(HOST)Wal-Mart is once again proposing to expand services in Vermont. This morning we heard from commentator Ellen David Friedman’s view of WalMart. This afternoon, we hear a second view from commentator John McClaughry.
(MCCLAUGHRY) Every right thinking Leftist in America hates Wal-Mart. Why? Wal-Mart’s employees are not unionized. Wal-Mart pays only what it needs to, to attract relatively low skilled workers, at levels well below the Left’s demands for a livable wage. Wal-Mart doesn’t offer its employees as generous health care benefits as Ford and General Motors, both of which are sinking under the weight of accumulated labor concessions. Wal-Mart offers lower prices that local stores aren’t able to match. Wal-Mart is America’s largest importer of goods from China, and even though trading with Wal-Mart reaps untold billions of dollars for the Marxist regime in Beijing, the Left doesn’t even give Wal-Mart credit for that.
The Left’s war on Wal-Mart has just made a major breakthrough in Maryland. There, a very liberal legislature has just passed, with strong support from Wal-Mart’s competitors and over a Republican governor’s veto, a bill to fine Wal-Mart – and only Wal-Mart – for not paying as much as eight percent of its payroll for health insurance.
Why eight percent? The legislature arrived at eight percent because only Wal-Mart, of the four Maryland companies with more than 10,000 employees, paid less than eight percent. Wal-Mart offers eighteen health plans, some with monthly employee premiums as low as eleven dollars, but its total health insurance outlays don’t reach eight percent of payroll – and if they did, I can only imagine that the Left would get their friends in the legislature to raise the bar to nine percent.
The Washington Post, not a notable friend to free enterprise, editorialized that “the Maryland bill is a legislative mugging masquerading as an act of benevolent social engineering.” Columnist George Will, a conservative, described the Maryland law as “part of the tawdry drama of state politics as governments grasp for novel sources of money.” For all its crimes, real and imagined, the Post notes, Wal-Mart does “[save] its moderate income customers a staggering amount of money.”
No wonder the left hates Wal-Mart- it refuses to charge higher prices and give the extra earnings to a unionized labor force. Put this down as another of the Left’s recurring wars against lower income workers and consumers, to benefit the better off.
Will the left stop with the passage of anti Wal-Mart bills in legislatures around the country? I doubt it. The obvious next step is to apply their Wal-Mart attack principle to individuals. Imagine this: You look at your income tax form and read: “If your total income on line 22 is more than $150,000, check here and go to line 63.” That line reads “Enter the amount you contributed to charities, including any of twelve government-approved organizations working for peace, workers rights, and social justice. If that amount is less than eight percent of your income, enter the difference here as additional tax payable.”
No, that hasn’t happened yet, that’s where this principle is heading. If the legislature can make Wal-Mart pay a fine for not paying enough in health benefits , it can make taxpayers pay a higher tax for failing to give to government-approved causes.
This is John McClaughry – thanks for listening.
John McClaughry is president of the Ethan Allan Institute, a Vermont policy, research and education organization. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.