Hardball with Chris Matthews, 7/11/13, 5:57 PM ET

Smerconish: Don’t single out Walmart

Hardball guest host Michael Smerconish gives his take on a recent demand for Walmart to pay its employees a premium minimum wage at its future D.C. stores.

D.C. mayor should veto city’s ‘living wage’ bill

Updated
By Michael Smerconish

Let me finish tonight with this.

Yesterday, as we discussed on the program, the Washington D.C. City Council voted to impose a higher minimum wage on large retailers -  retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger - but it’s really all about Walmart.

So where the federal minimum wage is $7.25, and where Washington D.C. has its own minimum wage of $8.25, now Walmart will need to pay a super minimum wage of $12.50.  And now Walmart is saying that if it is signed into law, it will stop construction on planned stores in the District.

In the U.S., the average wage for a full-time hourly Wal-Mart associate is $12.57, according to the company. That’s about $25,000 a year at 40 hours a week, or just above the federal poverty level of $23,050 for a family of four. But many part-time workers at the company make little more than the minimum wage.

Proponents say that where Walmart reported a net income of $17 billion on sales of $470 billion in its most recent fiscal year, it could afford to pay better wages.

I don’t find that persuasive.

Walmart’s ability to pay a super minimum wage is no more justification for paying it than would be allowing an unsuccessful business to pay less than a minimum wage.

I get that Walmart, started by an American entrepreneur, Sam Walton, has grown so large as to make it very difficult for today’s entrepreneurs to compete against it.

But the business was born in a competitive marketplace, and that’s the same environment - not the halls of government - in which Walmart should have to justify its continued success.

If consumers believe that Walmart destroys more jobs than it creates, or that Walmart causes its own employees to require public assistance, or makes it impossible for mom and pop businesses to compete on Main Street, they should vote with their wallets.  Walmart is nothing without the consumers who support it.

But the solution is not for government to single out an American business, any American business, for punitive treatment.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray should use his power… and veto the bill.

I personally don’t like the way these box stores all homogenize all of our hometowns.   When each has a Walmart, Rite Aid, McDonalds and Starbucks, they lose their individual identity.

D.C. mayor should veto city's 'living wage' bill

Updated