When the world’s largest retailer backs something like this, it’s hard to ignore. Especially since they’ve had such a spotty record when it came to covering their 2 million employees in the past.

From The Hill:

With Wal-Mart’s endorsement of a legal requirement that employers provide health benefits to their workers, the nation’s largest employer has broken from the business community. […]

Moreover, Wal-Mart declared its support for the employer mandate in a joint letter to Obama with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the liberal Center for American Progress, which is run by John Podesta, a close associate of the White House.

“We are entering a critical time during which all of us who will be asked to pay for health care reform will have to make a choice on whether to support the legislation,” says the letter, signed by Wal-Mart President and CEO Mike Duke, SEIU President Andy Stern and Podesta. “This choice will require employers to consider the trade off of agreeing to a coverage mandate and additional taxes versus the promise of reduced health care cost increases.”

Now, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is diametrically opposed to the mandate and actually attacked Wal-Mart as a result of this move…

“Some businesses make the decision to use the government as a weapon against their competition,” James Gelfand, the Chamber’s senior manager for health policy, said in a statement. “We do not agree with this method — the government is a blunt instrument and taxes have extreme unintended consequences, negatively affecting the economy as a whole. We also recognize that momentum is moving against an employer mandate. The business community will be stepping up our advocacy as necessary, too.”

First off, “weapon?” Really? Good lord…

Also, note the phrase, “taxes have extreme unintended consequences, negatively affecting the economy as a whole.”

I’m all for robust debate, but making such dire, blanket statements like that will not help the Chamber’s credibility with anybody but the die-hard conservatives/libertarians that think taxation is some evil plot to rob them of their freedoms.

In other words, they better strike a different tone or they may find their voice ignored in the coming months as businesses follow the lead of the most successful retailer in history.

  • dumbwhore

    Actually, Wal-Mart was the first employer to EVER offer me life insurance 18 years ago when I got a job there. Every other place would offer me $2 less an hour and no insurance. I really don’t get why people beat up on the place so much when other small companies never offer health insurance either.

    That said, I despise going to wal-mart now that I can afford to shop elsewhere. But I am serious and single payer healthcare and am glad to see one juggernaut get behind any sort of employer required health insurance.

    Frankly, the chamber of commerce fighting this pretty much breaks down like it did for me 2 decades ago. Small businesses, which I’m sure were part of the Chamber of Commerce offered me dick for insurance. The big “evil” company came in and sold shit cheap enough for working people to be able to afford it and offered me insurance.


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  • Jim S

    The Chamber of Commerce has been nothing but a Republican mouthpiece when it comes to public policy for years now.

  • dumbwhore

    minor correction. wal-mart was the first to offer me HEALTH insurance…not life insurance. sorry for the confusion

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    Walmart’s economy of scale allows them to absorb overhead costs better than smaller businesses. This is why they never petition against minimum wage increases. As long as everyone is forced to increase their expenses, Walmart will always be able to spread less of these costs on to the consumer.

    This is precisely why we need to decouple health care from employment. A small business retailer is not going to be able to keep costs low and, at the same time, provide high minimum wages and health insurance to its unskilled workers. Wal Mart wins again.

    Those evil conservatives at the Chamber of Commerce! Why won’t they see the beneficence of Wal-Mart executives, the way Justin does?

  • ExiledIndependent

    Seriously, Justin, Wal-Mart does nothing that isn’t in Wal-Mart’s best interest. And yes, this will be used as perhaps not a weapon, but a device to drive out local competition thus increasing market share and sales for Wal-Mart. So kinda like a weapon. But we don’t have to use that word.

  • Mike

    Isn’t it interesting how when Wal-Mart does something the left doesn’t like, no expense is spared to paint them as big evil business execs who care about nothing but the bottom line. But if they do something the left does like, they are automatically given the benefit of the doubt, and the left pretends they don’t even know what the word “weapon” means in this context.

    I was never one to think Wal-Mart was evil, and so I think it’s entirely possible that they are supporting this because they think it is the right thing to do. But you can’t ignore the possibility that this could help Wal-Mart destroy their competition even further, and that could be exactly why Wal-Mart is supporting it.

    I agree with Jimmy. Health care and employment should have nothing to do with each other, for this reason as well as the lack of incentives to improve health that don’t exist in a pooled plan.

  • bob in fla

    Justin, you are too quick to praise WalMart on this issue. As another commenter noted, Wal Mart already offers health insurance to their full time employees, while most of their competitors do not. By supporting a mandate, their competitors are at further disadvantage. Further if this is paid for in part by capping or eliminating the health insurance deduction, it will be their employees who bear most of the cost – not WM. So by supporting this portion of health care reform, WalMart gains much at little or no cost to themselves.

    Something no one else has mentioned, WalMart is also in the process of installing walk in clinics in most of their stores. By making insurance mandatory, this will add traffic (including their employees) – & profits _ to their bottom line. And they can still do their best to derail other parts of HC reform they don’t like.

  • Adam Herman

    It’s not exaggeration at all for the Chamber of Commerce to call what Wal-mart is doing using the government as a “weapon”.

    Have you ever heard the term “rent-seeking”? This is a prime example. Wal-mart is wealthy. We know that Wal-mart loves to put smaller competitors out of business. We also know that while Wal-mart can afford to provide all their employees with health care, many of their competitors will not be able to.

    Therefore, Wal-mart is using the government to put its competitors out of business.

  • the Word

    They may have a policy on you dying too. They were quite deep in a scandal about that. So you may have been right :-)

  • kranky kritter

    Echo other folks comments. What reason is there, really, to think that Walmart has suddenly decided to support this route out of the goodness of their hearts? Hearts that progressives were heretofore always sure did not even exist, ironically.

    Chambers of commerce generally represent small local independent businesses, and these are precisely the enterprises most likely to be adversely affected by the change Walmart is nowadvocating.

    This positioning by Walmart is being interpreted by useful progressives in the traditional context of partisan stereotypes. And that’s a shame, because there’s more to it than that.

    I think that provision of healthcare by employers is now finally showing itself to be a serious part of the problem, in the sense that it is a primary source of inequities in the system. Employer provision leads to group members bargaining for lower cost while those who are not group members pay a higher rate. And it makes losing a job even worse, because your health and your family’s health may also be threatened.

    Companies that operate here in America and employ Americans should be expected to compensate employees in a way that allows them to have health insurance, or they ought to be expected to kick in for a share of healthcare’s cost based on the number of employees they have. BUt it doesn’t really help anyone when businesses’ costs for insurance are ever-growing but not fully recognized by employees.

    The problems with healthcare were for some time out of sight and thus out of the minds of many American workers. What is making everyone so grumpy now is that this ugly subterranean beast has grown to such behemoth size that we are now all being forced to recognize it and all of its perverse unwieldiness.

    I shopped at Walmart yesterday. They aren’t evil. They just are. An efficient market that keeps prices low, which is a benefit to all of us as consumers.

  • http://None savannah43

    Note that it isn’t called the “Chamber of Consumers.” I suspect that Wal-Mart is investing in the health insurance business, because the only legal obligation a corporation has is to maximize profits for its shareholders. Also note that the majority of Wal’Mart’s employees are part-timers, so they do not get any insurance coverage. This is on purpose. If you think of Wal-Mart as “Mall-Wart,” then you have the correct attitude towards them. It’s convenient to think of them as harmless when you think you’re saving a few dollars when you shop there. Think again.

  • Harry R. Sohl

    “Other small companies” never offer health insurance either? Walmart’s the single largest employer (of Medicaid eligible serfs) in America.

    “Offer insurance”? Oh, the fact it costs more that 50% of your pay each month, in my mind, disqualifies that as an “offer” and puts it into PR territory. It’s like spending a dollar a week on lottery tickets ($52 dollars a year) and telling me you’re offering me “up to” several million dollars in retirement.

  • gerryf

    You obviously missed the pentagam underneath the welcome mats just inside the front door