Skip to comments.A high price for a bitter banana
Posted on 11/17/2005 3:14:27 PM PST by Dr. Marten
WASHINGTON, Nov 14, 2005 (Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service - Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service via COMTEX) --
I have sinned. I bought a banana ... at Wal-Mart.
For this, I am doomed.
My late stepfather, bless his soul, warned early and often of the evil of out-of-town (-state, -country) conglomerates descending on our small Virginia town and putting his pharmacy and other locally owned businesses out of business.
He was prescient. The conglomerates did come (out on the main drag, not downtown), and now our little town is struggling.
His was a sermon I've tried to follow as much as possible ... until recently. In a strange town and in need of a breakfast banana, I could find no other grocery store open at night except that behemoth best known for low wages and few benefits. Desperate, I walked in and bought a banana ... thus violating a family commandment: Thou shalt not aid those who seek to take away your bread and butter.
Of course, this was not the first time I'd broken that commandment. Fact is, it is impossible to live in a large city today and not patronize a CVS or RiteAid, a Sears or Home Depot, a McDonald's or Burger King. There are no alternatives. I'd come to grips years ago with the fact that, like it or not, I had to deal with these businesses.
But Wal-Mart is something else: A company known for low wages and part-time hours; that foists its workers' family health-care costs on taxpayers (Medicaid); that makes warm-and-fuzzy, flag-waving, we-love-America TV commercials while exploiting cheap labor in China to the tune of $15 billion in goods shipped the United States in 2003. (Woe unto any Chinese worker who protests labor practices.)
Low prices are good; the more, the better. It's the shifting of Wal-Mart's labor costs onto taxpayers that doesn't sit well. Wal-Mart acknowledges that 46 percent of the children of its employees are uninsured or on Medicaid. So when they need medical care, guess who picks up the tab? All businesses could lower their prices if they could dump their costs of business onto someone else.
Concerned that its public image needs some serious polishing, Wal-Mart sponsored a conference Nov. 4 in Washington to discuss the company's effect on the economy and individual communities. Not surprising, the economic research firm hired by Wal-Mart issued a report claiming that the company "has been economically positive for the U.S. economy." That report went on to assert that Wal-Mart saved each American household an average of $2,329 in 2004.
That's a lot of bananas!
At that same conference, however, other studies were presented that offered a different view. In fairness, these studies were offered after Global Insight, Wal-Mart's hired economic research firm, called for further studies from the academic and business community.
Said David Neumark, an economist with Public Policy Institute in California and who with Junfu Zhang and Stephen Ciccarella wrote a report titled "The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets," "Residents of a local labor market do indeed earn less following the opening of Wal-Mart stores." That report went on to say that Wal-Mart's low pay pushed down total payroll wages per person by almost 5 percent in areas that have the its stores.
More damning news came from another report presented at the conference. A study by Michael Hicks of the Air Force Institute of Technology in Ohio and Marshall University, showed that Wal-Mart increased Medicaid (read "taxpayer") costs an average of $898 per worker and that a 1 percent increase in Wal-Mart's market share in a state is accompanied by a 1.5 percent increase in Medicaid spending.
And so it goes. Always low prices, always low wages, always low benefits.
Which brings us to the memo by M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits. In her memo to the company's board of directors and reported in the New York Times on ways to hold down spending on health care, Chambers suggests one way to discourage unhealthy job applicants is to make all jobs involve some physical activity. For example, a door-greeter "associate" (Wal-Mart's term for its workers) or cashier "associate" might be required to help stock shelves or gather shopping carts. The thinking is that this physical fitness requirement will lead to healthier, younger job applicants.
So, Grandma, where will you be doing your holiday shopping?
But there is one element of hope in Wal-Mart's image-improvement campaign. Company chief executive H. Lee Scott has decided to push for an increase in the U.S. minimum-wage law. (Some might suggest this is merely an effort to give its "associates" more money so they can turn around and spend it at Wal-Mart stores, but I would never think of saying that.)
Attention, Mr. Scott: If you want to give your employees a raise, go ahead and do so. No one is stopping you. You do not have to wait until the feds make it the law of the land ... if they ever choose to do so.
The more I think about it, that banana I bought did leave a bitter aftertaste.
Geeeeeeeee, Ray, I'm so sorry they made you buy that banana.
When I saw the title I assumed this was going to be a post about Monica Lewinski.
I guess this guy would rather we go back to making cars by hand, too?
If this fellow really feels that strongly about it, why did he buy the banana? Sounds like the Yuppie School of Instant Gratification to me.
I fail to see how putting people to work increases medicaid. If they qualify for medicaid while working you can bet they also qualified while not working.
I've worked many locally owned places where my children still qualified for medicaid.
Hmmmmmm.....WalMart should immediately fire all their employees. Then 100% of the children will be uninsured or on Medicaid. We all know that 100% is better than 46%.
Seriously, Wal-Mart should shut down for a good week and see what type of impact it would have on America. What will states do when sales tax receipts dry up?
The banana that broke the camel's snack.
All your food must taste bitter....with your head up your a$$.
So oil companies are bad because the they gouge us with high prices and Walmart is bad because their prices aren't high enough. Can anyone make sense out of this position?
Here's a hint: Don't stick it in your butt before you eat it.
Phase-out Medicaid and the problem would solve itself virtually overnight.
This should qualify as "selfish greed"...right?
My biggest problem with Wal-Mart is that the banana this guy talks about was probably made in China.
This I was unaware of. Apparently, Wal-Mart sets the rules for Medicaid eligibility.....