ACORN’s Agenda Falls Far From the Local Tree

Albuquerque’s City Council is now considering whether or not to pre-empt an expected ballot measure campaign by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) on behalf of a $7.50 minimum wage for the city.
Given the mountains of economic evidence that government wage mandates harm economic growth, some elected officials are uncomfortable voting for a higher wage. Perhaps that is why Mayor Martin Chávez and several city councilors have, when pressed on the issue, passed the buck off to Congress, indicating that minimum wage rates are a federal responsibility.
Unfortunately, since ACORN already came close to success at the ballot box last year, Albuquerque politicians and the city’s Chamber of Commerce are working to pre-empt ACORN by passing their own “reasonable” minimum wage hike.
But bowing to ACORN’s demands without so much as a fight is exactly what this radical outfit wants and, like an unruly child who throws a tantrum until his parents give in, ACORN will view this “compromise” as a sign of weakness. It will quickly move to impose the rest of its far-left agenda on Albuquerque residents and businesses.
First and foremost, ACORN and its activists are, by and large, not locally based, so most of them don’t really care what happens to Albuquerque’s economy once they have their “victory.” ACORN was founded in Little Rock, and has offices spread around the country and Latin America.
While portraying itself as a humble advocate for the poor, ACORN actually promotes an agenda of anti-capitalism, central planning, victimology and government handouts.
ACORN’s political agenda includes unionizing welfare recipients, micromanaging banks’ lending practices under a federal law known as the Community Reinvestment Act, and passing laws to prohibit foreclosure, according to its Web site. Not only does ACORN wish to make doing business in big cities more difficult than it already is, it would like to trap businesses should they wish to leave, according to the site, It proposes forcing them to obtain “an exit visa from the community board signifying that the company has adequately compensated all its employees and the community at large for losses due to relocation.”
ACORN is not even consistent when it comes to the group’s own radical notions of right and wrong. In fact, the group regularly takes actions that appear blatantly self-interested or hypocritical, as if its pure motives and laudable ends might justify less-than-elevated means. For example, even while pushing for living-wage legislation in California, ACORN was paying its workers less than the existing minimum wage — and arguing when the state sued it that the minimum-wage law infringed its First Amendment free-speech right, since paying workers more would hinder it in spreading its message.
The main factor in ACORN’s success is that local interest groups like the Albuquerque Chamber and local politicians lack the courage to stand up to the group. Instead, faced with the threat of Jesse Jackson-style direct-action, corporations often give generous donations to the group in order to buy peace.
In the same vein, rather than forcing ACORN to organize and run costly campaigns, local governments often cave to the group’s pressure by pre-emptively giving in to a majority of their demands.
If Albuquerque’s City Council caves to ACORN’s demands, they certainly won’t be the first to do so. But if they tell the group to take its recipes for urban decay elsewhere, they will be defending the interests not only of small businesses, consumers and taxpayers, but of those on the very bottom rungs of the economic ladder. For them the only alternative to working for unskilled wages is unemployment.
ACORN doesn’t really care what happens to Albuquerque, so we’d better start caring ourselves.
The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.