Recently, Bill Popp took to the pages of the Anchorage Daily News to suggest that we can defeat the high cost of living in Anchorage (see, http://www.adn.com/2014/03/16/3376983/bill-popp-anchorages-cost-of-living.html .)
Of course, right off the bat one will note that being the 23rd most expensive US city is not a really big deal (especially when Anchorage actually places so high on the list of communities by median household income – 4th according to some sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highest-income_metropolitan_statistical_areas_in_the_United_States.)
While Popp relies on non-public data (CCER/COLI) public comparisons are very close (see e.g., https://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/prices/consumer_price_indexes_cost_of_living_index.html), and what we quickly see is that much of Anchorage’s costs are, as would be expected, related to cost of product transport, and if that was all we were talking about, I would not be responding. But that is not the case.
Popp argues that Walmart helps the Anchorage cost of living by reducing grocery expenses. In fact, while Walmart does have a talent for selling product cheaply, they also drive wages down by 15% and deny benefits to most of their employees, and between the two actually increase local infrastructure expenses. Wonder why Carrs are soon going to be owned by a new national chain? Maybe because Walmart, by being able to force prices down, is putting business that pay a livable wage and benefits out of business. One must assume that the head of the AEDC is familiar with the research done by the good folks at Berkeley (http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/research/walmart.shtml), but then again, this is Alaska where we appoint non-residents to Alaska Board, bribe billion dollar oil companies with billions of dollars of subsidies, and brag that reducing business licenses expenses for companies engaged in more than one line of business (700 business) by $50 per business is a critical improvement for doing business in Alaska (HB32.)
Now, I really don’t want to comment on Popp’s picture; making remarks about how easy it is for “fat cats” to push an agenda that makes product cheaper for them while lowering the standard of living for most by more than the margin by which prices are reduced is just gratuitous. But enough is enough. Reducing the cost of living is not going to increase the standard of living in Anchorage, and afterall, that is what is important here.
While most of us know this nursery rhyme,
- All around the Mulberry Bush,
- The monkey chased the weasel.
- The monkey stopped to scratch his nose,
- Pop! goes the weasel.
- Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
- Half a pound of treacle.
- Mix it up and make it nice,
- Pop! goes the weasel.
In this case, we might as well, sing
- Mix them up with silly slop,
- And, “Weasel!”, goes the Popp.