Below The Beltway

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Stupid Is As Stupid Does

by @ 10:53 pm on January 12, 2006. Filed under General
I’ve written twice over the past two days, here and here, about the legislation pending in Maryland that would require any employer with more than 10,000 employees — meaning Wal-Mart —- to devote at least 8 percent of their payroll to employee health care. The bill was initially defeated when Governor Bob Ehrlich vetoed it. Well, today, as I expected, the Maryland legislature overrode Governor Ehrlich’s veto and the bill has become law.

Maryland lawmakers bucked the will of the state’s Republican governor and the nation’s largest retailer yesterday, voting to become the first state to effectively require that Wal-Mart spend more on employee health care.

In a veto reversal that was closely watched nationally, lawmakers in the Democrat-led General Assembly voted largely along party lines for a measure that legislatures in more than 30 states are considering replicating.

As I said earlier this week, the consequences of this action will resonate far beyond Maryland as there are similar bills under consideration in 30 states. And the consequences are cetain to extend far beyond Wal-Mart as well. Now that the precedent has been established that the government can force one employer to provide health insurance to its employees, are we really all that far away from the day when it this requirement is extended to all employers ?

And there there’s the question of what the real motivation for this bill was:

The legislation has resonated in Maryland and beyond in part because it is viewed as a relatively easy and inexpensive way for lawmakers to expand access to health care and because Wal-Mart, a company with a reputation for stingy benefits, is considered an easy target.

Sickening. Just sickening.

Update: James Joyner has more on this over at Outside The Beltway:

Wal-Mart is a business, not a social welfare program. It hires primarily people with few marketable skills and makes its profits by selling high volumes of merchandise with small markups over wholesale. Its ability to pass on added regulatory costs to customers is limited by the market. This is especially true when said regulatory costs are borne only by them.

In the end, the costs that Wal-Mart will incur from this new law will be passed along in one of two ways. Either they will reduce hiring to take into account the increased cost of hiring a new employee, or they will pass the increased costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

Also, Michelle Malkin has more on this new law as well as a link to this Sebastain Mallaby column from November, which I blogged about here.

And there’s more about the unintended consequences of this law at Crazy Politico’s Rantings.

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