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Column: Walmart’s Record is Worrisome

Walmart Store Front
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On Tuesday, Sioux Falls’ City Council ignored the outcry of area residents and voted to annex the land on which Walmart has set its sights. By the time you read this, it is very likely that the planning commission will have also disregarded the concerns of Walmart’s future neighbors and voted to rezone the land as commercial.

If you aren’t one of the people who lives in that area, you must be thinking to yourself that this doesn’t really concern you, right? However, there are some pretty good reasons to be worried about more Walmart stores coming to town.

The first is that their net effect on jobs is spotty at best. There are studies that find that for every two jobs created at a new Walmart, three are lost at surrounding businesses. To be fair, there are also studies that suggest an overall positive number, but even they conclude that overall the effect is negligible.

If you think about it, Walmart having a negative impact on existing local businesses is not an accident, it is by design. The major selling point of Walmart is that they have a wide variety of products under one roof, much more than any smaller store could offer. They would not be able to offer lower prices than their smaller competitors if they employed the same number of people as are currently working at all those other stores combined.

Well that is just the nature of business though, isn’t it? If they can undercut their competition that means lower prices, which is better for everyone, right? Even if you are not concerned about the loss of variety and personal service that comes with the elimination of mom and pop type stores, there is reason to believe those low prices are fool’s gold.

Walmart has had labor advocates in an uproar for years. They have a terrible track record of taking advantage of their employees, and what is worse for every taxpayer; they simply do not pay enough, which is why so many of their employees receive health care and nutritional assistance from the government.

Walmart is well aware of this, and in some stores its managers actually offer tutoring and aid in filling out the forms and negotiating the bureaucracy necessary to receive government assistance. Those low prices don’t come from nowhere folks. In part they come from having the taxpayer supplement the unsustainably low wages that Walmart pays.

It might already be too late to prevent the City Council from giving Walmart whatever it wants, although it is certainly worth speaking up about and letting them know how you feel. After all, this isn’t just about future traffic in what is now a rural residential area; if Walmart’s record doesn’t worry you, then you aren’t paying close enough attention.

Previous Column: State Legislature Should Be Full-Time

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gossom and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.

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