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Facing South: Taxpayers Pay for Wal-Mart's "Low Road"

Facing South, the blog of the progressive Institute for Southern Studies, has some sobering stats on how the taxpayer is subsidizing Wal-Mart’s ability to profit off of its workers’ low wages and pitiful benefits. Yes, that’s how they achieve those “falling prices.”

State and local governments already entice corporations to set up shop — to the tune of over $1 billion — by giving incentives and tax breaks. Companies like Wal-Mart are then double-dipping into our pockets by forcing its poverty-level employees into state-funded health plans. This is evil.

Wal-Mart — one of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world — is forcing taxpayers to underwrite the costs of their business to the tune of billions of dollars.

Good Jobs First, an excellent advocacy group for “high road” development, has released a survey about how many workers and their families are forced onto Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Programs in different states to make up for Wal-Mart’s dead-end jobs. Some disturbing results from the South:

ALABAMA: The Montgomery Advertiser found in February 2005 that families of Wal-Mart workers are the top dependents on Medicaid. 3,864 children of Wal-Mart employees depend on Medicaid for health insurance. The next highest company, McDonald’s, has 1,615 employee’s children on the program.

FLORIDA: In December 2004, the Tallahassee Democrat revealed that 50,000 workers and their dependents rely on Medicaid for health insurance. McDonald’s was the worst culprit in the Sunshine State, with 1,792 claims filed. Wal-Mart had 756.

GEORGIA: 10,261 children of Wal-Mart workers rely on PeachCare for Kids, the state’s program for low-income families, according to a February 2004 report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

TENNESSEE: 25% of Wal-Mart workers in Tennesse are enrolled in TennCare, the state’s health plan for the poor and uninsured, according to a January 2005 investigation by the Memphis Commercial Appeal. That’s 9,617 employees.

WEST VIRGINIA: The Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail revealed last December that 452 Wal-Mart workers in the state have children dependent on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the most of any company.

(Note: this isn’t just a Southern thing, of course. The survey also looks at reports out of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin. And I notice a story out today showing that 845 Wal-Mart employees in Iowa rely on Medicaid for health insurance.)

Most disturbing of all is that Wal-Mart is driving up public assistance caseloads at the very time state lawmakers are demanding sharp cuts in these programs. For example, Tennessee’s excellent TennCare program is under assault due to rising costs (in part caused by Wal-Mart and kindred companies), with proposed cuts that could strip thousands of health coverage.

There’s more where that came from.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding