Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Defending the Poor, Huddled Mega-Corporations

Sebastian Mallby has an interesting post in the Washington Post defending Wal-Mart (gasp!). My favorite part was where he took apart the oft-heard argument that Wal-Mart doesn't provide health care for employees; yet the people making this accusation are typically the very same people who want the government to provide health care for everyone, anyway!

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.

While certainly not completely defendable in every aspect of their operations, Wal-Mart likely does more good than harm for the poorest people in the country. The people you mainly hear bitching about Wal-Mart are usually upper or upper middle-class, highly educated people. It doesn't fit their vision of utopia, so they have to KEEP IT OUT!! of our cities and towns.

UPDATE: For an excellent look at the arguments that were the foundation for much of Mallby's article, watch this video of Jason Furman, the NYU professor who has studied the retail giant, available here.


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