The architect of Walmart’s D.C. defense: Obama’s chief economist

(Wikimedia Commons)
(Wikimedia Commons)

Ever since the D.C. City Council passed a bill mandating that big-box retailers not covered by a collective bargaining agreement pay a $12.50 minimum wage, Wal-Mart's press shop has kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism. Mayor Vince Gray still has a chance to veto the bill, so in addition to threatening to pull out of several stores planned in the District, Wal-Mart has been circulating negative press coverage from around the country. It even attacked the Nation magazine as hypocritical for backing the bill, when it only recently started paying its own interns minimum wage.

Today, perhaps taking a leaf out of President Obama's own campaign book, Wal-Mart spokesman Steve Restivo put out an e-mail with a two word subject line: "Jason Furman." As in, Obama's newly appointed head of the Council of Economic Advisors, and the author of a 2005 study lauding Wal-Mart as a "progressive success story" with an overall positive economic impact. As Ezra outlined earlier this year, Furman thinks whatever public good lost by Wal-Mart's low wages should be made up through tax credits or universal health care (and indeed, in his paper Furman criticized the company for failing to support health reform and a higher minimum wage).

Furman hasn't responded to an e-mail query on how he feels about being used as Wal-Mart's biggest talking point. But Wal-Mart's progressive opponents can't be happy.

Oh, and Thursday brings another Wal-Mart-Obama convergence: It's hosting a "U.S. Manufacturing Summit" in Orlando with 1,500 "government officials, suppliers and retailers to discuss economic growth in the U.S." Among them will be eight state governors, along with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. 

 

Lydia DePillis is a reporter focusing on labor, business, and housing. She previously worked at The New Republic and the Washington City Paper. She's from Seattle.
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