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Lord & Taylor: Sophistry’s ‘rewards’

Sunday, August 3, 2003

Ah, the “fruits” of government attempting to command the marketplace.

The woefully underperforming, heavily taxpayer-subsidized Lord & Taylor department store in downtown Pittsburgh will be “sold” or closed. It’s part of parent May Department Stores’ restructuring that will shed dozens of outlets in 15 states.

As with its more heavily taxpayer-subsidized Federated Department Stores’ kin — Lazarus, a few blocks away — Lord & Taylor, which opened just three Novembers ago, is a dud. Customers have offered little assistance in the bottom-line department.

Sales last year were nearly $26 million below the threshold required for May to pay back the nearly $12 million public subsidy. A handout was the deciding factor in opening Lord & Taylor, as it was with the more than 60 percent taxpayer-underwritten Lazarus store. The administration of Mayor Tom Murphy attempted to artificially create a market where, as sales have proven, none existed.

Contractually, Lazarus can walk away from its store with little or no liability as early as this fall. Lord & Taylor, if it doesn’t repay the loan by buying out its contract, could do the same in 2005. No problem, Murphyites contend, we’ll simply find new tenants. Only to fail again, as the Law of Command Economics dictates.

This isn’t “economic development.” But it is delusive sophism, the primary instrument by which the few have managed to plunder the many by persuading the victims that they are being robbed for their own benefit.

This despicable behavior is Tom Murphy’s real legacy. And Pittsburgh’s curse.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review © Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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