The True Cost Of Walmart To The American Taxpayer [Op-Ed]

Commentary | In the wake of mega retailer Wlmart’s announcement that they will stop offering healthcare plans to new hires, it is incumbent on those of us who have the ability to say something to do so. I will start off right away by saying there are a lot of things about Walmart I like. I like that they try to provide customers with rock bottom prices, I like that they use their buying power to squeeze better deals from huge corporations, and I like that they provide employment opportunities for more than 1 million Americans.

I especially like that they employ special needs people with jobs as greeters, jobs that they would not find anywhere else.

Now that I have given my disclaimer to the things I think the superstore is doing right, it is time to point out what may be the biggest resource grab in the history of our country.

The majority of Walmart employees make ridiculously low wages. Blame in on their lack of ability to collectively bargain, blame it on a down economy, or even blame it on Walmart being an evil corporation that only cares about profits … whatever. They make next to nothing to make Walmart run. There have been repeated complaints of failure to offer benefits, pay overtime and intimidation to those looking to unionize … again whatever.

The new Affordable Care Act mandates that employers with more than 50 employees offer their employees a minimal amount of health coverage or pay a fine. The fine is, of course, less than it would cost to ensure a worker and their family for a year.

But there are times in life when a corporation has to look at the bigger picture and judge themselves not only on how they treat their employees but what they provide to society as a whole. Walmart employs more than 1.4 million people, the vast majority of them at wages low enough to qualify them for Medicaid under the new law. That being said, it is going to cost the American taxpayer more than $1,5 billion dollars to provide Walmart’s employees with health care because the retailer doesn’t want to offer it themselves.

That is BILLION with a B.

I personally am a single payer fan. I am for a healthcare system that treats everyone based on need regardless of how much money they make. I have no aversion to the wealthy choosing to buy better healthcare for themselves. I have no aversion to taxes being raised to make sure that children don’t die of curable diseases in the wealthiest society the world has ever known.

Walmart has the responsibility to help provide its employees with the means to do so. The Walton family, the primary owners of Walmart, are worth a combined $102 billion dollars. From their own personal fortune, they can afford to insure everyone for more than 5 years. Just last year, Walmart made more than $13 billion dollars for its shareholders.

We as Americans turn a blind eye to a lot of the crap that comes out of Walmart. We all know that those $3 dollar t-shirts are being produced in some of the most horrid sweatshops on the planet, we know that the complaints of intimidation to workers over overtime and unionization are real, and we also know that when a Walmart moves to a town, it isn’t very long before every mom and pop shop in the neighborhood is forced to shut down. We passively accept all of these things in order to save a few bucks.

But it is becoming more and more obvious that, as taxpayers, we are being forced to subsidize these business practices with our money because Walmart has decided that profits are always going to trump people. This has to stop!

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