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Only the Likes of St. Francis of Assisi Should Escape Congressional Action

Here’s a letter to the Huffington Post (HT Sam Grove):

You report uncritically the findings of a study of Wal-Mart issued by some members of Congress  (“One Walmart’s Low Wages Could Cost Taxpayers $900,000 Per Year, House Dems Find,” May 31).  The authors of this study pretend to find that (as you report) “Walmart wages are so low that many of its workers rely on food stamps and other government aid programs to fulfill their basic needs, a reality that could cost taxpayers as much as $900,000 at just one Walmart Supercenter in Wisconsin.”

Ignore the fact that, because the wages Wal-Mart workers earn are higher than they can earn elsewhere, Wal-Mart actually reduces the need for public assistance.  Let’s instead accept the report’s premise that the failure of relatively well-off people, such as Wal-Mart’s owners, to employ low-skilled workers at wages arbitrarily high enough to catapult these workers immediately into America’s middle-class is an offense worthy of public scorn and Congressional action.

On this premise, the authors of the study are guilty of the same charge they level at Wal-Mart.  America is full of people now supported by taxpayers – people who need such support only because many members of Congress greedily refrain from risking their own money to start and run private businesses that pay arbitrarily high wages.  Every day, the likes of Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) inexcusably impose costs on taxpayers by not giving more of their own private funds to poor Americans.

If it’s a public offense for Americans to not spend as much of their own private funds as necessary, or at least as many funds as they have, to raise other Americans out of poverty, then every member of Congress – and every reporter for the Huffington Post, every columnist for the New York Times, every essayist for The Nation, every blogger for the Daily Kos, and every talking head on MSNBC – is as guilty of this offense as is Wal-Mart.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

UPDATE (from a different angle): My friend Reuvain Borchardt e-mails to me this thought in response:

I suppose that if we doubled food stamp benefits and other gov’t aid programs, we could blame that Wal-Mart for “costing” taxpayers $1.8 million!


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