« Home | Truce? » | A Case of Photo Bias » | Who Would Be a Better Governor than Jim Doyle » | Epstein on School Choice and Some Thoughts on the ... » | O'Connor's Swan Song? » | Journal-Sentinel Firmly Against Free Speech » | I Love the Tribune » | Gonzales v Oregon » | Beer Review: Samuel Adams Hefeweizen » | Who is Next? » 

Friday, January 20, 2006 

In Defense of Wal-Mart

In this week's State of the State address, Jim "I hate concealed carry" Doyle took a shot at Wal-Mart for "dumping" their employees onto state health care programs like BadgerCare. He made reference to creating a law that would force Wal-Mart to pay for health care for its employees. A similar law has been enacted in Maryland. Wal-Mart has become the latest target of many on the political Left. I'm going to examine what Wal-Mart is doing and explain why they are acting rationally.

Wal-Mart is a huge employer. They have many low skilled workers. The labor of these workers is not worth much. They have no special skills and can be easily replaced. There is no reason for Wal-Mart to provide these employees with high wages and expensive benefits. Until they have a shortage of workers, Wal-Mart has no reason to offer a more lucrative wage/benefits package.

The state offers a program that will provide health care. The state has made the choice to provide health care to people below a certain economic level. Wal-Mart is not shifting the costs to us. We are choosing to pick up the costs. We have chosen to enact the BadgerCare program. Wal-Mart, acting as a rational entity, sees a free service being provided by the state to provide health care and chooses to take advantage of it. Wal-Mart is just taking advantage of the system. Not taking advantage of a voluntarily enacted state program would be stupid. You might not like it, you might not think it's fair, but it's Wal-Mart and its employees acting rationally in the situation.

Here's what Sebastian Mallaby of the Washington Post has to say...
Wal-Mart's critics also paint the company as a parasite on taxpayers, because 5 percent of its workers are on Medicaid. Actually that's a typical level for large retail firms, and the national average for all firms is 4 percent. Moreover, it's ironic that Wal-Mart's enemies, who are mainly progressives, should even raise this issue. In the 1990s progressives argued loudly for the reform that allowed poor Americans to keep Medicaid benefits even if they had a job. Now that this policy is helping workers at Wal-Mart, progressives shouldn't blame the company. Besides, many progressives favor a national health system. In other words, they attack Wal-Mart for having 5 percent of its workers receive health care courtesy of taxpayers when the policy that they support would increase that share to 100 percent.
The point is that Wal-Mart isn't exploiting the system any more than anyone else. The only difference is that there is a organized, dedicated hit squad going after Wal-Mart right now.

Is health care a positive right? I don't think it is. It is a service. I personally believe that it is wrong for me to force you to pay my medical bills. I also think that it is wrong for me to force you to pay my grocery bills and my rent, even though many would argue that food and shelter are rights too. Since I believe that it is not a positive right, I'm not going to fault Wal-Mart or any other employer for not providing health care to every employee. By the way, Wal-Mart does provide health coverage, just not to everyone.

I think that health care is a negative right. That means that one should not be arbitrarily deprived of access to health care by the government creating unnecessary barriers to health care. Let's say that you do think health care is a positive right. Why is it Wal-Mart's responsibility to provide it to everyone? Isn't it your responsibility? If you believe that health care is a positive right, you shouldn't be supporting this law. You should be calling for a socialized health care system.

If you support forcing Wal-Mart to pay for health care, then you also have to support Wal-Mart instituting very strict hiring practices. If I am an employer and I have no choice but to pay for health care, I should have the right to refuse to hire high risk groups. Fat people, the elderly, and smokers need not apply.

Wal-Mart is good for a lot of poor people. They provide goods at a low cost, which stretches the dollar of lower income folks. The ones with full grocery departments offer wholesale priced fruits and vegetables (an important part of a healthy diet that many poor people wouldn't normally be able to afford). What bastards. Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.

If you don't like Wal-Mart's business practices (and after watching the Frontline episode about Wal-Mart, I can understand why they could turn someone off), then don't shop there. Persuade your friends, family, and colleagues that Wal-Mart is evil. Shop elsewhere. Don't use the law to target them because you've got a grudge. I really don't care about Wal-Mart. I don't work there, I don't own stock, and I don't shop there. I'm just sick of these cheap attacks by people like Jim "a giraffe could do my job better" Doyle.

Edit Comment

About me

  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
  • E-mail Me
My profile