Thursday, April 07, 2005

One more reason I'm glad I no longer live in Maryland...

The Maryland Legislature is close to passing a bill that would force Wal-Mart - and only Wal-Mart - to increase health care expenditures for its employees. While the bill's sponsors claim only to be concerned with helping Wal-Mart employees get employer-paid health care benefits, in reality, their goal is to increase Wal-Mart's cost of doing business in the state which would force Wal-Mart to either raise prices or cut back its operations in the state. Why would they want to do this? Because it's a top priority of Wal-Mart's competitors and grocery labor unions. Wal-Mart has been gaining market share from its incompetent, corrupt and previously smug competitors. Labor unions in Maryland, as well as nation-wide, despite extensive efforts, have been unable to organize Wal-Mart employees. Since neither Wal-Mart's competitors nor the labor unions have been able to beat Wal-Mart in the marketplace, they've turned their efforts to the political arena. And what Wal-Mart's competitors and labor unions want... the politicians to whom they bestow campaign contributions deliver.

If these politicians have their way, Maryland residents will have to pay higher prices, whether at Wal-Mart or at one of Wal-Mart's competitors. It doesn't matter to the politicians... they don't shop at Wal-Mart. It will matter to their lower-income constituents who lack the disposable income to shop at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Fresh Fields and Sutton Place Gourmet. Maryland will also lose the sales taxes from Wal-Mart sales. They will lose the income taxes from the employees Wal-Mart doesn't hire. They will lose the property taxes from the stores Wal-Mart doesn't build. What a bunch of idiots.

Now, on the other side of the river, where Wal-Mart is welcome, we'll happily take in the sales taxes from Maryland residents who cross the river to do their shopping. Just as we've been happy to take in gasoline taxes from Maryland residents who have long been filling up their tanks in Virginia in order to avoid the higher gasoline taxes imposed by the good old fools in Maryland.

Thank goodness for idiots...

Footnote: towards the end, the article quotes Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic member of Maryland's Congressional delegation, who would like to use the Maryland General Assembly's bill as a model for national health care reform. Now, I ask you, is there anyone... anyone... who is less significant and has less power in Congress than a second-term liberal Democrat from a Democrat-controlled state? The chance of Van Hollen's yet-to-be introduced dream bill ever seeing the light of day is less than my chances of making the Wizards starting lineup. So, why would the Post bother even including his comments? I know their goal is to constantly boost liberal causes and denigrate conservatives. But why quote the poor guy, why make him think his opinion and vote count for something? That's just cruel. Even for a Democrat. Even for a liberal Democrat.

Additional thought: this story proves once again that slippery slopes exist in reality and are not merely some form of abstract argument. The state of Maryland's ability and willingness to meddle in what should be a private matter between an employer and its employees is a direct - and foreseeable - consequence of previous times the state has injected itself into business matters. Minimum wage laws, medical leave policies, overtime rules... all examples of where the state has meddled in employer-employee matters... all in the 'interest' of doing good, to be sure, but once the line was crossed, there no longer is any aspect of employer-employee relations that is off limits to the government.