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The march of the lemmings

A little while ago, I cited three measures wending their way through the New Hampshire legislature that, in my opinion, exemplified why I love living in New Hampshire. They were all measures that protected individual rights and freedoms and responsibilties.

Which is why I feel a smidgen embarassed to note that a few Granite State lawmakers (Democrats, predictably enough) have decided that Maryland's grand "soak Wal-Mart" experiment ought to be tried up here, too.

(In brief: they want to pass their own version of Maryland's recently-passed law requiring companies with more than a certain number of employees to pay a certain percentage of their total payroll towards health insurance for their employees.)

Maryland is already seeing the consequences of this measure, as Wal-Mart is reconsidering plans to open a new distribution center in the state, and might build it in a neighboring one.

The Concord Monitor's article quotes one critic of the bill, who raises an interesting point. A spokesmen for BAE systems is concerned -- his company has a lot of employees, and just might fall under this bill. But they also have very high wages, and since the law sets a percentage as the threshold, they just might have to pay more simply to meet the requirements of the law. I'm not quite sure how that would work, though -- maybe they'll provide all employees with health club memberships or personal dieticians or something.

(I can see this playing out: "Johnson, we're below 8%! We have to find a way to spend an extra $30 per employee per year!"
"Um, how about we give them each a fruit basket every quarter?"
"Not good enough! Toss in a free blood pressure screening every month!")

Another point, not raised in the article, is a purely mathematic one. The supporters of the bill say they came by the 8% figure based on the national average of what companies spend on health care.

But here's a funny thing about averages: when you raise standards to meet an average, you tend to redefine "average." If 8% is the average, that means that quite a few companies spend less than that. If you change that 8% to a minimum, then the average will rise, too -- unless you also make it a ceiling as well.

Here's a dirty little secret nobody likes to talk about: Wal-Mart employees are, for the most part, interchangeable. Their jobs don't require any great skills or training. They are, in essence, designed for people who have few other choices in employment. Wal-Mart wages aren't great, but they are often better than other opportunities such people have available to them.

So here's hoping that sanity returns to the New Hampshire legislature and this bill dies the quick death it so richly deserves.


Comments (8)

Nothing like smart Democrat... (Below threshold)
Maggie:

Nothing like smart Democratic politicians....you lose out on the jobs and the sales tax generated by Wal-Mart sales. Plus your constituents pay higher prices for items so they buy less goods.

Sounds typical to me.

Yep. I hope WalMart closes... (Below threshold)
Bob Jones:

Yep. I hope WalMart closes just enough marginal stores to drop below 10,000 employees in Maryland so those Democrats can take their socialist money grab and shove it up their ass.

It's pathetic how they think they can dictate in a free market economy. It ranks right up there with the "Living Wage" argument.

I'm interested to see how t... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

I'm interested to see how this plays out in Maryland. BAE Systems is a high-tech aerospace company and their wages are probably among the highest in the state (at least among the non-law professions). They are also a company that is in the process of moving a lot of jobs from Europe to the U.S. And if they are just a little bit below the legal standard, percentage-wise, then we're talking about a lot more then $30 per employee-year... probably more like $1000.

So how does the Maryland Legislature handle this? If they leave things as is, and piss off one of their best "good job" employers, then they are stupid. On the other hand, if they try to trim the bill so that it only applies to Wal-Mart, then it confirms that their intention all along was to pass a bill of attainder, which is blatantly unconstitutional and will almost certainly get their fannies spanked by the Roberts Court. And in either case, it demonstrates the the citizen-government relationship has been inverted: instead of the citizens voting out politicions, the politicions are voting out citizens.

I work for BAE Systems (alt... (Below threshold)
fretless:

I work for BAE Systems (although, I do not reside in Maryland). I am also retired military and, as such, I choose to OPT OUT of the company's medical program in favor of the medical program available through my retirement.

It's cheaper for the company and, frankly, cheaper for me.

How does the new Maryland Law deal with that?

Do newspapers pay their ven... (Below threshold)
Richard:

Do newspapers pay their vendors a living wage? In Houston some of them stand on a traffic island in the middle of the street all day. They don't look very prosperous. They also don't look like they could hold down a reporter's job. Maybe selling papers is the best they can do, and I admire them for doing it.

I live in Maryland and I'm ... (Below threshold)
Steve:

I live in Maryland and I'm with Bob Jones, I'd like to see Wal-Mart close enough stores to get under 10k employees. The two main things at play here are 1) the desire of the liberal Maryland legislature to raise revenue (even they know if they raise taxes again that their lifetime appointments will be over) they have raised taxes to the limit and several years ago began calling them "user fees", how catchy.
2) This is a Union controlled state and the unions are pissed that they can't get Wal-Mart employees to donate to their DNC campaign funds.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. says ... (Below threshold)
Alan Anderson:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. says the store it is opening this week in this southwestern Chicago suburb had the largest number of job applicants in the giant retailer's history.
The store, scheduled to open Friday, received 25,000 applications for 325 positions, Wal-Mart told Crain's Chicago Business.

ABC7Chicago.com local TV station reported this on the 10PM news

I also am a BAE Systems emp... (Below threshold)
Jem:

I also am a BAE Systems employee (in VA, not NH--though I work for the Business Unit headquartered there) and can confirm that the pay and benefits (including health care) are good. As a defense contractor, we hire quite a few retired military who would probably stick with Tricare (as I did during the time I was recalled to active duty after 9/11). I certainly would not want my future salary increases reduced to meet some politician's uninformed and arbitrary assumptions.




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