Accuracy in Media

“Wal-Mart’s ultimatum: The megaretailer threatens to cancel plans for D.C. stores if the city mandates a ‘living wage,’” blared the 10th of July’s cover of the Washington Post Express paper, above a massive yellow happy face image looking more bitter than the famed “Grumpy Cat” being plunged into a tub of ice water.

express wal-mart

As conservatives, many of us understand that perceived bias in the media is often so subjective and subtle that pointing it out to others can be difficult. But every now and then a non-commentary news piece comes along that is so absolutely dripping with palpable left-wing bias, it makes you shake your head in utter amazement that the outlet who penned it considers itself to be in the news business and not the-public-relations-for-the-left business. The Express article covering this issue—where Walmart is reconsidering its plans to build three new stores in the District of Columbia after the City Council informed the retailor it would be forced to pay all new-hires a “living wage” of no less than $12.50 per hour (a full $4.25 over the District’s already inflated minimum wage of $8.25)—is one such journalistic gem.

The headline and image the Express chose to lead with are clearly intended to create a narrative for the casual reader that places Walmart on the defensive, blaming the company for a move that, when placed into the context of economic reality, is purely reactive and fundamentally self-preserving. Let’s consider: Do you think Walmart would even be discussing pulling the projects, after years of careful planning and working with the District to expand its stores here, without some very solid justification? Take a look at an op-ed written by Alex Barron, U.S. regional general manager for Walmart, and published in The Washington Post (the Express’s mothership, ironically enough), expanding on the retailer’s reasoning:

“For almost three years, Wal-Mart has worked on a plan to bring new stores to Washington, and we are close to opening our first location in the city. Unfortunately, the District may soon adopt legislation that discriminates against business and threatens to undo all that we have accomplished together.”

Clearly, it is in fact the District (or more aptly, the City Council in charge of it), which is doing the “threatening,” as the Express melodramatically put it. Walmart’s “threat” came only after the city council announced its intentions to jam through the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA)—legislation to single out large-retailors (which are almost nonexistent in the city limits), for significantly higher minimum-wage standards, as well as to force them to provide health insurance.

Given that Walmart would be forced to shell out significantly more per employee in wages and benefits than they had estimated when planning their expansion into the District, is it any wonder that they have begun to rethink the viability of doing so? What’s more, raising minimum wage has been shown by a majority of studies to inflict harm on low-income families:

“…a study published in the Journal of Human Resources found that a higher minimum wage can actually increase the proportion of families living at or near the poverty line, as the resulting reduction in work hours (or a loss of employment altogether) leads to less take-home pay rather than more.”

These are the very same people who, if it weren’t for the shortsighted actions of the city council, would be benefitting from the affordable foods and household items that Walmart provides, not to mention the 1,200 to 1,800 jobs their expansion would bring to the region.

The bottom line is that the city council, not Walmart, is the one doing the threatening, by pursuing an agenda that is anti-business and anti-worker. The Washington Post Express, however, completely reversed the blame, attempting to direct criticism at a company which simply wants to operate under the same standards as other retailers. This is a shameful example of how left-leaning news outlets subtly (and sometimes not so subtly!) rework the news itself to fit their own, and their comrades on the left’s, misguided narrative: in this case, blaming business for government’s sins.

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