Monday, August 29, 2005

Ex Post Factless

The New York Post ran an editorial yesterday blasting the Health Care Security act as well as the general notion that Wal-Mart burdens the public health care system. According to the paper:

What about that argument about workers' onerous Medicaid costs?

Well, it's true that only a bit more than half of Wal-Mart's workers take the company's health insurance.

But for many of those who don't, the reason is that they've already got coverage.
In all, about 80 percent of Wal-Mart's workers have some kind of insurance — either through Wal-Mart or, say, a spouse or parent.

As for any Wal-Mart workers on public assistance, the figures the unions use come exclusively from labor-friendly sources (like the staffers of pro-union House Democrats) and are completely unreliable.
A couple of things need to be pointed out. It’s supremely hypocritical for the editorialist to critique the “biased” data source used by those in the anti-Wal-Mart camp when he, in the previous sentence, uses information provided by Wal-Mart. In fact, the Post’s "spouse or parent" claim is an almost exact replica of a 2004 statement made by Bentonville-based spokesman Dan Fogelman:

But Fogleman said the total of employees with health insurance is 90 percent, because many get coverage through a spouse, a parent or a government program such as Medicare.
But wait, the editorial forgot to mention that the 80-90% claim made by Wal-Mart includes those on the public dole. Though these workers are technically covered, this fact directly contradicts the Post’s claim that the great majority of Wal-Mart workers are not being subsidized by taxpayers. Maybe the Post needs to look at its own bias to figure out how it glossed over an important piece of evidence.

The paper’s opinion piece also assumes those concerned about Wal-Mart’s impact on safety net programs are solely union members using “labor-friendly” data. The first part of the claim is ridiculous; there are a whole consortium of groups and individuals country-wide (including Republican lawmakers like City Councilman Jimmy Oddo) who have expressed concern about Wal-Mart’s burden on taxpayers. As for the assertion that data demonstrating Wal-Mart’s drain is completely biased how does the Post explain the various newspapers who have reported on the disproportionate number of Wal-Mart associates utilizing state medicare programs? Does it consider the Atlanta Journal and Constitution to be a “labor-friendly” source? How about the Wall Street Journal which reported in 2003:

Last year, average spending on health benefits for each of the company's roughly 500,000 covered employees was $3,500, almost 40% less than the average for all U.S. corporations and 30% less than the rest of the wholesale/retail industry, according to estimates by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Co."
We suggest that instead of misrepresenting quotes and making baseless attacks, the Post should look at the data showing Wal-Mart’s exploitation of tax-payer funded programs. Considering that the paper so often editorializes against government waste and high taxes, maybe it should critically examine how the big box from Bentonville contributes to these undesirable conditions.