Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wal-Mart Syndrome in Maryland

A two-part observation here, one having to do with Wal-Mart's latest bout of rough sledding in Maryland. The other having to do with the Democrats' tendency to neither think nor to listen to anything that might poke a hole in their pre-cooked redistributionist agenda.

Roughly a week ago, the socialists in the Democrat-controlled Maryland legislature voted to override Republican Governor Ehrlich's veto of their blatantly unconstitutional anti-Wal-Mart legislation. For those unfamiliar with Maryland, this is also the state that has fought a sort of outer beltway for Maryland's DC suburbs, the Intercounty Connector, for nearly half a century because they fear the over-development that has already happened anyway. Go figure.

Using similar logic, they've now enacted, over the governor's objections, a bill that requires Wal-Mart to spend 8% of its payroll on health benefits. Seems like a modest proposal on the face of it, but wait a minute. Locking in a percentage first of all guarantees that Wal-Mart will now hire as few low wage people as possible to run its Maryland stores. And secondarily, it guarantees that a new Wal-Mart distribution facility, slated to be built in a disadvantaged Maryland community that needs the jobs, will now be built in neighboring Delaware. Yep, no point in adding more costs to the payroll, right?

Two simple observations. Point one: this is an obvious sop to reflexive Democratic voters, allowing them to all feel good while wreaking havoc on one specific company's right to do business in whatever legal way it sees fit. Point two: This allows the Democrats to once again take upon themselves the role of shining David to the Big Business goliath, regardless of the fact that big business provides the jobs, assesses the markets, and takes the risk, not state or Federal legislators who are usually more interested in redistributing profits rather than allowing businesses to re-invest them to build more jobs.

This kind of glib, misguided, socialistic legislation allows preening Democrats to feel better. But in the end it has a deleterious effect on entry level workers, fewer of whom will now be hired. The whole notion behind this country is that everyone, even the most underprivileged and underreducated can find work, and begin climbing, via ambition, hard work, and education, up the corporate ladder if they want to and are willing to do the work. Maryland's Socialist, er, Democratic Party thinks otherwise, and intends to tell private corporations how to run their businesses, all the while, tapping off, at least indirectly, some of their corporate income to promote collectivism and become like Europe where 10% and higher unemployment rates have become business as usual.

In TCS Daily, Arnold Kling tried to address this issue, and you should read his piece here. But what was striking to HazZzmat were Kling's opening remarks, wherein he specifically acknowledges that such issues, once they become Democratic dogma, simply can no longer be discussed in closed-minded liberal circles:
Most of my friends are liberals. This series is the conversation I wish that I could have with them. I wish they would let me finish my train of thought before interrupting. I wish that they would consider my arguments, rather than try to bury them in rhetorical put-downs.

Chances are, you will look for some errors in my reasoning, so that you can dismiss everything that I have to say. All of us tend to read this way. We overlook flaws in the arguments of sympathetic writers, and we go all-out to find the flaws in arguments of others. In psychology, this double standard is known as confirmation
. What it means is that we tend to seek support for what we already believe, rather than to seek out information that might undermine our beliefs. Confirmation bias helps to account for the persistence of disagreement.
Of course, Kling, in his reasoned argument, fails to grasp the central logic, if there is any, behind any and all Democratic Party demagoguery. Being a Democrat is never having to say you're sorry. In the Wal-Mart issue, it's not the workers who've made these benefits demands. They're happy to be able to have a job. It's the Democrat's desire to preen before the public and show that they're on the "right" side of the issue that motivated this punitive legislation. It has nothing to do with logic or common sense, just with how many votes a given act of legislative extortion is perceived capable of buying.

Kling seems to realize he's being naive if he thinks he can engage saner Democrats to engage in a debate over an issue like this. (He also tries to make nice, a tactical mistake, by indicating that we all believe only our own side. Not true on the reasonable right, which will still examine the logic of its champions for holes.)

But on the issue of free and open debate, Kling hits it right on the head. Dems will talk, talk, talk, talk, until you run out of time to reply, at which point they either move on; or on TV, the complicit host will cut to a commercial. Verbal filibusters prevent you from hearing the other side (the conservatives), which is unworthy to be heard anyway since they are all the genetic offspring of Chimpy BushMcHitler. And the pandemic of Democratic diarrhea of the mouth also prevents them from ever having to think.

This, essentially, is why Dem politicians are so happy in the main, even when they're out of power. They believe they're always correct and that it's only a matter of time before America's unbelievably stupid electorate will figure that out again and return the Dems to their rightful thrones and sub-thrones. Never having to hear any argument to the contrary, Dems never have to entertain self-doubt.

While they love to denounce Republicans and, even worse, religious fundamentalists (Christians only, Islamofascists are okay because it's only a part of their culture) as intolerant, it is the Dems themselves who are intolerant to the American tradition of climbing the social and fiscal ladder and making money, except when they themselves are doing it with other people's money. (Or better yet, stealing—excuse me—reallocating tax dollars in order to use them to buy votes.) In Maryland, this will prove to be a recipe for disaster.

Watch Wal-Mart take this one to court. And its distribution center to Delaware. Dems in the First State at least have a bit more common sense. Maryland Dems are much closer to the norm.

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