John Tierney, the sensible columnist of the New York Times, also has kind words to say about Wal—Mart. His column is locked—up in the Times Select pay service, but here is a fair use excerpt:
Wal—Mart has been one of the most successful antipoverty programs in America. It provides entry—level jobs that unskilled workers badly want — there are often 5 or 10 applicants for each position at a new store.
Critics say Wal—Mart's pay, $9.68 per hour on average, is too low and depresses local retail wages when a new store opens. That effect is debatable, but even if wages do go down slightly, these workers still end up with more disposable income...
But suppose Wal—Mart were forced to give health coverage to all of its part—time employees. To remain competitive, Wal—Mart would probably cut the cash wages of the workers to compensate for the additional health benefits. The cut in take—home pay would be particularly hard on the many part—timers who don't need the benefits because they're already covered through their spouses' or other insurance.
Some of Wal—Mart's critics prefer to imagine that Wal—Mart wouldn't have to cut wages — that it could get away with raising prices a little to cover the extra health care costs. But that would force Wal—Mart's shoppers to cover costs previously paid by the government out of revenues coming largely from income taxes, which are paid disproportionately by the affluent. Instead, Wal—Mart's low—income shoppers would, in effect, pay a regressive new sales tax.
Ed Lasky 11 29 05