Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dying on That Hill

As I predicted, even though Wal-Mart financed an independent fiscal study of the proposed Supercenter that PARD has been screaming about for the past year, PARD has rejected it. From a letter to the editor in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

Real Wal-Mart study is needed

I was disappointed with the Daily News article (Jan. 21 & 22) about the “economic impact study” Wal-Mart presented in the hearing Jan. 20. The article was misleading and inaccurate. Wal-Mart’s analysis did not give Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development what PARD has been asking for.

1) PARD wants a thorough independent economic impact study, not the very limited analysis done by Wal-Mart.

2) Such a study would include the effects on local wages and local social services; this analysis did not.

3) It was unclear in the analysis if Washington State University students were counted as residents of Pullman or not, which could affect the conclusions drawn about “leakage” (Pullman retail money being spent elsewhere).

4) Their analysis did not consider how much of the tax revenues attributed to Wal-Mart would be from business taken from existing Pullman businesses.

A super Wal-Mart is super big and thus is likely to have a very large effect on Pullman’s economy. Keep in mind that a store does not have to lose all its business to fail, only enough to become unprofitable. It is only prudent to do our best to determine what the effect is likely to be before we commit our city. An independent, complete, economic impact study would help answer the questions people have about the effects such a huge retail business would have on our small town.

Susan Daniels, Pullman
PARD is obviously determined to die on the hill of Wal-Mart. They are down to the last jihadis now, but it is clear that they will fight on until the last union dollar is spent.

PARD played the "economic impact study card" to appear pro-business and mainstream. Big, big mistake. Now they are publiclly rebuking the very study they have been clamoring for. Their red, anti-business roots are now exposed for everyone to see.

It won't matter that the Hearing Examiner okays the City's decision to approve the Wal-Mart Supercenter. PARD will appeal it to the Whitman County Superior Court. And it is likely they are planning other legal manuevers beyond that. It will go on and on and on.


The people of Pullman had better rise up in anger and demand a halt be put to these frivilous appeals. I sat and listened last night as a PARD member told a group of stunned U of I students with a straight face that there is no Constitutional right to economic freedom in this country, that no business has a right to exist, that the government has the right to pick and choose what businesses it wants and doesn't want, even small businesses and advocating income redistribution.

This "learned" person even astoundingly claimed that in early America, corporatons were not even allowed to exist. Only in the last 100 years or so have they gained the same rights as citizens. What?? Is this from the "Young Komsomol's History of America"? America was based on complete economic freedom. In 1821, no less a personage than Thomas Jefferson expressed his concern over the increasing presence of government at all levels of American life. It's only gotten worse since then. This person also claimed that in early America, corporations were held reponsible for their actions. You mean like slavery, legalized discrimination against and exploitation of immigrants, 7 day work weeks, child labor, dangerous working conditions, etc.?

Contrary to what their website claims, this PARD member said that Pullman is NOT growing and that our income is DECLINING. Therefore, it's just fine and dandy that all of our money keeps going over to Moscow. It's clear they don't give a damn about this city and anyone that lives in it.

I will try to get audio clips of that speech as soon as I can. Listening to it will scare the hell out of you, just like it did me. These people are not the "citizen heroes" they are portrayed to be in the media. They are Marxist-Leninist lunatics. God help us if they ever get control of City government.


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Joshua Coke said...

Actually, the speaker is correct in regards to corporations as we know them being a relatively recent invention. Corporate entities historically existed as a group of specific interested persons operating under a charter from the government for the expressed purpose of performing a specific action. The key point here being the specificity of their action and scope. Equally important is the level and direction of accountability involved. Those individuals who actually owned the corporation, that is, the shareholders, were the ones who were legally responsible for its actions. Suppose XYZ corporation is owned by Bob and Joe. XYZ builds a building that collapses due to poor planning and negligence. XYZ is not the responsible entity, Bob and Joe are. Thus Bob and Joe must act with the utmost responsibility if they wish to preserve their own assets.

Enter the 1886 case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company. After winding its way through the courts, it finally found its way to the US Supreme Court where it was decided that corporations are, in fact, legal persons and thus afforded all rights and protections given to a living, breathing person. It now becomes possible for a corporation, not the shareholders personally, to own property; thereby limiting the liability of the shareholders and protecting their personal assets. This is regarded as the bedrock of corporate law, with numerous pieces of legislation penned as a result. Now, shareholders can run the corporation with near impunity. Of course, there are limitations to the level of protection offered, but let's not go down that road at this point.

What you need to consider is that a number of the labor-related problems you mentioned were not, in fact, illegal at the time that some corporations engaged in them. Slavery was legal. Child labor was legal. On and on it goes. And while you and I seem to see eye-to-eye as far as unions are concerned, it is important to note that many of the specific labor problems you mentioned were eliminated (in the Western world) as a result of union action. Things have obviously changed since then, and union necessity can be debated another time, but let's not forget historical contributions.

Now, as far as the speaker's arguments concerning the government's right to pick and choose, he is somewhat misguided. This can be a gray area. For an extreme example, go try to start a nuclear power plant. Government can effectively limit certain businesses through zoning and regulation specific to the industry or area, and the Pullman Wal-Mart is an excellent example, but in Wal-Mart's favor this time. The area is properly zoned, Wal-Mart has jumped through all of the hoops, etc. Now look at Moscow and the requested zoning variance. Because they are requesting a change in zoning, in this case the government does have the ability to somewhat "pick and choose."

Tom Forbes said...

Wow, EXCELLENT post Josh!!

I'm glad you brought up the regulations on "corporations" and Santa Clara. Those were the exact arguments made Wednesday night and it comes right out of the anti-capitalist handbook.

There were legal limitations placed on "corporations" through government charters in early America. But these "corporations" were activities that the government now performs in modern times, like fire departments, libraries, colleges, and bridge and highway construction. The restrictions did not apply to the private profit-making businesses that we consider corporations today

These restrictions do not prove that the Founding Fathers believed in government-regulation of business. Quite the opposite. The Revolution was fought in part because of large government-run monopolies, such as the East India Company (tea) and the Hudson's Bay Company (fur).

These "corporations" represented pre-Marxist Socialism at its finest, not free enterprise run amuck. The East India Compamy had a lot more in common with an East Berlin state department store than Wal-Mart.

Yes, the U.S. Constitution did not list a right to economic freedom, but then again it didn't spell out a lot of other things we consider "rights" today either. It was a framework for limited government, not a legal handbook. But is clear from the Founding Father's writings that economic freedom was chiefmost among our liberties.

This can also be evidenced by the great economic freedom of the early Ninteenth Century. There were no occupational licensure laws. Anyone could enter into business simply by opening up shop. Consumers, not the government, decided which businesses succeeded and which ones failed.

There were virtually no regulations on economic activity. People were free to enter into mutually beneficial economic transactions with one another, and it was none of the government’s business.

As far as the onerous business practices that were allowed (other than slavery, which was evil and antithetical to free enterprise), I would agree with Capitalism and the Historians that as bad as life was during the Industrial Revolution compared to our modern standards, it was much worse prior to that.

What PARD and the unions fail to realize is that is that wealth in our society is not a given. There is always a cause and an effect. It doesn't happen by magic or mandate.

The more productive people are, the higher the standard of living. How do you get workers to be more productive? Capital, as realized through better technology. You can see this from the cotton gin up through modern-day robotics. Where does capital come from? From savings. Where do savings come from? By people spending less than what they receive. Thus, the more people earn, the more they are able to save. The more they save, the more capital that is available (this is where Wal-Mart comes in). The more capital, the more productive people are. The more productive, the higher the standard of living. This was all illustrated quite well at the forum by Dr. Steve Peterson, U of I Economics professor.

Contrary to what the leftists would have us believe, Santa Clara did NOT pave he way for modern-day "corporate rule". Since 1886, the principles of Socialism have permeated the government and especially the SCOTUS and rolled back economic freedoms. For example, West Coast Hotel v. Parrish in 1937, a minimum wage case that came out of Wenatchee. The decision stated that, "The Constitution does not speak of freedom of contract. It speaks of liberty and prohibits the deprivation of liberty without due process of law. In prohibiting that deprivation the Constitution does not recognize an absolute and uncontrollable liberty. Liberty in each of its phases has its history and connotation. But the liberty safeguarded is liberty in a social organization which requires the protection of law against the evils which menace the health, safety, morals, and welfare of the people. Liberty under the Constitution is thus necessarily subject to the restraints of due process, and regulation which is reasonable in relation to its subject and is adopted in the interests of the community is due process."

So that's right folks, we only have liberty when it is deemed by the government to be in the "public interest".

As far as zoning laws go, they are fine as long as htey are fair and equitable. But what PARD has advocated and the big-box ordinance in Moscow are clearly unconstitutional, being a violation of Article I which prohibits the federal and state governments from passing bills of attainder. A bill of attainder is a law that is aimed solely at a specific person or group of persons.

Thanks for an intellectually stimulating topic that got me up out of my sick bed!

April E. Coggins said...

This sounds like a good topic for a radio show.

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

Do you think said intellectual realizes that TIAA-CREF, the investment company of choice for higher education, heavily invests in Wal-Mart. I read it in the stock booklet they sent out.