Beltway Confidential

Retailer regulatory robbery: Corporate warfare by more violent means

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Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Walmart,Minimum Wage

Retailers engage in fierce price wars and advertising wars. But sometimes, they resort to more brutal means: using government to kill competition.

In D.C.'s recent debates over minimum wage, living wage, and whether to allow big-box stores, much of the press has drawn the wrong battle lines: portraying the fight as labor vs. business. Really, it's existing business vs. would-be new business, and big business vs. small business.

Specifically, incumbent retailers try to keep out Walmart, and Walmart has repeatedly supported new impositions on employers (such as minimum-wage hikes and the employer mandate in health insurance) that crush smaller competitors.

Two recent stories showing this:

1) A major PR firm working to block Walmart stores does so on behalf of "large supermarket chains including Supervalu Inc., Safeway, and Ahold NV," according to the Wall Street Journal and Aloysius Hogan at Human Events.

2) My colleague Sean Higgins has this delicious irony:

The D.C. Council began the year by trying to pass a minimum wage hike intended to bring to Walmart to heel. It is ending the year by pushing a minimum wage increase that would likely benefit Walmart. ...

Either version would have the unintended effect of helping to insulate D.C.’s six new Walmarts from economic competition. The chain will be able to pay the new higher wage — in many cases, it already does — but local mom-and-pop stores may not.

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