Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Diminution of Personal Responsibility

After reading an article by Doug Monroe, a senior editor at Creative Loafing (a lefty rag in Atlanta), I was reminded of the old Southern populism and classism that has recently been obscured by the current “redness” that accompanied the election of G.W. Bush.

For well over a century, the South was dominated by the Democrat Party. Remember? You know…there was that whole secession thing, which resulted in war, followed by decades of legalized racial discrimination. Now, it might be a stretch, but one could argue that an impetus for the aforementioned mistreatment of the “non-white” population was, in part, to reduce competition by immorally using "free labor" and denigrating potential competitors. For just as slavery enriched the plantation owners (and their heirs) by eliminating labor costs, segregation during the Industrial Revolution prohibited Blacks (by and large) from accessing education and employment opportunities.

At this point, however, Blacks thrive in the South and in Atlanta in particular. The institutionalized racism has been virtually eradicated. That said though, the class-envy of Southern Democrats is alive and well, as Doug Monroe demagogically illustrates:
In other communities, the company might not have it so easy, because a lot of ordinary Americans have awakened to the locust-like nature of Wal-Mart. The stores swoop in, kill off mom-and-pop businesses, and empty small town centers.


The formula works like a charm. Wal-Mart now rakes in nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars annually in sales and plans to triple in size.
Can you believe the gall of those crass profit chasers? But seriously, I’m no Wal-Mart apologist, but rigorous competition is part and parcel of capitalism. Absent any force or fraud (e.g. Eminent Domain), I say let the market work.
What really makes me sick is the way Wal-Mart preys on governments here at home. The flag-waving company, based in Arkansas, has become the welfare queen of Georgia. There are 51,821 Wal-Mart employees -- or "associates" -- in the state, or 1.15 percent of the total civilian work force of about 4.5 million.

The funny thing is that, while Wal-Mart has 1.15 percent of Georgia's work force, in 2002, children of its employees made up more than 6 percent of all the kids covered by PeachCare, the state program that provides health care coverage to the children of the working poor.

Of a total of 166,000 children covered by PeachCare, 10,261 had a parent working for Wal-Mart in 2002. And Wal-Mart's numbers are way out of line when you bring other companies into the picture. The No. 2 company on the list, Publix, had only 734 children of employees on PeachCare. The average PeachCare recipient costs $1,274 a year. If you multiply that by Wal-Mart's 10,261, you get a total of more than $13 million in health care costs borne by Georgia taxpayers.
First of all, notice that Mr. Monroe failed to include the total number of Publix employees in Georgia. Instead, he simply mentioned the number children benefiting from PeachCare. I suppose the actual ratio, as compared to that of Wal-Mart, was unimportant. Beyond that, the implication that Wal-Mart is obligated to insure its employees, and thereby forcing the state to use public funds for private medical care, is, in a word, ridiculous.
"That is a type of reverse welfare or corporate welfare," says former Gov. Roy Barnes, now an attorney in Marietta. "I provide insurance for my employees. Why shouldn't [Wal-Mart] be providing it?"
Huh? With a statement like that, is there any wonder why Barnes was the first Democrat Governor to be defeated since Reconstruction?
A union that represents retail workers recently blasted Wal-Mart's deadbeat approach to employee health care at a state Capitol news conference. The United Food and Commercial Workers International is among the many unions whose organizing efforts have been swatted aside by the retail giant.

"The Wal-Mart model is to save as much money as it possibly can for the consumer, but it's saving money on the one hand and taking it out of their pockets on the other by forcing folks onto state-funded programs," says Steve Lomax, president of UFCW Local 1996. "They're asking taxpayers to pay for what employers normally pay."
Perhaps it’s just me, but aren’t we individuals responsible for at least one of the following:

(a) negotiating with the employer for health coverage as a part of the compensation package

(b) provide for our own healthcare

(c) reliance upon our family or private charity

Silly me. What could I possibly be thinking? Everyone knows that “personal responsibility” is an antiquated idea. Surely, if one’s employer fails to fulfill its parental obligations, the benevolent government will happily supply the teat.
State Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, D-Decatur, introduced a bill earlier this year to make the state keep records of the employers of people whose kids use PeachCare. That would help track the extent to which companies are using the taxpayer-funded program for their own corporate welfare.
Yeah…you read that right. Those that avail themselves of Medicaid-light are blameless; it’s those dastardly capitalists that are running amuck. And of course, the thought of eliminating such pier-to-pier cash transfers is beyond the pale.
"Wal-Mart and its imitators will not survive the oil market disruptions to come," says James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. "It will only take mild-to-moderate disruptions in the supply and price of gas to put Wal-Mart and all operations like it out of business. And it will happen."


The irony is that, if Kunstler's right, we may return to the small-town life that we allowed Wal-Mart to destroy in our mad dash to save money on cheap junk from China -- junk we didn't need in the first place.
Priceless…lefties salivating at the imagined possibility of the demise of a corporation that employs tens of thousands of “low skilled workers”, so that we can return to the bad-old-days of yesteryear, when healthcare was not even on the radar, unlike say, survival. Furthermore, small-town Southern life was fraught with wide-spread poverty and the subjugation of those not lucky enough to be born white and male. But even though I happen to be both white and male, I advocate progress and personal responsibility, despite my Southern heritage.