Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 24, 2006
POLITICS: Targeting the Burbs
Pejman and McQ take on the farce of Maryland's legislation attempting to raise Wal-Mart's cost of hiring employees - or, alternatively, depress its wages - by mandating that a fixed percentage of its payroll be spent on health insurance. The attack on Wal-Mart, of course, comes from a variety of directions; unions and small store owners who view the company as a competitive threat are the leaders. This particular bill seems to have been driven as well by legislators looking to beef up government revenues. I particularly liked this bit of economic illiteracy:
Let's consider what this could mean:
1. People who had health insurance at their prior job quit to work at Wal-Mart, thus becoming eligible for Medicaid. This seems unlikely to have happened in large numbers, unless of course the prior job made less in wages and they preferred to get more wages instead - a choice the state wants to take away.
2. People turned down a chance to get a job with health insurance so they could work at Wal-Mart instead. Same deal as #1.
3. People had health insurance at their prior jobs but were forced to work at Wal-Mart when Wal-Mart drove their previous employer out of business. This may be the case in some situations, but remember that Wal-Mart's primary competitors are usually mom-and-pop stores that don't typically have generous benefits packages.
4. People left smaller employers with no health insurance to work at a bigger company with no health insurance. This is more likely - so the state is just punishing Wal-Mart for being big enough to attract enemies, even though it's no different from a host of small businesses and creates no additional Medicaid liabilities.
5. People who got jobs at Wal-Mart previously did not have jobs. In such cases, of course, no additional Medicaid liabilities are created, but unemployed people are put to work and get a steady paycheck and work experience. This should be discouraged?
Meanwhile, if attacking the nation's largest retailer isn't enough, Joel Kotkin enumerates a variety of ways in which left-wing radicals, including the mayor of Los Angeles, are trying to resist the natural desire of Americans of all kinds to pursue what was once known as the "American Dream" - single-family house, yard, car - in the suburbs. I say "left-wing radicals" because I have to hope that, as with the attack on Wal-Mart, the Democratic party as a whole knows better than to attack the suburban lifestyle.
If the GOP cements itself as the party of people who live in suburbs and the party of Wal-Mart, its customers, its shareholders and its employees, there won't be a whole lot of America left for the Democrats to represent.