In an article about a scandalous Wal-Mart memo detailing how the company could protect profits by endangering employees, the New York Times wrote on Oct. 29, “The company also says a push toward more part-time workers — many of whom would not be eligible for, or could not afford, whatever new health plan Wal-Mart might devise — will also lead to fewer people’s needing coverage.” There is a large misunderstanding here.
Replacing full-time workers with part-time workers will not reduce the number of people needing coverage. It will reduce the number who have coverage, and while that may soothe Wal-Mart executives and stockholders, it will be hard on the workers and their families. Already, nearly half the children of Wal-Mart employees either rely on Medicaid, which means taxpayers shell out so Wal-Mart doesn’t have to, or they do without insurance entirely, which means that when they get sick, they stay sick, at least until they die.
Elsewhere in this remarkable document — not intended for public consumption, but a whistleblower blew — the It’s true, as the New York Times repeatedly instructs us, that Wal-Mart is not to blame for an American system of health care that is collapsing around our heads. As the country’s largest employer and corporate imperialist, Wal-Mart can be blamed for pursuing a policy of putting more of the burden on those who can least afford to bear it, of cutting costs at all costs, whether union-busting at home or sweat shops overseas. It is not un-American for rich stockholders to accept a lower return so that poor workers can have food and medicine.
The only answer to the health care problem is a national government-based insurance program, such as all other industrialized nations have, in place of an outmoded employer-based system. Wal-Mart spends millions lobbying for special favors. If it put its money and muscle into a campaign for national health insurance, the company would show that it does indeed care about its “associates.” And its customers too.