Friday, January 13, 2006

Maryland Passes the Wal-Mart Health Care Bill - Millions Die!

I had hoped to comment on this earlier, but the idiot Democrat bastards in the Maryland Statehouse went and overturned the Governor's veto of this law yesterday - before I had a chance to get to it.

(An aside - the MD Assembly meets for only 90 days each year, a refreshing little term, from mid-January to mid-March, and then they are done. Done. No more annoying, unnecessary laws. No more petulant politicking. No more hubris and ego and starched-shirts. It's kinda old fashioned and nice.)

First off, I personally don't care for Wal-Mart. I don't like to shop there. I much prefer the Target experience for my everyday sundries and fertilizer and clear Christmas lights and jump drives and bird food and stuff.

But that doesn't entitle the state government to legislate the level of benefits a corporation must provide to its employees. And that's what this law does.

Essentially, it requires all corporations employing more than 10,000 to provide at least 8% of their payroll expense in the form of health care benefits.

Of course, Wal-Mart is the only business in the state to meet that requirement.

The local papers and talk radio shows have been filled with folks venting their spleen over how Wal-Mart, a gazillion-dollar corporation, fails its employees. Of course, who roots for Wal-Mart, the killer of mom-and-pops, the defiler of environments, the exporter of jobs, the exploiter of workers?

So what motivated these Maryland lawmakers? Idealism? A sincere hope to stick it the greedy Man? A desire to help those who are underinsured? A chance to strike at big bad corporate America? Actually, none of the above.

Here's what motivated them: Giant Foods, Superfresh Groceries, and Safeway. Yup. Wal-Mart's competitors. Other big corporations. Multi-billion dollar, actually. Apparently, they figured they couldn't compete without the Statehouse taking a billyclub to a potential competitor's kneecaps. Nice.

This is a case of Democratic lawmakers finding corporate benefactors to help them hide their true disdain for a large, successful corporation. And win more contributions for the future.

And that truly is Wal-Mart's biggest sin: they have been successful. They are big, they sell billions of dollars of stuff, they make a lot of money. Surely, thet must be able to spend more for health benefits.

Huh? Wal-Mart's margins are just slightly higher than those of other mass merchants, most likely in the mid-single digits. They are judged by their shareholders on raising that number every quarter (which they haven't been so good at doing, lately). So when I hear folks talk about spending "excess profits" on health care, I realize I am listening to someone who has no idea what they're talking about.

Not only that, but they do provide health care benefits, well in excess of most other mass retailers (Target, Kohls, etc). In fact, an employee can get health coverage for as little as $11 a month. Does your employer offer a deal that good? Does anyone? Perhaps Wal-Mart should take over Medicare, eh?

But, of course, they don't subsidize health care to the levels commensurate with the local legacy grocers. Of course, they are all unionized. Their employees earn well more than the market can truly bear, and they have more generous health coverage than you and I.

Of course, they have to charge more for their stuff, too. Veggies, steaks, skinless chicken breasts, cans of Progresso, Gala apples, Paul Newman's Light Caesar dressing, honey ham - more, it all costs more.

Therein lies the rub: force increased costs upon Wal-Mart, so that I can then compete with them.

In essence, lower the bar for us all.

Sorry, but that won't cut it. That is antithetical to all that I know and understand about markets and human nature (at my tender age, at least). The market doesn't work that way. People don't behave that way.

From now on, I will avoid Giant, I will vote against those who voted to override this veto, I will vote for this Republican Governor (if only to help maintain a divided government in this very, very Blue state), and I will shop at Wal-Mart....uh, no...actually, I won't. I hate Wal-Mart. They suck. What they sell sucks. Their stores suck. In general, Wal-Mart sucks. I'll avoid them.

So I'll still shop at Target. I hope you will too.

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