New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn argues that for every two jobs Walmart creates three jobs are lost in the same neighborhood. Steve Malanga of The Manhattan Institute points out that this is the problem 19th Century French economist Frederic Bastiat explored: It is the seen versus the unseen. The seen is the businesses that find themselves unable to compete with Walmart for various reasons and jobs are lost when those businesses fail. But unseen are all the new businesses that then come in to replace the ones that leave. These new businesses find new ways to satisfy customers. This process is actually helped by Walmart because the money that consumers save by shopping at Walmart is available to go back into the local economy in other ways, where it creates new jobs. Given enough time, which is not a long time, there is no net loss of jobs when a new Walmart store arrives in a community because of the new business dynamics that are created. Adding in the new jobs created by Walmart there is a net gain in employment in the community.
Some of jobs created by Walmart go to people who initially have very low appeal to other employers. These people get a low wage job when their only alternative is no job at all. Many of them end up doing well at Walmart, improving their job skills and either moving up within Walmart or landing jobs elsewhere which they never would have had without their Walmart experience. Instead of castigating Walmart the local officials should really be welcoming Walmart with open arms.
City Council members raise hell about Walmart largely because it allows them to appear relevant when they are otherwise irrelevant to the economic vitality of a community, except when they are making trouble for it. Even though they anger some members of a community when they keep Walmart out, they bank on the fact voters won’t be angry enough to vote them out of office over not letting Walmart open a store.
The opposition to Walmart, almost exclusively in cities run by left-wing elements, range from fatuous and half-baked to crackpot batty. Washington D.C. commissioner Brenda Speaks says “Walmart will make criminals of our children because kids are kids so they’ll shoplift and then security will grab them.”
This raging against Walmart is taking place not only in the liberal bastions of Washington DC and New York City. Walmart has a huge presence in Wyoming with stores in practically every city of 10,000 or more. But it will be a very cold day in hell before there is a Walmart in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The local politicians and probably much of the citizenry will never allow it. They are very concerned about affordable housing, and numerous schemes to create affordable housing have been embraced, with mixed results to be charitable. Of course, this is done at great expense to everyone else who needs housing. One would think that if they really wanted to help people having a tough time coping with the high cost of living in the area they would welcome a Walmart. Apparently affordable housing is important but affordable groceries aren’t. Walmart would be the agent of that change, and not the City Council and County Commissioners. That may be the problem.
Even though much of the citizenry who would benefit from a Walmart are opposed to letting Walmart into their community, that doesn’t stop them from driving 90 miles to Idaho Falls, Idaho to shop at the Walmart there. Soon to be coming $5-a-gallon gasoline might cause some to rethink that.