For all the debatable issues regarding the Wal-Mart-inspired superstore ban, and for all the good points raised by both sides, one can’t really argue about who will foot the bill.

People shop at Wal-Mart superstores because doing so saves them money. The big-box ban forces San Diegans to shop at Wal-Mart’s more expensive competitors and thus to spend more money than they would have had the superstores been allowed to exist. This effectively amounts to a tax on would-be superstore shoppers and a commensurate subsidy to existing businesses that charge more than Wal-Mart.

Any benefit that derives from the big-box ban, whether related to employee health insurance, competitor profit margins, traffic patterns, or anything else, is paid for with that phantom tax on those who would have saved money at the Wal-Mart superstore. Whatever the other pros and cons of the ban may be, this is a reality that both sides should acknowledge.


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