Former State Senator David Storobin has a plan to help the poor if elected to the New York City Council this year: let them shop at Walmart.
The only Republican candidate running to replace term-limited Councilman Michael Nelson has penned an op-ed for the Jewish publication Matzav.com saying that his plan to help the poor is to fight for the nation’s largest retailer and one of the world’s largest corporations to do business in New York City.
Beginning with his tale of growing up as the impoverished child of an immigrant single mother, Storobin argues that the ability to save money on bills by shopping at Walmart would have given his family an economic leg up, by allowing him to wear the latest fashions at thrift shop prices.
Between middle school and college, the most expensive piece of clothing I owned was a $12 winter coat. A $2 pair of used jeans I bought had a large hole around the knee, which in embarrassment I tried to convince my high school classmates was outdated fashion from the long-gone 1980s.
I could’ve had new, but inexpensive clothes. “Luckily”, there were politicians who sought to protect me from this, and they keep protecting all other poor New Yorkers to this day. There are stores like Wal-Mart where poor people can afford to shop. These clothes and other goods may not be fancy, but they are new and respectable. We can’t buy them in New York City. After all, the cheap prices offered by Wal-Mart are just not fair to… its competition like Marshall’s and Sears.
Walmart made a significant – but failed – push to enter the New York City market, finally giving up in late 2012 after spending tens of millions of dollars on horse-trade lobbying. The company hoped to reach an agreement with city lawmakers to permit the retailer to build a location at the Gateway shopping center in East New York, just minutes from Sheepshead Bay on the Belt Parkway.
The big-box retailer faced no shortage of opposition from local pols, labor advocates and small business lobbyists who touted a slew of studies revealing how Walmart can devastate local economies in big cities, create traffic nightmares on the highway, and is anti-union and detrimental to employees’ social mobility.
But Storobin is not swayed. He dismissed the studies, many performed by leading academic institutions, as no more than “anecdotal evidence.”
The argument against Wal-Mart is that it destroys business around it. Anecdotal evidence of an occasional business taking a hit is presented to back this belief. But what are the real facts? The law of supply and demand dictates that when demand increases, so does the price. The evidence is clear: when a Wal-Mart opens, the price of commercial real estate around it skyrockets. The only reason for it is the increased demand from other businesses who seek to be near a superstore that functions as a center that attracts customers to the area.
For what it’s worth, there is some evidence of an increase in residential real estate values near a Walmart, with researchers saying it increases by as much as 3 percent within a half-mile of the location – skyrocketing indeed. However, another study found that commercial real estate dwindled near a Walmart, and even more significantly in zip codes adjacent to the host zipcode – as Sheepshead Bay effectively is to the Gateway center.
But real estate aside, Storobin said his real concern lies with the workers of New York City, who deserve Walmart’s minimum wage jobs.
My concern lies with the poor and the middle class. Activists who don’t understand economics say that allowing Wal-Mart to operate harms the workers because of the wages the company pays. But if someone has a better job available to them, they will take it. For those who don’t have another option, why are we preventing them from getting a stepping stone, the same stepping stone my mom got when she got a $21,700 job, which eventually resulted in her achieving a middle class status?
The more jobs are available, the more employers have to compete for workers, the higher the wages will rise. Nothing depresses wages like unemployment. Nothing encourages a company owner to pay the minimum like getting 200 job applications for every job opening
Read the full op-ed here and let us know in the comments where you stand on Walmart in East New York and New York City.
UPDATE (August 1 @ 2:00 p.m.): We’ve just posted an update that takes a look at the viewpoints regarding Walmart of the Democratic candidates vying for this seat. You can see where they stand here.