Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Debunking the Wal-Mart Myths #7: Moscow’s Role as the Palouse Retail Trade Hub is Not “That” Important

Wal-Mart Myth #7 debunked by Steven Peterson, U of I Research Economist, at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce luncheon on August 23, 2006.

Charge #7: Moscow’s role as the Palouse retail trade hub and home is not “that” important for the local economy or the future of the city.

Fact: Retail sales are important to Moscow

  • Pullman produced fewer retail sales than Clarkston, a town less than 1/3rd the size of Pullman. Lewiston produced $571 million in retail sales in 2002 (adjusted to 2005 dollars), Moscow - $278 million, Clarkston - $158 million and Pullman - $149 million.

  • Pullman’s per capita retail sales were $5,996 versus $13,060 for Moscow and $18,506 for Lewiston. Clarkston had the highest per capita sales at $21,570, in part from Costco Store which opened in Clarkston a few years ago.

  • Fact: Moscow has substantial injections

  • Moscow had a net inflow of dollar injections of approximately $194.5 million from retail trade sales, service sales, and commuting dollars. Rural Latah County (excluding Moscow) lost a net of $34.9 million since most businesses are situated in Moscow. In total, Latah County as a whole had a net injection of $159.6 million for 2004.

  • Pullman had a net leakage of approximately $95.5 million from all sources. Rural Whitman County lost a net of $62.9 million from all sources. In total, Whitman County had a net loss of $158.4 million for 2004.

  • Spokane County was first in the region in per household retail trade comparisons ( $64,633) followed by Clarkston ($50,433), Lewiston ($44,551), Ada County ($36,984), and Moscow ($36,205). Pullman stood at $16,846, or about 47% of Moscow.

  • Latah County's per capita real incomes and real median family incomes have been rising over the last 3 decades (in part) because Moscow has become the home and shopping center of the Palouse.

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    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    "Residents lash out against land laws"

    From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
    Whitman County residents cheered everyone who spoke out against the county’s proposed land-use laws Tuesday night.

    The few who supported it were met with silence.

    County commissioners decided to hold a series of public hearings on the proposed land-use laws after receiving recommendations from the planning commission this spring. The proposed laws remove a three-year waiting period to build, but the laws regulate the lot size, location, color, landscape and view area of a building.

    The Public Service Building auditorium was packed with people ardently opposed to the new laws, which they believe would limit their property rights.

    Brian Sheer, who lives on South Palouse River Road, turned to the audience and asked people to raise their hands if they opposed the proposed laws. Almost everyone raised a hand.

    "We should have the right to choose,” Sheer said. “It’s our land.”

    Tom Vargas said the new law would strangle his rights and destroy his lifestyle.

    “The county should just take down the American flag and put up a flag with a sickle,” Vargas said. “Don’t purge our freedom. We should be able to do what we want to do.”

    James Fitzgerald said he’s afraid the proposed laws will destroy the core of the county — people.

    “People who work the land are forced to sell because their children and grandchildren cannot afford to continue farming,” he said. “Sometimes selling off a little piece allows them to stay.”

    Fitzgerald said if landowners lose their ability to develop their land the way they want, family farms could disappear and controlling corporate farms would take over.

    Few people spoke in favor of the proposed laws.

    Scott Cornelius said the region is in an economic, philosophical and social transition. He said when a planning commission created the current laws 30 years ago, landowners wanted protection against development. Now, many want to build.

    He said there can be a balance between development and preserving the county’s rural nature.

    As an example, Cornelius pointed to Montana, where rural sprawl gobbled up huge tracts of land. Vacation homes and ranchettes now cover the countryside. [According to U of I economist Steve Peterson, Whitman County is in no danger from "rural sprawl." This is a specious argument.]

    Rhod Mcintosh, who served on the planning commission, said an effort was made to balance growth and protect agriculture. He said if a landowner sells property that sits next to a neighbor, the new builder becomes a terrible liability to others.

    He said most of the people who will build in the rural area will not tolerate crop dusters buzzing their new home at 5 a.m. or having cows in their yard.

    “People can still build, it just helps with the liability to others,” Mcintosh said. “I think this is a balance.” [What?]

    At the end of the meeting, people shouted “Why the secrecy? Why the secrecy?” at the commissioners. The commissioners paid a private law firm from Spokane $5,000 to evaluate the proposed laws and test them against current statutes, but did not immediately release the results, citing attorney-client privilege.

    Brenda Dillard said county officials have not listened to residents. Dillard wants the proposed laws to go on the ballot in November and let the public decide.

    Commissioner Jerry Finch said the people decided when they elected the commissioners. He does not want to put the issue on the ballot.

    “I think people will be surprised at what comes out,” Finch said. “We can’t please everyone, but we do not want to step on anyone’s toes. It will look a lot different when it’s done.”

    Finch said regulating house color and shrubberies is an intrusion on landowners’ rights. He wouldn’t say whether he favored people building homes on ridge lines or bluffs.

    Finch said the commissioners will now meet in workshop. The public can attend, although public comment will not be accepted.

    Commissioners will hold another public hearing after their workshops. Finch hopes to vote on the package before Commissioner Les Wigen retires at the end of the year.


    What happened

    Whitman County commissioners opened a public meeting series to hear what residents think about the proposed land-use laws.

    What’s next

    The commissioners will use the public testimony to redraft the proposed laws. They also plan to hold more public hearings.

    Why you should care

    The new laws will determine how owners can use their land for the next several decades.
    Bravo to everyone!!! The commissioners now know they are riding on the back of a tiger and need to get off. Thanks to to Ray and all the others who attended.

    Flushing Money Down The Toilet

    From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
    City of Pullman pares down its bond issue; City Council prioritizes some projects, scraps others

    Park restrooms and walking trails are in. Street repairs and a spray pool are out.

    The Pullman City Council on Tuesday finalized the list of projects to be included in the $2.2 million bond issue that will appear on the November ballot.

    Replacing aging restrooms at Sunnyside Park, Kruegel Park and the City Playfields at an estimated cost of about $451,000 topped the council’s list of priorities. A $360,000 paved path from the Maple Street Extension to North Grand Avenue also ranked high for most council members.

    A noteworthy omission was a proposal to fund street repairs on all four of the city’s hills. Street projects alone could have totaled nearly $2.4 million — more than will be available from the bond.

    Streets were a topic of hot debate. Councilwoman Ann Heath didn’t want them funded by the bond, while Councilman Keith Bloom wanted to spend about half the bond money fixing those most in need of repair.

    “I’m against building new things when we can’t maintain our existing (infrastructure),” Bloom said. “Our streets are horrendous. Everybody uses them.”

    Councilman David Stiller also expressed support for using the money on streets and filling in gaps in the city sidewalks. Heath, along with fellow council members Bill Paul and Francis Benjamin favored going to the voters in the future with a utility tax increase to pay for street repairs.

    Money for street repairs comes from a separate fund than the city’s cash-strapped general fund. Revenues for the street fund come primarily from a 2 percent utility tax.

    The street fund also gets contributions from the state derived from the gas tax and real estate excise tax. Pullman Transit also kicks some money into the street fund to help pay for wear and tear from city buses.

    The city is maxed out on utility taxes, right at the 6 percent allowed by state law. The 4 percent not used for streets goes into the general fund.

    Voters, however, could approve an increase beyond 6 percent, City Supervisor John Sherman said.

    Heath, Benjamin and Paul agreed many Pullman streets are in dire need of repair, but they thought bond money would be better used for other projects.

    The bond would merely “put a Band-Aid” on the growing problems with city streets, Benjamin said, while a 1-2 percent utility tax increase could provide a more stable, long-term solution.

    Sherman cautioned that a utility tax increase should come with an expiration date if the council wanted it to pass. No concrete plans were made to take a utility tax hike to the voters.

    Another project left off the list was the proposed spray pool at Reaney Park. Paul long has been an advocate of the spray pool, but felt the proposal had grown too big and would be too costly.

    “I think there’s more important issues at this time,” he said.

    The council’s top issue was bringing restrooms in city parks up to standards. In past meetings about the bond, several council members said they were embarrassed by the condition of the city’s public restrooms.

    The proposal adopted by the council would put three new, prefabricated restrooms in Sunnyside Park. Kruegel Park and the City Playfields each would get two wooden restroom buildings designed to fit in with other structures in the parks.

    In addition to the restrooms, the council agreed to spend an estimated $250,000 filling gaps in city sidewalks, $354,000 to build a paved path along Johnson Avenue to Bishop Boulevard, $562,000 to install new lights at all three playing fields at the City Playfields, and $125,000 on pre-design work for a performing arts pavilion in Sunnyside Park.


    What happened

    The Pullman City Council selected projects to be included in the $2.2 million bond issue that will appear on the November ballot.

    What it means

    If the measure passes, Pullman residents will see new sidewalks, new restrooms in city parks, better lighting at the City Playfields and three new paved trails. The city also agreed to spend about $125,000 on pre-design work for the proposed performing arts pavilion in Sunnyside Park. Street repairs and the Reaney Park spray pool did not make it onto the list of approved projects. The council may consider asking voters for a 1 percent to 2 percent utility tax increase in the future to fund street repairs.

    What happens next

    The council will adopt a bond ordinance at its Sept. 12 meeting. Once the ordinance is passed, the ballot measure will be submitted to the Whitman County Auditor for inclusion in the general election in November.

    Why you should care

    Voters get the final say on whether or not the city can levy money for these projects. The bond is designed to replace the expiring 1998 bond, and it is the city’s intent for property taxes to remain the same. If the bond is defeated, property taxes will decrease slightly.


    Projects included in the Pullman bond issue with preliminary cost estimates:


    Johnson Avenue path from Bellevue apartments to Bishop Boulevard — $354,000

    College Hill path from Maple Street Extension to North Grand Avenue — $360,000

    Pave and extend an existing path on North Grand Avenue from Turner Drive to Terre View — $115,000


    Lighting for all three playing fields at the City Playfields — $562,000

    New restrooms at Sunnyside Park, Kruegel Park and the City Playfields — $451,000

    Schematic pre-design for performing arts pavilion at Sunnyside Park — $125,000


    Filling gaps — $250,000
    Some points to ponder:

  • How exactly do ballfield lights, public bathrooms and bike paths make Pullman more attractive for businesses looking to locate here?

  • You think street repairs are expensive now, wait a few years when the price of oil (and therefore asphalt) is higher. Now is the time to do the neede street work. Bathrooms, ballfields, and bike paths can wait.

  • We are property taxed to the max (#1 proportionately among small towns in the West), utility taxed to the max, had our sales tax raised twice in one year, had our gas tax raised by 9.5 cents, and now they are considering raising utiltiy taxes by another 1-2% to pay for street repairs???? Come on.

  • Remember how opponents of I-912 duped Whitman County voters into believing that the 9.5 cent gas tax was going to be the answer to all of our transportation problems? Now WSDOT is already $38 billion in the hole, Seattle wants to do their own version of the "Big Dig", and we'll never see a penny of that gas tax money. I'm leery of any "special tax" that will solve transportation needs. LET'S' USE ALL THE MONEY WE HAVE BEFORE EVEN CONSIDERING RAISING TAXES!!!! I agree with Keith Bloom. Let's pay for what we already have before we build anything else.

  • Sorry, City Council, you blew it big time on this one. I'm sure this bond measure willl pass with flying colors, but I'll be voting against it and I urge you to do the same. It's bad public policy.

    Debunking the Wal-Mart Myths #6: The Palouse Is Facing “Runaway” Urban Sprawl and Out-Of-Control Growth

    Wal-Mart Myth #6 debunked by Steven Peterson, U of I Research Economist, at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Wednesday.

    Charge #6: The Palouse region is growing fast in terms of population and employment. The Palouse is facing “runaway” urban sprawl and out-of-control growth.

    Fact: Population and employment growth is relatively modest (if at all)

  • Moscow, Latah County, and the Quad County region have had below average population and employment growth for several decades. It is one of the slower growing regions in Idaho and Washington.

  • Fact: slow county population growth

  • 2000-2005: The Latah County cumulative population growth rate (-0.6%) has been below both the State of Idaho (10.4%) and the United States (5.3%).

  • Whitman County’s population peaked in 1974 at 41,952 people and has not yet recovered.

  • In 1969 Kootenai County (35,005 people), the home of Coeur d’Alene, and Nez Perce County (30,224), the home of Lewiston, had about the same population. By 2005, Kootenai County was 3.4 times the size of Nez Perce County (127,668 people versus 37,931).

  • Fact: Moscow has experienced modest population growth

  • Moscow grew a cumulative 12.1% over the decade 1980-1990

  • Moscow grew a cumulative 15% over the decade 1990-2000

  • Moscow grew a cumulative 2.8% over the period 2000-2004

  • To some extent the population growth in Moscow may be partially replacing population declines in Latah County

  • But Moscow was still below the Idaho State population average growth rate

    Moscow grew cumulative approximately 33% from 1980-2004. The entire Quad County region grew 12.7%

    Fact: Economy is heavily dependent on slow growing government and aging natural resources industries
  • The Quad County economy is heavily dependent on aging natural resource based industries and government operations. At best they represent slow growing industries and may face actual declines in the future.

  • Fact: We will not become “Post Falls”

  • Latah County has not, and will not, face population growth of the magnitude of Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, or Boise:

  • Not in your life time

  • Not in the life time of your children

  • Not in the life time of your children’s children

  • Unless lightening strikes:

  • Bill Gates decides to move Microsoft to Moscow.

  • The Idaho State legislature decides to move Boise State University to Moscow.

  • The region acquires about 10 to 15 new firms equivalent to Schweitzer Engineering in the next few years.

  • ……..and how likely are any of the above events?

    So….where did all that construction come from?

  • Latah County’s per capita real incomes and real median family incomes have been rising over the last 3 decades (in part) because Moscow has become the home and shopping center of the Palouse. This has created the illusion of rapid population growth.

  • Average household size has been declining over time.

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    Seen On Vision 2020

    Normally, Moscow's Vision 2020 message board has little to recommend itself, but this post by Gary Crabtree in response to TV Rerun's latest letter was too good not to post here:
    Why don't we all impose an enormous strain on our imaginations and presume that everything Mr. Reed presented in his letter is correct. I'll give you all a moment to bring that imposing struggle under control. Now the question that needs to be asked is so what? The fact of the matter is that Wal-Mart has expressed a desire to build in the area and Costco hasn't. Now lets say that Costco was interested in expanding into the Moscow/Pullman area and that they did indeed provide a workplace that was twice as wonderful as Wal-Mart. Since the management of WM can't round up employees at gun point it would seem that they would have to be competitive to attract warm bodies or, they would employ the lesser skilled members of the workforce that Costco rejected. Either way there would be greater employment opportunities in the area, not to mention increased economic vitality. How, exactly does that translate into a bad thing?
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    "Shopping for Support Down the Wrong Aisle"

    An op-ed piece that appeared in the Washington Post on Monday:

    Once upon a time, smart Democrats defended globalization, open trade and the companies that thrive within this system. They were wary of tethering themselves to an anti-trade labor movement that represents a dwindling fraction of the electorate. They understood the danger in bashing corporations: Voters don't hate corporations, because many of them work for one.

    Then dot-bombs and Enron punctured corporate America's prestige, and Democrats bolted. Rather than hammer legitimately on real instances of corporate malfeasance -- accounting scandals, out-of-control executive compensation and the like -- Democrats swallowed the whole anti-corporate playbook.

    To see the difference between then and now, just look at the Clintons. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Hillary Clinton sat on Wal-Mart's board; and when Sam Walton died in 1992, Bill Clinton lauded him as "a wonderful family man and one of the greatest citizens in the history of the state of Arkansas.'' Campaigning in the New Hampshire primary that year, Bill Clinton came proudly to the rescue of a local company called American Brush Co. by helping it become a Wal-Mart supplier.

    Times change. Last year Hillary Clinton returned a campaign contribution from Wal-Mart, even though she had no compunction in banking a check from Jerry Springer. The nation's most successful retailer, which has seized the opportunities created by globalization to boost the buying power of ordinary Americans, is now seen as too toxic to touch. But a trash-talking TV host is acceptable.

    Clinton is not alone in this. The stiff-necked Joe Lieberman, who holds fast to his principles on the Iraq war, recently abandoned his centrist economic credentials by appearing at an anti-Wal-Mart rally. No matter that Lieberman once served as chairman of the business-friendly Democratic Leadership Council. Now he proclaims his determination "to wake up Wal-Mart and say, 'Treat your workers fairly.' "

    After Lieberman, a senator from Connecticut, stepped down as chairman of the DLC, he was succeeded by Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana. Well, Bayh recently showed up at an anti-Wal-Mart rally, too, as has Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who is the current DLC chairman. The Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign bus, which is trundling across the country on a 35-day tour, ensnares prominent Democrats in almost every state it passes through. Harry Reid, the Democrats' Senate leader, appeared at an anti-Wal-Mart event on Saturday, and Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Bill Richardson popped up at earlier stops. When the campaign bus reaches Washington state on Labor Day, both Washington's Democratic senators are expected to greet it.

    How can supposedly centrist Democrats defend this betrayal of their principles? Some claim that their beliefs are consistent, but that the company has changed: The Wal-Mart of the early 1990s mainly bought American, whereas today's irresponsible monster buys cheap stuff from China. But this argument merely illustrates how far Democrats have come. Since when did the party's centrists believe that trading with China is evil? It was the Clinton administration that brought China into the World Trade Organization.

    Other Democrats reaffirm their centrist credentials while calling upon Wal-Mart to pay workers more. "We are not here today because we are anti-business," Bayh asserted in Iowa recently as he demonstrated against Wal-Mart -- a contention that the retailer's shareholders, who have spent millions defending their brand against Wake-Up Wal-Mart, may have a hard time swallowing. But the idea that Wal-Mart pays below-market wages is false. Otherwise nobody would work there.

    Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry have attacked Wal-Mart for offering health coverage to too few workers. But Kerry's former economic adviser, Jason Furman of New York University, concluded in a paper last year that Wal-Mart's health benefits are about as generous as those of comparable employers. Moreover, Clinton and Kerry know perfectly well that market pressures limit the health coverage that companies can provide. After all, both senators have proposed expansions in government health provision precisely on the premise that the private sector can't pay for all of it.

    The truth is that none of these Democrats can resist dumb economic populism. Even though we are not in a recession, and even though the presidential primaries are more than a year away, the DLC crowd is pandering shamelessly to the left of the party -- perhaps in the knowledge that the grocery workers union, which launched the anti-Wal-Mart campaign, is strong in the key state of Iowa.

    For a party that needs the votes of Wal-Mart's customers, this is a questionable strategy. But there is more than politics at stake. According to a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research by Jerry Hausman and Ephraim Leibtag, neither of whom received funding from Wal-Mart, big-box stores led by Wal-Mart reduce families' food bills by one-fourth. Because Wal-Mart's price-cutting also has a big impact on the non-food stuff it peddles, it saves U.S. consumers upward of $200 billion a year, making it a larger booster of family welfare than the federal government's $33 billion food-stamp program.

    How can centrist Democrats respond to that? By beating up Wal-Mart and forcing it to focus on public relations rather than opening new stores, Democrats are harming the poor Americans they claim to speak for.
    HT: Marshall Manson

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    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    Rural Residential Housing Ordinance hearing wrap up

    Well Jo & I went to this hearing tonight. The place was packed my guess that we had close to a 100, maybe a little more.

    I sat next to a retired farmer that had farmed the Palouse for most of his adult life, he was 78 years young. I asked him how most the farmers took this proposed ordinance. He told me that most of farmers he knew were against the ordinance.

    Lots of people had lots to say. One gentleman said if the commissioners continued down this path that they should replace the stars and stripes behind them and out front of the court house with a cycle and hammer type flag.

    The most of those that spoke want the “the commissioners” to figure out the one word and that word is PRIVATE, as in PRIVATE Property.

    Some; as I did called on them to finalize the ordinance and then put it on the fall ballot so we as voters can decide the very controversial issue.

    One lady reminded the commissioners that the land that has been in farmers families possession for many generations and that it was in a sense their 401K retirement and that if someone started to make changes without their consent or blessing with their 401K it would make them very upset.

    Commissioner Finch read a statement that let everyone know what the time line would be for the ordinance would be for the for seeable future. Then a lady asked when “the commissioners” would make possible for the public to ask them questions. Jerry Finch would not answer when they would answer questions from the public in a public forum.

    Rebutting The Butthead

    I was going to avoid giving local fanatical Costco advocate TV Reed's monotonous screed any extra coverage, but since Scotty already brought it up...

    Reed has now used the word "elitist" three times in his last two letters to the editor. You can judge who is "elitist" from a quote from Dr. Kenneth Stone, the oft-cited (by PARD) author of the study of the effects of Wal-Mart on small towns in Iowa, concerning Wal-Mart opponents:
    “All these malcontents, as I call them, I’m beginning to think of them as elitist. I don’t think they speak for the average person. The local people say, ‘We want them.’”
    TV Rerun cannot be considered a "competent journalists or researchers for government, business or academia", as the figure he gives of 9000 adults over 25 in Pullman is dead wrong. There are some 3,200 children under the age of 18 in Pullman, making that only 5,800 adults over the age of 25.

    Why is that important? In a letter to the editor about Costco, Don Pelton (my fellow fanatical Wal-Mart advocate) stated:
    The annual median income of Costco shoppers is about $70,000. Thus the market for Costco is primarily limited to the most affluent one-fifth of shoppers. In contrast, the median income of Wal-Mart shoppers is about $38,000 and the median income level in the Pullman-Moscow area is less than $40,000. If we eliminate all students and their families, the most affluent 20 percent of the population including babies will total perhaps 3,000 persons. If each of these shops once a week at Costco, daily customer counts would be about 430. At Wal-Mart in Moscow, about 2,500 persons plus children shop on an average day. Costco would not be a viable business.
    So even if we double the 3,000 to 6,000 as Reed would have us do, that's still only a daily customer count of 860, still nowhere close to making it viable. Heck, I would welcome Costco with a big sloppy kiss, but it ain't gonna happen any time soon.

    Has Costco "proven definitively is that Wal-Mart's elitist model of low wages, meager, expensive benefits, and vicious anti-union activity is not necessary to big-box success?" Uhhh, no. Costco's business model is night-and-day different from Wal-Mart, yet both are successful in their own way, though Costco is a MUCH smaller company. Reed's anti-capitalistic mind has a hard time grasping that concept apparently. Here is what U of I economist Steve Peterson had to say about Costco and Wal-Mart:
    Costco—a different market model: Costco’s 2005 total sales were only 16.4% of Wal-Mart. Costco employs 120,500 employees (world-wide) versus 1.8 million for Wal-Mart (7% of Wal-Mart’s total). Costco has a different customer base than Wal-Mart, serving higher end products to wealthier families. The average household income of Wal-Mart customers is $35,000 versus $85,000 for Costco. Forty-two percent of Costco customers earn over $100,000.

    Government imposed wages would likely bankrupt Wal-Mart: Suppose that Wal-Mart decided to raise its average wage to the equivalent of Costco $21,029 to $33,280 (i.e. raise its wage from $10.11 an hour to $16) for its 1.3 million U.S. employees, an increase per employee of $12,251. This would wipe out Wal-Mart’s entire 2005 $11.2 billion net income and create a ($4.73 billion) net loss, in effect bankrupting Wal-Mart.
    If Reed would dig for the facts beneath the claims of organized labor, the Democratic Party, Wake Up Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart Watch, and Al Norman, and not take them at face value, he might realize that Wal-Mart is not the source of all evil in the modern world and that the substance trickling down the back of his neck is not the Walton's fortune.

    No, let's face it, the only people "misleading and denigrating our considerable attractiveness as a community" is Reed and the handful of elitist anti-Wal-Mart malcontents in PARD.

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    Yawn... More on Costco

    Two of the handful of fanatical Wal-Mart advocates in town have recently written that Costco would never come to Pullman because our per capita income is lower than places like Clarkston where the store has located. But anyone with basic economic understanding knows the per capita income for Pullman (and Moscow) is skewed downward by the presence of so many students whose actual spending power, thanks to parents, is far beyond what income would indicate.

    The median income for folks 25 and over in Pullman is $50,416. That figure represents more than 9,000 people -- more than the entire population of Clarkston with its per capita income of $29,100. There is no reason why Costco and many other stores won't find this area attractive. Attempts to convince us that only Wal-Mart would be interested in Pullman are misleading and denigrate our considerable attractiveness as a community.

    What Costco has proven definitively is that Wal-Mart's elitist model of low wages, meager, expensive benefits, and vicious anti-union activity is not necessary to big-box success. One local Wal-Mart booster traveled to Arkansas to get the "facts" about the corporation, and was apparently wowed to talk to big boss Lee Scott himself who told him what a wonderful company he runs.

    As any competent journalist or researcher for government, business or academia knows, you never take at face value the self-reporting of the research subject. Digging for the facts beneath Wal-Mart's claims and comparing them to rival Costco reveals a clear, objective contrast. Costco has twice as many employees enjoying health benefits, and the company pays for 90 percent of those benefits as opposed to 60 percent for Wal-Mart. Starting salaries at Costco average $3-$6 per hour higher than at Wal-Mart. Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart has twice the employee turnover rate of Costco.

    These differences belie Wal-Mart's claims, and prove their elitist model, where wealth supposedly trickles down from the Waltons (five of America's 10 richest individuals), can be replaced by one where workers are paid fairly and let their money trickle up into the economy.

    T.V. Reed, Pullman

    I am getting tired of listening to the "Costco would work here" debate. It is a 100% MOOT POINT!!! If Costco wanted to build here they would have, Writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper does not make Costco closer to being a reality. Personally I would love to see Costco, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, JCPenny's, and many other stores come to Pullman. I don't think people are anti-Costco, like Mr. Reed is anti-Wal-Mart, we are just being realistic.

    For the sake of argument, lets say Costco would work here, then what? Do you have the money necessary to build one? To buy the land? To fight the SEPA reports, and PARD, and the everyone else who is anti-growth in Pullman?

    Bottom line is Costco does not want to be here or they would have already built, or looked into it. Yes I am surprised they are in Clarkston, but they are close to Lewiston and many other nearby communities of people who make the trip to Costco there -- Communities like Pullman, Moscow, Colfax, Lapwai, and more.

    The real situation at hand here is that fact that we do have a business that wants to be here. They have every right to use their land as they want to, and a bunch of people who are using the court system to hold up development SOLELY BASED ON PERSONAL HATRED.


    There is a public hearing tonight in Colfax at 6:00 PM concerning the proposed changes to the rural residential housing ordinance. Make your voice heard!!


    From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
    Colfax native Joe Schmick believes his 26 years as a farmer and small businessman make him the best candidate to represent eastern Washington’s interests in the Legislature.

    Schmick is one of four Republicans vying for the seat being vacated by Rep. Don Cox, R-Colfax.

    The other candidates Schmick will face in the Sept. 19 primary are Tedd Nealey, a farmer from Cheney, Steve Hailey, a farmer and rancher from Mesa, and Ritzville businessman Glen Stockwell.

    One of Schmick’s top priorities if elected will be to help create a better business climate in the state. He is disturbed by the trend of businesses moving from border communities in eastern Washington into Idaho, where the sales tax, minimum wage and unemployment insurance rates are lower.

    We have a problem. It’s got to change,” Schmick said.

    He noted drops in retail sales in several communities along the Washington-Idaho border in 2005.

    Clarkston, Pullman, Colfax and Palouse all have seen retail declines, while communities such as Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene are picking up more sales, Schmick said. Spokane had a modest 5 percent increase in retail sales in 2005, but that pales in comparison to Coeur d’Alene’s 22 percent jump.

    Schmick proposes reforming the oft-criticized business and occupation tax so it would be based on profits rather than gross sales.

    The ability to make a profit is the biggest challenge facing farmers, he said. Costs for diesel fuel to run equipment and the natural gas used to make anhydrous ammonia fertilizer jumped significantly over the past year. Wheat prices haven’t kept up, which means many farmers are left struggling to make ends meet.

    One option farmers have for staying in business — selling off portions of their land to developers — has been made difficult by overly restrictive land-use regulations, he said. Schmick favors restoring more rights to private property owners to use their land in the best way that meets their needs.

    We have to be careful we’re not telling property owners what they can and can’t do,” he said.

    Higher education is an important asset in the region, in Schmick’s view. He would like to see the Legislature put more money into higher education. In particular, he wants to see Washington public school students attend in-state colleges and universities.

    “Education is our future,” he said. “If we don’t educate kids here, they don’t stay here for jobs.”

    The fourth pillar of Schmick’s platform is getting more affordable health care for Washington families. Schmick worked with the Farm Bureau Trust, a committee that oversaw the health plans available to farming families through the state farm bureau.

    He believes the best solution to the crisis of rising health care premiums is to encourage more companies to compete to provide health care. That would lead to more choices and lower costs, he said.

    Getting all of these things accomplished will mean working with Democrats and showing them the two parties’ priorities aren’t all that different.

    “We have to work together to help the whole state,” he said.

    Candidate Bio

    * NAME: Joe Schmick

    * RUNNING FOR: Washington Legislature 9th District Representative, Position 1

    * PERSONAL: 48 years old; married; no children

    * OCCUPATION: Farmer; owns a vending machine business

    * ACTIVITIES: Washington Farm Bureau Board of Directors
    Wow, now that's a candidate. Joe has the famring and business experience and strongly believes in improving our business climate, particularly retail, is against restrictive land-use regulations, and wants more free market competition in health care. Here is a man that knows the right way to address Whitman County's most pressing problems.

    I also know Joe personally and he is a fine man. You would be hard pressed to find someone better to represent us in Olympia.

    "Home Depot still planning move into Moscow market"

    From today's Daily News:
    Home Depot still hopes to open a store in the Moscow area, despite rumors to the contrary.

    Kathryn Gallagher, spokeswoman for Home Depot, said Monday that the company’s plans to move into the Moscow market have not changed.

    Home Depot is working with the University of Idaho to obtain the land for a store in Moscow, according to Gerard Billington, real estate official for the UI.

    Billington also had heard that Home Depot was reconsidering.

    “I heard rumors about the rumors,” he said on Friday. “I became curious and decided to find out.”

    The rumor blossomed on Wednesday, when Moscow developer Shelley Bennett said at a Moscow Chamber of Commerce luncheon that the home improvement store had decided not to come because Wal-Mart backed off its pursuit of a super center in Moscow.

    The UI owns the land behind the Palouse Mall where the proposed store would be located. The university is working on a proposal to present to the State Board of Education and officials at Home Depot.

    “We are still fully engaged,” Billington said. “I think the rumors started because the deal hasn’t been cleared yet. We have no deadline.”
    Riiiight. "Moscow area" and "Moscow market" are not the same as "inside Moscow city limits."

    This Should Be Interesting

    From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

    Whitman County board agrees to summit

    Meeting would focus on development of Pullman-Moscow corridor

    Whitman County commissioners decided Monday to join a proposed summit meeting with other regional leaders to develop the Pullman-Moscow corridor.

    Margaret Howlett, executive director of the Latah Economic Development Council, rushed around the Palouse Monday, trying to organize a face-to-face discussion about NewCities’ concept for Moscow and the corridor.

    NewCities, a Lexington, Ky.-based organization, recently introduced concepts of a “Knowledge Corridor” that would promote the resources of two university communities within eight miles of each other.

    Howlett said both counties and the cities of Moscow and Pullman want to see high-tech businesses planted in the corridor. The proposed summit would start to officially brand the area as a technology zone and decide which side of the border would best facilitate specific technologies.

    “I have always said that if we do not think regionally we will fail,” Commissioner Jerry Finch said. “But it seems that historically, economic growth means Moscow and Latah County grow and Pullman and Whitman County stay the same.”

    Howlett said competition should exist, but each side has to realize the other is not the enemy.

    “Some things we may never agree on,” Howlett said. “But India and China are what we have to worry about, and we have to look to that.”

    Howlett told commissioners the summit’s goal is not to resolve every qualm between the cities and counties.

    The purpose is to focus on common objectives, including better communication and economic development.

    Finch and Commissioner Greg Partch said they have a good relationship with the Latah County commissioners, but they battle with Moscow over Hawkins Companies’ proposed development of a 700,000-square-foot shopping center on the Idaho border.

    “Fierce competition in the end is better for the consumer,” Finch said. “Moscow and the county can compete, but after five (o’clock) we can be friends and talk.”

    Commissioner Les Wigen said instead of focusing on the problems between Moscow and Whitman County, the entities should work to plug the money draining down to Lewiston.

    “We can work together,” Partch said. “We did the Chipman Trail and Whitcom, but it takes understanding of the overall goal.”

    Howlett said the discussion should not focus on the corridor alone, but also should include towns like Palouse, Garfield, Potlatch and Troy. [What about Pullman????]

    “Without them, we are limiting ourselves,” she said.

    Howlett hasn’t nailed down an exact date for the summit. She is hoping it will take place in early October.
    You can virtually smell the desperation coming from Moscow and Latah County. Why? A recent study found that Whitman County had a net loss of $158.4 million in 2004, most of that to Moscow. A shopping development in the Pullman-Moscow corridor will change all that. Jerry Finch is 100% right. All recent growth has favored Moscow. It's not about competition, it's about restoring the balance.

    There is no chance that Moscow is going to talk the Whitman County commissioners out of the Hawkins Companies development. That is real. Developers have committed money to it. It will have huge, demonstrable payoffs for the county.

    Officially branding something as as a "technology zone" does nothing. It's just so much hot air. Remember, Pullman and Moscow face many challenges to becoming "technology centers."

    Let's move towards real opportunities and not fanciful ones. And let's not flinch at the critical moment. Tell the commissioners you support retail development in the corridor.

    "The Local Costs and Benefits of Wal-Mart"

    Two members of the Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics reviewed recent research on the local impacts of new or expanding big box retail and summarized their findings in a report titled: "The Local Costs and Benefits of Wal-Mart"

    Not suprisingly, since they included such highly biased and discredited studies such as Dube and Jacobs (2004), Stone (1997) and the Rep . George Miller Democratic Staff Report, the authors found that"... there is not a clear answer to the question “Is Wal-Mart good for local communities?”

    For example, one "study" (Basker) concludes there is no evidence that Wal-Mart has “attraction effects” on other businesses at county level. This conclusion flies in the face of common sense. Businesses jockey to be near a Wal-Mart Supercenter, such as Home Depot and Lowe's. One company even specializes in developing strip malls near Wal-Mart Supercenters.

    The Ohio State paper addresses every flawed study and objection that PARD has raised, including the lawsuits, small businesses closing, traffic, and increased cost of social services for Wal-Mart workers. However, before you PARDners get too gleeful, the authors conclude:
    In communities without big box retail, the opportunity costs of keeping out Wal-Mart or other supercenters is high. Without the option of lower priced goods available and the competitive pressure that supercenters bring, consumers are forced to pay substantially higher prices.
    That would be Pullman. And the costs have been staggeringly high; in taxpayer's money to fight PARD's appeal, in incalculable increased costs to resident consumers, and the approximately $150 million in taxable sales lost every year from Whitman County and Pullman.

    In a press release accompanying the paper, the authors also conclude:
    "Should a community try to keep Wal-Mart out? Maybe that's not a good idea," she said. "In the first place, you're not likely to be successful in those efforts. And if you are, chances are Wal-Mart will go to a neighboring community and drain retail sales out of yours. And your local residents won't get the benefit of lower prices without driving far away."
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    10,000 Voices for Working Families

    From Working Families for Wal-Mart:
    The inside-the-beltway, union-funded campaign against Wal-Mart is continuing. The paid critics have assembled their cadre of special interest operatives, and they’ve spent months hurling attack after attack at Wal-Mart.

    It’s time to fight back – and we need your help to do it.

    Please add your name to “10,000 Voices for Working Families” today.

    Although the paid critics in Washington would rather you didn’t notice – working families have a voice – YOU have a voice.

    We need to send a clear message to the paid critics in Washington – that their attacks don’t help working families, but Wal-Mart does. And because of that, their special interest campaign is bound to fail.

    Wal-Mart is simply about saving working families money, providing good jobs and opportunities to Americans and being a business that we can be proud of.

    You have a voice. And now is the time to use it. Please add your name today. It will only take a moment.

    Washington special interests are playing politics with working families. They believe they should be able to tell people where to work and where to shop. Now is the time to tell them they’re wrong.

    Please follow the link below to add your name to the 10,000 Voices for Working Families. If the link does not function, please copy and paste it into your browser.


    Thank you in advance for your help.

    P.S. We’re going to present the 10,000 Voices for Working Families to Wal-Mart Chairman Rob Walton and CEO Lee Scott so they can see that there are thousands of Americans standing with Wal-Mart.
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    Debunking the Wal-Mart Myths #5: Wal-Mart and Commercial Development Threaten Local, Regional, and National Water Supplies

    Wal-Mart Myth #5 debunked by Steven Peterson, U of I Research Economist, at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Wednesday.

    Charge #5: Wal-Mart and Commercial Development Threaten Local, Regional, and National Water Supplies

    Fact: Commercial water use is a relatively minor water user

  • U.S. commercial water use represents approximately only 16.68% of the total U.S. municipal water use.

  • U.S. commercial water use consumes 1.77% of the total U.S. water (including agricultural, industrial, and thermoelectric—fresh and saline.)

  • In Idaho commercial development represents 0.21% for year 2000.

  • Source: USGS

    Fact: Wal-Mart a minor Moscow water user

  • Moscow’s Wal-Mart used approximately 0.38% of Moscow’s total water usage and 0.26% of the combined Moscow and University of Idaho water use/consumption.

  • Wal-Mart consumed approximately 3.1 million gallons in 2005 and averaged 3.5 million gallons from year 2000 to 2005.

  • Moscow’s Wal-Mart’s would have consumed only 4.8% of the supposed 62 million gallon annual Thompson Addition water projection in 2005. A super Wal-Mart would consume about 7.8% or 4.85 million gallons per year.

  • Subtracting (since the current store would close) leaves 1.75 million gallons per year or 2.8% of the supposed 62 million gallon projection per year.

  • Fact: Most of the water consumed by the proposed Thompson 77 acre is not new water from the aquifer

  • Firms relocating or closing as a result of the new shopping center need to have their water use subtracted from the total water use in the Thompson Addition.

  • The 62 million gallon annual water use was a computer generated maximum estimate that was very unlikely to be reached by any combination of firms when the shopping center was fully developed.

  • Most (but not all) of commercial water is a derived demand from households. If the respective commercial establishments did not exist, those activities would be carried out at home including washing automobiles, water used to produce or prepare food and drink, water for restrooms, and water used to raise plants and vegetables.

  • Fact: Surprising impact of other water users

  • A small high technology firm locating in Moscow with 54 employees and their families will consume as much water per year as the Moscow Wal-Mart. For a super-Wal-Mart, a technology firm with about 64 employees and their families would equals its yearly water use. Using these same assumptions the Alturas Technology Park employees and their families consumes 2.07 times the annual water use of a super Wal-Mart.

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    Monday, August 28, 2006

    Police In The Halls

    Coverage of police search ruling disappointing


    I am very disappointed in The Daily Evergreen’s coverage of the issue on WSU police and their role in the residence halls.

    Yes, there has been a ruling that says residence hall’s are private property. But how did this ruling come about?

    I have not seen the Evergreen report the truth about the lawsuits and what really happened to remove the police presence from the residence halls.

    I challenge the Evergreen to look at it from multiple angles: The police, students, faculty, staff, student conduct, etc. Also, what ramifications will stem from this ruling? How will students be help accountable if the police are harder for student staff to call upon? Are student rights really being violated by WSU police who are on university payroll to walk through hallways of university owned property?

    Residence halls are very different from apartments, and gray areas have been identified. I am not for random seraches, and I seriously doubt WSU police will perform unnecessary searches.

    Residents must remember though, there are still student staff in the building, and they still have to obey their reasonable requests, as well as answer to student conduct.

    Is this good for WSU?

    I can’t answer that. Only the students can, and they need to look at this issue not only from the perspective of their rights, but for their safety and comfort as well.

    Shawn Wallace
    senior, mathematics

    Until Res Life locked the front doors of the building in the name of security, the arguement about the students having an expectation of privacy due to those door being locked was invalid.

    But the doors have been locked and the students are supposed to have an expectation of privacy while in the residence halls. The contract says non-residents must be escorted at all times. What happens when the janitor needs to mop the floors? What about the maintenance man who is working on the building?

    The problem started when a rule that the average person using COMMON SENSE is interpreted by a lawyer. -- Add lawyer, remove common sense, and add a warning label to the product and you have America in the 2000's.

    Anyway, does anyone believe the intent of the rule was to keep the janitors, cops, firemen, and building maintenace from walking the hallways? I doubt it.

    Can't Do Well

    Did you notice our junior U.S. Senator Maria Cantdowell walking in the Lentil Parade a couple of Saturdays ago. Don't feel bad. Most people didn't. Did you notice the plethora of Maria Cantdowell signs that popped up all over Pullman this past weekend (and the broken Mike McGavick signs)?

    Why all the activity you ask? Simple. The distinguished Senator is losing and our local libs are running scared. The latest Rasmussen Reports election poll in Washington shows Cantdowell leading challenger Mike McGavick 46% to 40%. As a result of this poll, Rasmussen Reports shifted the Washington Senate race from "Democrat" to "Leans Democrat". A month ago, the seat was more solidly in the Democratic column as Cantwell enjoyed an 11-point lead to six. Less than 50% support is bad for any incumbent.

    So, it's time for the usual tiresome Rat response to trouble: nasty personal attacks. A response so putrid that even the left-leaning Seattle P-I had a column Saturday that stated:

    By revealing his citation for a DUI 13 years ago, Senate candidate Mike McGavick took a page from Socrates.

    He displayed courage, putting a personal embarrassment in the public eye that might have gone unnoticed. He was frank about a mistake that could make moral purists within his own GOP cool toward him.

    He showed he's human.

    Such refreshing candor comes to a world of politics where players prefer to keep the masks on.

    McGavick will recover from his disclosure. He even stands to benefit from it. The public hungers for leaders who can own up to mistakes and operate with transparency, people who can show that contrition and humility are not benchmarks of weakness but hallmarks of strength.


    Political opponents are knee-jerk quick to pounce on every opportunity, as evidenced by the low-blow stupidity that came from the lips of state Democratic Party spokesman Kelly Steele in response to McGavick's disclosure.

    Steele said, "From privatizing Social Security to drunk driving, it becomes clearer every day that Mike McGavick and George Bush are cut from the same cloth."
    Yep, that's the Democratic strategy for everything. No matter the issue, no matter the cause, just point to the President and say "It's all Bush's fault!!!!!".THIS is the party of the "new direction"? THIS is the party that is going to "save America"? Please.

    Diagnosis: Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    The cure: Vote for Mike.

    Knowledge Corridor Not Only an Old Idea, It's a Bad Idea

    Murf Raquet wrote the following in a Daily News editorial last Thursday:
    Knowledge Corridor is not new concept

    The long-awaited finale of the NewCities project is history — at least the conceptual part. After months of research, public input and $20,000 in taxpayer money, the Kentucky-based organization presented its best recommendations for better communication, city planning and economic development to Moscow officials and residents Tuesday.

    The result is the Palouse Knowledge Corridor, which takes advantage of two research institutions located eight miles apart. The concept also calls for a pooling of resources to facilitate economic development.

    Go with your strengths — a great concept. After all, Washington State University and the University of Idaho are the two largest nonagricultural industries on the Palouse, as well as the largest employers.

    It’s not a new idea — just a restating of a concept that’s removed from the closet and dusted off every few years.

    The last time it surfaced was in 1998, when the Moscow and Pullman chambers of commerce commissioned a study on how best to market the Palouse. The result — U-Cities: Where Minds Meet — also played on the presence of the universities.

    The study was a strategic marketing plan for attracting conferences and group events to the universities and making the Palouse a destination. The thought was, with more people coming to the Palouse for specific reasons, the greater the chances some may choose to relocate their families or businesses here. Economic growth was the desired result of the U-Cities idea.

    Not long after the plan was presented to the two chambers the study was shelved.

    Eight years later, an idea with remarkably similar goals using the same players is on the table.

    For the sake of those who are tired of spending money for studies and consultants, we hope the Knowledge Corridor idea is given more than lip service.

    Ideas vary widely on how to achieve economic growth on the Palouse. Some want it slow and steady. Others want to see rapid development. Few want to see the region stagnate.

    Growth has to be a compromise, there’s too much to lose. Choosing the right path won’t be easy, but including the two universities in the process makes good sense.

    Give it a shot. If nothing else, it will be a good exercise in cross-border cooperation, something sorely needed in recent months. We’re all in this together, good choices are a must.
    Compare this with Gordon Forgey's recent editorial. No amount of study, sloganeering, or buzzwords is going to create economic development on the Palouse. That will take private enterprise. Growth is not a "compromise" either. It will happen as entrepreneurs and developers invest their hard-earned money, not because some people want things to go a certain way. Public hearings and opinion have never built anything.

    Putting all your eggs in the higher education basket is a bad idea for both Moscow and Pullman. Both U of I and WSU have struggled in recent years with tight budgets, declining enrollments, and most recently declining rankings in national magazines. Any business that depends on the whims of government funding is going to inevitably experience booms and busts.

    A better option for Moscow and Pullman is to clear the regulatory decks and make the Palouse a more friendly place to do business.

    This is where cooperation between Moscow and Pullman/Whitman County is going to fall apart. Pullman and Whitman County governments are pursuing a variety of economic opportunities, including large-scale retail like a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a strip mall in the corridor. Moscow, meanwhile, seems determined to be the Berkeley of the Gem State, with its "big box" and "living wage" ordinances. What's next? Declaring Moscow a "nuclear free zone"?

    Debunking the Wal-Mart Myths #4: Wal-Mart Threatens Main Street Businesses

    Wal-Mart Myth #3 debunked by Steven Peterson, U of I Research Economist, at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Wednesday.

    Charge #4: Wal-Mart Threatens Main Street Businesses

    A super Wal-Mart will not harm main street. In fact, it might help small firms.

  • Wal-Mart has been in Moscow for about 14 years.

  • Prior to Wal-Mart, Kmart was in Moscow beginning in 1976.

  • The “shake-out” among the competitors of Wal-Mart took place long ago.

  • A Wal-Mart super center will bring addition product line competition to only tires and groceries and will not threaten main street businesses.

  • The increase consumer traffic in town from Wal-mart may actually help small firms.

  • I would add the following to Professor Peterson's study. Two Economics professors at West Virginia University, Russell S. Sobel and Andrea M. Dean, recently conducted a scientific study titled "Has Wal-Mart Buried Mom and Pop?: The Impact of Wal-Mart on Self Employment and Small Establishments in the United States." The study can be found here.

    Sobel and Dean concluded:
    ...that the process of creative destruction unleashed by Wal-Mart has had no statistically significant long-run impact on the overall size and profitability of the small business sector in the United States.
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    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    Debunking the Wal-Mart Myths #3: Wal-Mart Does Not Benefit Consumers

    Wal-Mart Myth #3 debunked by Steven Peterson, U of I Research Economist, at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Wednesday.

    Charge #3: Wal-Mart Does Not Benefit Consumers

    Fact: Wal-Mart lowers prices

  • Wal-Mart lowers retail trade prices by directly offering lower priced merchandise in Wal-Mart stores; by lowering the retail trade prices of competitors; and by creating dynamic efficiencies over time through product and distribution innovations and efficiencies.

  • In various studies Wal-Mart was found to have lowered retail trade prices between 8% - 39%; and food prices to consumers by approximately 25%-48%.

  • Fact: Wal-Mart raises real incomes

  • Wal-Mart raises family incomes: A study conducted by Global Insight found that Wal-Mart saves the average family $2,329 per year. If we assume that there are 13,059 households in Latah County then the total county consumer savings from Wal-Mart are approximately $30.4 million per year. Lower consumer prices raise real earnings and increase real wealth. A lower price has the same effect as an increase in real earnings or wages.

  • I would add that Wal-Mart particularly benefits lower income consumers. A 2005 MIT study on behalf of the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the poorest segment of the population benefits the most from the existence of discount retailers. Researchers Hausman and Leibtag concluded that the entry of a Wal-Mart Supercenter into a market saved 25% on food expenditure and since lower income households tended to shop more at Wal-Mart, a "decrease in consumer surplus arises from zoning regulations and pressure group tactics that restrict the entry and expansion of supercenters into particular geographic markets."

    Jason Furman's paper “Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story” found that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs.

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    Saturday, August 26, 2006

    Debunking the Wal-Mart Myths #2: Wal-Mart Pays Little or No Benefits

    Wal-Mart Myth #2 debunked by Steven Peterson, U of I Research Economist, at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Wednesday.

    Charge #2: Wal-Mart Pays Little or No Benefits


  • Competitive medical benefits:75% of Moscow employees are covered directly with medical benefits (which is above the Wal-Mart national average coverage of 48%-55%). Most of the other 25% of Moscow Wal-Mart employees are likely covered on UI policies, spouse policies, or parent policies. In contrast employer based health insurance in the U.S. in 2004 covered only 54% of the U.S. population. Wal-Mart offers medical benefits to part-time workers versus 17% coverage by all firms nationwide.

  • Wal-Mart’s Competitive Benefit Package is comparable or even superior to the average retail trade firm in Moscow which includes paid vacation, a pension plan, disability insurance, and a variety of other benefits.

  • Learn more about Wal-Mart benefits here.

    Jason Furman's paper “Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story” concluded that "Wal-Mart’s health benefits are similar to or better than benefits at comparable employers. Some key comparisons are summarized in Table 2" (click to view larger version).

    "Wal-Mart is relatively unusual in that it offers health insurance both to full- and part-time employees...Wal-Mart pays about 70 percent of the cost of health benefits, similar to the retail industry."

    What about all those Wal-Mart workers using Medicaid?

    Furman states: "In total, as shown in Table 4 (click to view larger version), 5 percent of Wal-Mart employees are on Medicaid, which is similar to the percentage for other large retailers and is comparable to the national average of 4 percent."

    "The fact that Wal-Mart employees top the Medicaid rolls in a number of states is simply a reflection of Wal-Mart’s enormous size, not the higher likelihood that its employees will be on Medicaid... For some Wal-Mart employees, Medicaid is the sensible choice...Our fiscal system gives much less of an incentive for low-income employees to get employer provided health insurance..."

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    "Wal-Mart has bigger eyes for Lewiston"

    Meanwhile, in the "You Snooze, You Lose" department, since Wal-Mart can't get into the Pullman/Moscow market anytime soon, they are now looking at Lewiston. Great. Now even MORE of our money can be exported to the L-C Valley. Form today's Lewiston Tribune:

    Wal-Mart is seeking land for a super center in Lewiston.

    "We continue to look for a site because we would like to expand our operations in Lewiston,'' said Karianne Fallow, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart in Boise this week. "The super center is our preferred format."

    Fallow's comments were the strongest indication yet of Wal-Mart's interest in a Lewiston super center.

    The world's largest retailer has provided seemingly contradictory statements about its ideas for Lewiston.

    In June, Fallow said Wal-Mart had no plans for a super center in Lewiston at that time.

    But about a year ago a different Wal-Mart representative said his employer was evaluating the Lewiston market to see if a super center would enhance service.

    Rumors about a Wal-Mart super center in Lewiston have been circulating for more than a year.

    Opened in 1993, Wal-Mart's Lewiston store has 117,000 square feet and is what the company calls a "discount" store.

    "It is a very well performing store," Fallow said. "It does very well for its size."

    An average super center has 186,000 square feet and carries groceries in addition to other items sold at the discount store such as toys, clothing, toiletries and electronics.

    Lewiston isn't the only place in north central Idaho and south central Washington that Wal-Mart has eyed for possible expansion.

    Wal-Mart has interest in super centers in Moscow, Pullman and Lewiston because they are distinct markets, Fallow said.

    Plans for a 223,000-square-foot super center on 28 acres between Bishop Boulevard and a cemetery in Pullman have been appealed by Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development, an anti-Wal-Mart group.

    The next hearing in that case is Oct. 18 in Whitman County Superior Court

    Wal-Mart also examined opening a super center in Moscow where it already has a discount store. But Wal-Mart put that idea on the backburner because it found the city's process for a proposed site too cumbersome.

    The Moscow site that didn't work for Wal-Mart was on the southeast corner of Mountain View Road and Highway 8, near Eastside Marketplace.

    Wal-Mart is continuing to look for other locations in Moscow.
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    "Moscow councilors have only begun"

    Another hilarious column from Michael Costello in today's Lewiston Tribune:
    The Moscow City Council missed a real opportunity earlier this week. The councilmen and women purchased themselves a little self-congratulation with somebody else's money.

    By raising the city's minimum wage to $10.25 per hour for contractors wishing to transact business with the city, the council may now parade around its compassion for the working man without individually costing themselves a dime. There's nothing original in that. In fact, wealth redistribution is what many politicians consider as government's primary function. And many people define compassion as forcing somebody else to contribute to the benefit of another. Some politicians even manage to award themselves a handling charge. Such compassion deserves earthly rewards, I'm sure.

    Moscow made little waves by making itself the first city in Idaho to adopt a living-wage ordinance. Previously, such policies were the exclusive dominion of California cities populated by the Hollywood stars, like Malibu and Internet-nouveau riche Santa Cruz. For reasons I've never quite grasped, the denizens of those affluent communes could not bring themselves to pay their servants a living wage without an ordinance telling them that they must do so. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

    And so Moscow's claim to fame is that it represents an island of economic enlightenment in a state otherwise known for its laissez faire economics, where jobs that do not generate more than $10.25 of value in an hour's time are still legal. In other words, the city council let a real opportunity for self- aggrandizement get away.

    If Moscow really wanted to make a name for itself, then it should have instituted the luxury wage. Why should Moscow's social progressives be satisfied keeping what Pullman's liberals call "undesirable social elements" barely afloat?

    I mean, figure it out. Moscow's new living wage barely permits its beneficiaries to pull down 1,800 bananas a month before taxes, Social Security, bar tabs, cell phone, high-speed Internet, cable and widescreen plasma television payments. The lifestyle that one may afford on a mere $10.25 per hour is not commensurate with the expectation that one would have for the Northwest's premier workers' paradise. On top of that, there is no provision to force employers to pay for health care. So medicine comes out of that income.

    I wonder how many on the council could make ends meet on $1,800 per month. Danged few, I'd bet.

    And so, it's time for Moscow to get off its duff, get serious about its social progressivism and raise the minimum wage to $40 per hour. That would elevate the lowest paid Muscovite to the upper middle class.

    Just think of all the economic benefits that would rain down on Moscow. Car sales would shoot the roof as the newly prosperous checkout clerks and hamburger flippers went out and bought new luxury cars and four-wheel-drive pickups so high off the ground that to get in, they would need stepladders. Certainly there will be a sudden surge in demand for chardonnay and Bordeaux. Those who distinguish between French Burgundy and Gallo Burgundy might buy stem glasses too. And as most minimum wage earners are young entry-level types holding their first job, we can expect an enormous surge in video game and comic book sales. Or at least we'd better, or the businesses that sell those things will go out of business.

    Yes indeed, then Moscow won't just be the first city in the Gem State to require a living wage; it would be the first city in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw poverty. Moscow could become the first city this side of Dubai where only the well-to-do live.

    Of course, undesirable side effects would be include sales of foie gras at Moscow's most politically incorrect restaurant, West of Paris. The newly prosperous will probably buy the wrong kind of cars, big gas-guzzling SUVs and the like. And they might not be far-sighted enough to equip their new homes with carbon-neutral solar panels.

    But Moscow's social engineers will certainly get around to banning foods they disapprove of in their own good time. And of course, the next step will be to require certain approved expenditures, such as tofu and hybrid cars, while banning nonprogressive consumerism, such as ATVs, tobacco and coffee not verified as organic, and fair trade.

    This can all be dealt with at the next meeting.

    Friday, August 25, 2006

    Mark Your Calendar

    There will be a public hearing on the proposed changes to the Whitman County rural housing ordinance next Tuesday, August 29, at 6:00 PM in the Public Service Building auditorium in Colfax.

    After the hearing, the commissioners will conduct a series of public workshop sessions and then conduct yet another public hearing before voting on the changes. They hope to wrap up the issue before the end of the year.


  • A business recruitment expert recently cited high housing costs as a major obstacle to attracting manufacturing businesses to the Palouse.

  • The Pullman micropolitan area, which includes Whitman County, was recently rated by a Bizjournals.com study #560 out of 577 U.S. micropolitan areas in terms of affordable housing.

  • A new study conducted for the Moscow Chamber of Commerce concluded that because of the underdeveloped housing sector in Pullman, Moscow may be benefitting as much from the growth of Schweitzer Engineering Labs as Pullman.
  • A 2006 WSU Center for Real Estate Research study ranked Whitman County's first-time home buyer affordability index at 51.1. That's FIFTH WORSE out of Washington's 39 counties.

  • All of these problems can be directly attributed to the current zoning ordinance that was put in place in the mid-70s to limit growth in Whitman County. It has worked all too well. That is why Ed Schweitzer has vehemently opposed the ordinance and the proposed changes that add "viewshed," paint, lighting, landscaping, etc. requirements.

    If Whitman County and Pullman are to survive as viable and vibrant places to live, this ordinance must go away, and not be replaced by any other onerous regulations.

    Wal-Mart Derangement Syndrome

    I've said it before long ago:

    July 16, 2005
    This is strictly a fight against Wal-Mart for ideological reasons, a therapy for despondent local liberals dealing with Bush Derangement Syndrome.
    September 2, 2005
    Methinks the valiant Pullman Wal-Mart protesters are suffering from Wal-Mart Derangement Syndrome.
    Now it's catching on, and of all places, in the Opinion pages of yesterday's LA Times with columnist Jonah Goldberg:

    Wal-Mart Drives Democrats Batty

    The left's dunderheaded broadsides at the nation's biggest employer.

    NED LAMONT'S primary victory against Joe Lieberman in Connecticut supposedly represented the triumph of the antiwar, anti-Bush "net roots" within the Democratic Party. Alas, our troop presence in Iraq is increasing; it appears Lieberman, running as an independent, will trounce Lamont; and President Bush is having his best week in the polls in six months (which is not quite the same thing as saying he's doing well in the polls).

    So have the Lamonters and other victims of so-called BDS — Bush derangement syndrome — been routed? Not quite. Because BDS sufferers have a related secondary affliction: WMDS. This refers not to the unfound weapons of mass destruction but to Wal-Mart derangement syndrome. And the Democratic Party is ministering to these patients with reckless abandon.

    The New York Times reported recently that the Democrats have, en masse, declared their party to be the enemy of the mega-box store. Sen. Joe Biden Jr. (D-Del.) recently delivered a "blistering attack" on the company at an anti-Wal-Mart rally in Iowa, and other Democrats have appeared at similar events. Indeed, one of the few times Lieberman and Lamont appeared at the same event during their primary contest was at an anti-Wal-Mart clambake in the Nutmeg State.

    This bonfire of buffoonery is helping me learn to love Wal-Mart. First, let's talk politics. More people shop at Wal-Mart every week (127 million) than voted in the 2004 presidential election, according to a company website. They are disproportionately low-income folks who, by some estimates, are collectively saving hundreds of billions of dollars by shopping there.

    Compounding the electoral asininity is the glorious hypocrisy of it all. Hillary Rodham Clinton — who returned a donation from the devilish retailer — was on Wal-Mart's board of directors from the mid-1980s until the 1992 presidential campaign. If the store's policies are so un-Progressive, how come it never occurred to her to do anything about it until now? Similarly, former would-be First Lady Teresa Heinz attacked the store in 2004, saying it "destroys communities" — which apparently never stopped her from hawking her ketchup there or owning $1 million in Wal-Mart stock. Even Lamont, the golden boy of the new yuppie populism, owns a few thousand bucks of Wal-Mart stock.

    The most delicious moment in the WMDS hysteria came last week, when civil rights icon Andrew Young had what some are calling his Mel Gibson moment. Hired as a flack for Wal-Mart, Young gave an interview to the black-owned Los Angeles Sentinel in which he celebrated Wal-Mart's role as a destroyer of small, locally owned stores. Wal-Mart, he explained, "ran the 'mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood. But, you see, these are the people who have been overcharging us — selling us stale bread, and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans, and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."

    His remarks about Asians, Arabs and Jews sounded bigoted, particularly coming from a civil rights crusader and former U.N. ambassador. Although it's hard to tell if his liberal confreres are more offended by his denunciation of supposedly predatory ethnic groups or his defense of the company Democrats are demonizing.

    Regardless, the delicious part is that Young was basically right on both counts. It costs a lot of money to be poor. Go into a small grocery store — whether owned by blacks, Jews, Arabs or Koreans — in a poor neighborhood and you'll be stunned at how expensive basic foodstuffs are. Poor people can't afford to drive to the suburbs to shop at mega-stores. And small-business people — often "middleman minorities" such as Koreans or West Indians — can't afford the cheap prices and updated inventory that come with the economies of scale that the big chains enjoy. These ethnic entrepreneurs aren't ripping off the poor. They are providing a service that big corporations won't, often at considerable risk.

    Now, Wal-Mart wants to provide the inner-city poor the same billions in savings it's delivered to suburban and rural areas, creating more jobs for the inner-city poor than it supposedly "destroys" in the process. But the Democrats are standing in the way because labor unions hate Wal-Mart's policies and because Wal-Mart bashing has a placebo effect on Bush-bashing addicts.

    It's horrific politics, silly public policy — but a joy to watch.
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    Things That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

    A letter in today's Daily Evergreen:

    Despite Tri-State’s advertisement in your paper stating that they will beat any competitor’s shirt printing bid by 10 percent, this does not seem to be the case. It seems that they will only adhere to their “guarantee” if it suits their purpose, which is to make money.

    As Paul Laferriere, Tri-State’s clothing buyer, stated in an e-mail to me on August 8, 2006, “Yes things have changed.”

    I write this letter not only so that people will be made aware of Tri-State’s business practices, but also in the hope that The Daily Evergreen will investigate whether or not they should continue to run an advertisement for Tri-State in which they make a guarantee that is not necessarily going to be fulfilled.

    Mikel J. McLaughlin

    senior, secondary education

    University of Idaho

    Debunking the Wal-Mart Myths #1: Wal-Mart Pays Low Wages

    During the next 11 days, I am going to be posting each of the 11 myths about Wal-Mart that Dr. Steven Peterson, U of I Research Economist, debunked at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday.

    Charge 1: Wal-Mart Pays Low wages

    Fact: Wal-Mart’s U.S. average annual wage of $21,029 is competitive in the retail trade industry..


    Regionally, the evidence suggests that Wal-Mart puts moderate upward pressure on retail trade wages in rural (low cost/low wage) regions of the country (i.e. raises retail trade wages). The more urban, higher cost, and unionized the region the more likely Wal-Mart puts moderate downward pressure on retail trade wages. Nationwide, Wal-Mart likely has little overall effect on retail trade wages.

    Fact: The supermarket myth

    Contrary to popular belief, nation-wide Wal-Mart ($21,029) pays above average U.S. supermarket salaries ($18,432). Locally the Moscow Wal-Mart average wage ($22,006) is above the local average supermarket wage ($19,040).


    Wal-Mart is above the U.S. average wage for general merchandise/ discount stores of $18,455; and is below (but relatively close) to the overall mean retail wage of $22,495.

    Note: the primary wage data in this report was obtained from 2004 County Business Pattern data adjusted for inflation to 2005 dollars.

    Fact: Above local retail wages

  • The Moscow Wal-Mart approximately 24% greater than the average retail trade wage in Latah County (as measured by County Business Pattern data). The average Moscow Wal-Mart wage is $22,006 or $10.58 per hour and starting wage is $7.50 per hour. The top hourly wage is about $19 per hour (and these wages exclude management salaries!)

  • The average annual Moscow Wal-Mart wage is above the general merchandise store wage in all 50 states; and above the retail trade wage in 26 states.

  • Wal-Mart’s average wages exclude supervisory and managerial employees

  • The government average salary data from both County Business Patterns and Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages include supervisory and managerial employees

  • Fact: Dual income family

  • A dual income Wal-Mart family receives 117% of Latah County’s median household income ($44,012/$37,699). Nationwide, approximately 67 percent of working age couples is now dual income.

  • Moscow Wal-Mart’s average wage ($10.58/hour) is above the City of Moscow’s minimum living wage proposal for City of Moscow workers and contractors at $10.25/hour.

  • Fact: Most workers are full time

  • Approximately 74% of Wal-Mart’s hourly workers are considered to be full time, considerably above the retail trade industry as a whole, which range about 20%-40% full-time workers.

  • Wal-Mart Job Applicants

  • When the Wal-Mart in Lewiston, Idaho opened in 1993 there were up to 3,500 applicants for 270 jobs.

  • Other examples:
  • 25,000 applications for 325 job openings at a new store Chicago, 1/2006.

  • 8,000 applications for 350 Job openings at new store N.J. Store, 6/06

  • 11,000 applications for 400 job openings at new store Oakland, California, 8/2006.

  • 8,000 applications for 525 jobs opening at new Store Glendale, Arizona, 2004.

  • This seems to be a consistent pattern in the opening of new Wal-Mart stores. It begs the question: If Wal-Mart is such a bad place to work with such low wages, why so many applicants?

  • Most retail trade jobs are transitory

    Retail trade employment is a training and transition wage for a substantial number of retail trade workers on their way to other careers. These workers are not the primary “breadwinners”. The presence of these types of employees is either ignored or understated in many anti-Wal-Mart studies.

    So…where did all them “low wage” studies come from?

  • First, you start with high cost--high wage --state: California.

  • Second, you select the highest cost--highest wage --region in California: the bay area of San Francisco (or LA).

  • Third, you select the retail firms with highest wages in the bay area of California: The unionized firms.

  • Fourth: You then compare those average wages against Wal-Mart’s average wages.

  • Fifth: You extrapolate these “findings” across the U.S.

  • Other techniques:
  • Compare Wal-Mart’s average wages to Microsoft or to General Motors (apples to pineapples comparison)

  • Compare Wal-Mart’s average wages to an ambiguous “largest 100 firms” comparison which suggests “selection error”.

  • Fact distortion, misinterpretation, or data omission.

  • [Peterson refers to the infamous 2004 UC Berkeley study by Dube and Jacobs. PARD/UFCW tried to have Dube flown up from Berkeley to testify at the appeal hearings in Pullman back in January, but it didn't work out.]

    Fact: Unionized workers represent only 12.5% of the U.S. workforce

  • Unionized workers have declined from approximately 35% of the workforce in 1954 to 12.5% today---and it is still declining.

  • Today out of every eight workers, seven are non union.

  • Costco—a different market model: Costco’s 2005 total sales were only 16.4% of Wal-Mart. Costco employs 120,500 employees (world-wide) versus 1.8 million for Wal-Mart (7% of Wal-Mart’s total). Costco has a different customer base than Wal-Mart, serving higher end products to wealthier families. The average household income of Wal-Mart customers is $35,000 versus $85,000 for Costco. Forty-two percent of Costco customers earn over $100,000.

    Government imposed wages would likely bankrupt Wal-Mart: Suppose that Wal-Mart decided to raise its average wage to the equivalent of Costco $21,029 to $33,280 (i.e. raise its wage from $10.11 an hour to $16) for its 1.3 million U.S. employees, an increase per employee of $12,251. This would wipe out Wal-Mart’s entire 2005 $11.2 billion net income and create a ($4.73 billion) net loss, in effect bankrupting Wal-Mart.

    The CEO Salary Myth: Contrary to popular opinion, the Wal-Mart’s CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr. $10.465 million salary package was modest by industry standards, ranking 136th place in the U.S by Forbes Magazine. The top salary was Richard D Fairbank, CEO of Capital One Financial at $249.42 million. Scores of actors, actresses, talk-show radio hosts, and professional athletics make more money that the CEO of the world’s largest corporation, who ranked 100th place out of 100 top celebrities.

    The evidence suggests that Wal-Mart does not increase poverty: Since Wal-Mart’s pay and benefits is comparable to the average salary package in the U.S. retail trade market, it is possible but unlikely that Wal-Mart’s entry into a county or regional market either increases poverty or decreases average retail wages.

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