retailers that devote more than 10 percent of their floor space to non-taxable sales, such as groceries (i.e., no Wal-Mart Super Centers).

Let’s call it what it is, a “Big Brother Ordinance.” Regardless of any other San Diego reforms being championed by Mayor Jerry Sanders, Big Brother is alive and well at City Hall.

We can’t be sure if this Big Brother is embodied more by the city council majority or by those unions that have forced the issue, driving the council to do its bidding while ignoring anything akin to free market economics. Instead of trying to decide which is Big Brother, let’s just call the council majority and the unions “Big Brothers in Arms.”

Mayor Sanders has pledged a veto of the ordinance. However, with the same five-vote majority that supported the big box ban, the council can override a veto. The SDUT enlightened us yesterday: “Although the council is nonpartisan, the vote was along party lines. Those supporting the ban are Democrats; those opposed are Republicans. Sanders also is a Republican.”

If basic economics is too difficult to grasp for the council, you’d think they’d understand lower grocery prices for their constituents. Studies regularly show that when a Wal-Mart grocery store enters a community, a cost savings not only benefits those shopping there, but grocery prices fall dramatically at other area stores, often by 15-20 percent and more. It’s called competition, lest we have forgotten.

That may not be too hard to understand, but it’s very difficult to translate the truth into an appropriate policy decision when those paying the grocery bills only vote for you, instead of lining your pockets with campaign cash.

Of course, it’s also pretty easy to forget the cost saving information if you bury it under the propaganda about Wal-Mart the Evil. Let’s not even get into those arguments, other than to simply remind anyone listening – including, hopefully, a councilmember or two – that it’s not government’s job to dictate the market economy, regardless of personal views about one business versus another. Detest Wal-Mart or not, show me how the store’s presence in a community is illegal, and then we’ll talk about enforcement.

Don’t like them? OK, then let’s make it illegal for them to be present. Let’s create enforcement out of thin air. Oh yeah, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

The outlandish quote of the day came from former Councilmember Valerie Stallings: “It’s true that the big boxes may be less expensive and they do offer affordable prices to many families, but they do not provide the kind of friendly and individual service that a smaller business can,” she said in the SDUT.

Great, so now we’re making public policy decisions based on who we believe is the friendliest.

When government goes down the path of trying to referee the economy by supposedly safeguarding some businesses from the competition of others, what’s to keep it from deciding that a new McDonald’s shouldn’t be allowed across the street from an existing Burger King? After all, a new eatery may have a detrimental effect on the already established fast food restaurant. Perish the thought that a hungry citizen should have the power to choose which kind of burger they want.

In the City of San Diego, apparently, especially if the Burger King were union and the McDonald’s not, the city council might very well get involved.

Bottom line: If Wal-Mart were unionized, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

Somebody has gotten too big for their britches. In this case, it’s the San Diego City Council. Instead of an ordinance regulating Big Boxes, perhaps we should start with an ordinance regulating Big Government.

Short of that, perhaps somebody needs to get their britches sued off.


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