The other day, I gave my 5-year-old daughter a cookie,
and she complained, “I didn’t want just one.”
Walmart—the largest employer in the United
States—recently announced that it would provide a new, paid time-off bank for
It will allow Walmart’s roughly 1.5 million U.S.
workers to accumulate up to 48 hours of paid time off to use for unexpected
absences without affecting their quarterly bonuses.
Like my 5-year-old, instead of being grateful to Walmart
for granting a new benefit to workers, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., criticized
the move as “not nearly good enough.”
“Walmart can and must pay all of its workers at least
$15 an hour with good benefits,” he said.
The problem with that assertion, however, is that
Sanders has never run a business and doesn’t know whether or not Walmart can
pay all its workers $15 per hour. Nor does he know what Walmart workers want in
terms of compensation and benefits.
Walmart executives do have a good grasp of those
things, however, because their success and livelihood depends on them.
With an unemployment rate of just 4 percent and more
job openings than there are workers looking for jobs, Walmart has to meet
workers’ desires if it wants to remain competitive.
According to Walmart’s
announcement, paid time off is what their workers want.
“These changes are based directly on feedback from
associates who wanted more flexibility when life happens, while also being
rewarded for consistently showing up to work and serving our customers,” the
retail giant said.
Choices, flexibility, and opportunity are extremely
important to workers—often more
so than wages.
But government-imposed rules and regulations that
dictate how employers can run their businesses restrict choices and
opportunities, and can end up hurting the very workers they intend to help.
Take the $15 per hour minimum wage, for example.
Most of those jobs would be entry-level ones that
serve as steppingstones to higher-paying jobs, meaning younger workers and
those with the fewest skills would be the hardest hit.
A $15 minimum wage also would devastate many small
businesses and entrepreneurs that simply cannot afford—at least at
the outset—to pay everyone $15 per hour.
So-called “fair pay” bills would result in rigid pay scales
and one-size-fits-all jobs that could hurt
more women than they help. Moreover, government attempts to force
employers’ hands through punitive lawsuits could cause companies to
discriminate against women in the hiring process.
Politicians’ attempts to grant workers new benefits
such as paid family leave and paid
vacation will only shift the costs back to workers through lower pay
and benefits, or fewer hours and jobs.
These unintended effects arise from the fact that
employers face bottom lines. Unlike Congress, businesses can’t just raise their
debt limits and push current costs onto future workers. If they did that, they
would quickly find themselves out of business.
Micromanaging employers is not the way to increase
incomes for Americans. On the contrary, top-down dictates have the opposite
Instead, lawmakers should pursue ground-up policies
that creating lasting and sustainable gains, such as giving parents school choice options to improve children’s potential, eliminating
the double taxation on investments that otherwise increase workers’
productivity and earnings, and reducing unnecessary regulations and barriers to
entry that limit entrepreneurship and innovation.
As for Sanders’ relentless criticism of profitable
companies, one cookie is better than none. That’s at least something my 5-year-old
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