Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Don't Get Me Started on the Feckless Fat Men

Via Reason, I found many articles about overheated men who overshare their bodily bounty. Within the article, click on the Gallery link for this image and others. Sure, they're fat men a continent away from the ones I'm raving about below, but what the heck? I'm annoyed.

Too late now- I'm already started on the fat men, though I include pencil-necks and the crazy aldergals in the latest Chicago City Council contretemps. The newest craziness in the Socialist Republic of Chi-Town is that against the mayor's strong condemnation (good call, Richie) they passed an enormous city-wide hike in the minimum wage and health benefits designed to apply solely to the large square-footage type stores where the unwealthy shop, although as you'll see in this Trib article, it includes many stores any urbanite might expect to frequent.

-Are local small businesses edified? No. they understand the scope creep of such regulations, and if the big guys can't defend against it, what are their puny chances?

-What about the businesses that already pay higher hourly wages? Even relatively high-paying Nordstrom can't accomodate the new regulations without changing its health benefit policies nationwide. Which seems more cost-effective: doing all that or just closing the downstore store and leaving the ones in the suburbs as is?

- What about working-class people who shop in those Wal-Marts, Targets, K-Marts, and Costcos? Not sure this'll go well for them either when their local stores have to raise prices, close, or move. Hope all the people who need bargains the most have plentiful, reliable transportation. Or is that an oxymoron?

The only saving grace is that the Illinois Retail Merchants Association is suing on the grounds that the new law is unconstitutional since it is carefully and discriminatorially crafted to apply only to non-unionized shops. How'd that happen in the great and Windy City? My stars, what a coinkydink!

It was tough to get the big box discounters into the city in the first place because of the exorbitatant costs of union construction and municipal gravy-dipping, even though people desperately wanted to work and shop in them. Yesterday's WSJ (may be subscription only) has this note: When Wal-Mart opened a store in Evergreen Park, just outside Chicago last year, some 27,000 applied for the 325 jobs with starting pay of $7.25 an hour. The Wal-Mart that will open later this year in Chicago's West side already has 12,000 job applicants. Alderman Isaac Carothers told the Chicago Tribune that the law "will cost black people jobs. If I put out a notice that there were 500 jobs waiting in my ward -- what Wal-Mart was offering -- you'd see a line of people from my ward all the way to Mississippi. People want jobs."

Years ago, I had to go outside the city limits to get to my closest Target, for example, so I spent my scarce dollars without benefitting the city or its resident workforce, even though I was one of them. People already travel for larger purchases because of the odious city sales tax. If this plan stands, they'll travel to exurbias and suburbias for everything, even their groceries if they're heading to a superstore.

Having worked in retail a fair bit, I will tell you these places don't "run fat" on staff in the first place, and may of the biggest discounters have lean profit margins. If it's going to cost thousands more each week for a store to cover its nut, during what would have been typical temp hiring seasons like summer and Christmas, the retailers won't hire summer students either, and will instead opt to pay overtime to already-benefitted full-timers because it'll be cheaper than enrolling someone in health care for six freaking weeks. Of course, some stores will close their city locations, and return the heart of Chicago to a retail wasteland. And we can expect the value of all that new condo development in the city to sag, because people with choices (and not surrounded by moats like Trump Island) won't choose to live that far away from normal retail infrastructure. The Naperville Town Council is already planning its new ad campaign.

One might think that having such an excellent, Nobel-laureate-packed institution as the University of Chicago nearby, some of the dim pols might take an extension course or two in basic Econ. Whatever may be said of the Mayor Daley the younger, he has over the last few years finagled and negotiated to create enough sweetheart packages of tax inducements et al to draw some corporations back into the city proper. Also, the unions' deathgrip on film and advertising production has been loosened to the point that people will occasionally consider shooting in Chicago again, a predilection taken for granted and therefore squandered since the halcyon days when Chicago was a national advertising capital. It costs a Fort Knox ton to pay for requirements that surplus people be hired to lean on brooms, and there are always more "unofficial toll-takers" waiting with hands out.

Thanks, City Council, for being once again an organization that never met a golden goose it didn't think could be made healthier by a good throttling.


Esbiem said...

minimum wage increases never accomplish anything but
1. push everybody else's wages upward as well, leaving the lowest paid just as far behind.
2. as examined in the above article, put more people out of work and
3. increase inflation, thereby putting even more people out of work and making more products even more unaffordable for the hardest hit.

April said...

Very sorry for being obstreperous, you know I love you dearly, but I must disagree, except for the fat men in speedos thing, which I heartily agree with. I call 'em jigglers. I saw a jiggler go into the Citgo the other day..no shirt, sunburnt beet red, dripping sweat, belly bouncingly lapping over the belt, and hairy torso. Good thing I hadn't eaten yet.

Everytime the minimum wage is raised, y'all say the same things.

And they never have come true, check out the Bureau of Labor's statistics.

To paraphrase Jon Stewart: Should a refrigerator cost $3?

Whole Foods pays in the $15-$16 dollar range to start, w/benefits. I know because I just applied for a job there. They're a much smaller company than Wal-Mart. They're doing just fine, thank you. Quite profitable.

The ordinance is aimed specifically at big box stores over a certain amount of square footage, as you mentioned. Nordstrom's is not a big box.

Some 60% of Walmart employee's children are also on Medicare...because Walmart's employee health benefits are, to be charitable, stingy. So not only do taxpayers pick up the tab for Wal-mart employee's children, we also pick up the tab for all the tax incentives they demand to bring their dubious charms into an area.

Walmart consistently forces suppliers to agree to it's prices, which are so ridiculously low that it guarantees that the suppliers have to offshore their jobs to be able to meet these prices and stay in business. Remember Walmart's "Made in the USA" advertising campaign? That they had to pull because most of their crap(and they do sell inferior product, especially clothes)isn't?

Not to mention the fact that they discriminate against women(HUGE class-action lawsuit pending)hire illegal aliens to clean their stores, and lock their workers in at night.

And, oh my goodness...that 24 pack of toilet paper might have to go up in price about 10 cents.

Wal-Mart is not a good corporate citizen. They are the ugly face of laissez-faire capitalism. That's why I refuse to shop there.

Wal-Mart cuts and runs everytime the smallest little thing doesn't meet it's bottom line manifesto. They are robber barons. It's a multi-tens of billions corporation..it can surely afford to give it's employees a living wage and health care just because it's the right thing to do.

OR...we could go with a national health plan(which I'm all for), and let those poor, poor billionaires in Bentonville off the hook.

Henway Twingo said...

I must disagree with your disagreement, April. Nordstrom's IS implicated under this new plan as the Trib article makes clear. The problem we're discussing is the unequal rise in the cost of doing business in one location which causes the water to slosh to a lower level- always.

In fact, there are several examples of municipal wage rises- like this one- which have created greater unemployment in the places they affected, like one studied between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. From the WSJ article: "When the minimum wage rose to $8.50 an hour in 2004 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the rate of job creation fell, and workers with 12 years of education or less "suffered an extremely large and negative effect," according to a study by the Employment Policies Institute."

Laissez-faire capitalism (which I wish we had and don't really)nonetheless means that if you want to work and shop at Whole Foods b/c you like how they do business, you may, which I assume you're in favor of allowing. You may make that decision outside of their prices, but I shouldn't be forced to do so if I don't wish, and the local pols in thrall shouldn't rig the game against some consumers and some workers just because a shop isn't unionized.

Henway Twingo said...

I forgot to add that if you don't want to have to culturally defer to the kiddies constantly and lose your rights in preference to theirs, I don't think it's fair for anyone else (no matter how rich or poor) to be forced to be responsible for other people's kids either.

If we uncoupled heath insurance from employment and provided spending vouchers with consumer choice of providers and insurers, you and parents alike could spend health allocations for whatever kind of coverage you thought best. I'd be for that. The thought of a single payer nat'l system makes me shudder. Welcome to long treatment waits, enforced aerobics, and never-ending PSAs.

Beth said...

Good lord that is one pregnant belly. He looks like he's going to give birth to a hippopotomus.

I am also fed up with obtuse men who think they can strut their stuff. Inappropriate, with a godamn capital I.