February 27, 2006
The Wal-Mart ShakedownBy Christopher Chantrill
Look at Wal—Mart. It has revolutionized retailing with relentless cost reduction and process improvement. It helps keep the United States at No. 1 in wealth and productivity. When it opens a store in ordinary America, about 4,000 people usually apply for the 400 jobs.
When Wal—Mart applied to build a store in Chicago, in the underprivileged South Side of 'The City That Works,' the Democrat—dominated city council said no thanks, we don't need your stink'n store and its jobs. So Wal—Mart built a store right across the Chicago city line in Evergreen Park. A total of 25,000 people applied for the 325 positions at the new store.
And everybody's happy, right?
No, liberals and Democrats are not happy.
You see, liberals think it an outrage that there are people out there with basic human needs unmet. For instance, they believe that if someone, a Wal—Mart employee, for instance, cannot afford health insurance then you should pay for it. Because health care is a basic human right.
They certainly have a point. If someone is in need, then we have a moral duty to help him. The question is, when does a moral duty become a legal duty? At what point do we start legislating morality?
For one example, we legislate morality when we pass a law that says that if a large corporation, e.g. Wal—Mart, doesn't spend 8 percent of payroll on health care for its employees, it should pay the government the difference. That is what they just did in the great state of Maryland.
It is, of course, a fine and moral thing to pass a law to force other people to spend their money to for a great moral purpose like increasing access to health care. It feels so good, we should do it more often. But for Wal—Mart, things are not so easy.
Wal—Mart believes in Always Low Prices for its customers. It does not actually believe that Always Low Prices for its customers is a moral issue, or a human right, but pretty close to it. The problem is that Wal—Mart is not willing to sacrifice its Always Low Prices on the altar of First Dollar Health Insurance. It offers a range of health insurance options to its employees, but nothing close to the First Dollar Health Insurance offered by many of its unionized competitors.
For Democrats, who worship at the shrine of First Dollar Health Insurance, Wal—Mart's measly health insurance offering is a blasphemy.
We all know where that can get you these days.
But the Democrats' problem with Wal—Mart is not just religious. It is also practical. Many of Wal—Mart's entry—level employees are eligible for Medicaid and other government health benefits. Not surprisingly, these workers choose to continue their government health benefits instead of actually paying for their health insurance through Wal—Mart. That is why Democrats passed a law in Maryland to force companies with over 5,000 employees that do not spend 8 percent of payroll on health insurance to cough up the difference to the state government. They wanted Wal—Mart to pick up the tab.
The Maryland law is just for starters. Here in Washington State, Democrats are pushing (free—registration required) a law that requires large employers to pay at least 9 percent of payroll on health insurance or pay up. Eight percent, nine percent. Pretty soon we are talking about tithing.
Of course, Wal—Mart has not been taking this lying down. After all, Wal—Mart did not get to be the 'global best practice' retailer and America's Economic Secret Weapon for nothing. It is not going to sit around dithering while some State Senator Lex Luthor tosses a bag of kryptonite over the fence into its cost structure. So Wal—Mart, as noted by The New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro, has started opening health clinics in its stores and is offering a health insurance Value Plan with a cost of $11 per month for an individual that
Meanwhile in Sterling, Illinois, according to the Wall Street Journal, Wal—Mart is opening an 880,000 sq ft distribution center. In Sterling a mere 6,000 people applied for Wal—Mart's 675 jobs. When Susan Adami was offered a Wal—Mart job at $13 per hour she
At least Susan Adami is happy with Wal—Mart.