Wal-Mart Backs Employer Health Care Insurance Mandate

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When the world’s largest retailer backs something like this, it’s hard to ignore. Especially since they’ve had such a spotty record when it came to covering their 2 million employees in the past.

From The Hill:

With Wal-Mart’s endorsement of a legal requirement that employers provide health benefits to their workers, the nation’s largest employer has broken from the business community. […]

Moreover, Wal-Mart declared its support for the employer mandate in a joint letter to Obama with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the liberal Center for American Progress, which is run by John Podesta, a close associate of the White House.

“We are entering a critical time during which all of us who will be asked to pay for health care reform will have to make a choice on whether to support the legislation,” says the letter, signed by Wal-Mart President and CEO Mike Duke, SEIU President Andy Stern and Podesta. “This choice will require employers to consider the trade off of agreeing to a coverage mandate and additional taxes versus the promise of reduced health care cost increases.”

Now, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is diametrically opposed to the mandate and actually attacked Wal-Mart as a result of this move…

“Some businesses make the decision to use the government as a weapon against their competition,” James Gelfand, the Chamber’s senior manager for health policy, said in a statement. “We do not agree with this method — the government is a blunt instrument and taxes have extreme unintended consequences, negatively affecting the economy as a whole. We also recognize that momentum is moving against an employer mandate. The business community will be stepping up our advocacy as necessary, too.”

First off, “weapon?” Really? Good lord…

Also, note the phrase, “taxes have extreme unintended consequences, negatively affecting the economy as a whole.”

I’m all for robust debate, but making such dire, blanket statements like that will not help the Chamber’s credibility with anybody but the die-hard conservatives/libertarians that think taxation is some evil plot to rob them of their freedoms.

In other words, they better strike a different tone or they may find their voice ignored in the coming months as businesses follow the lead of the most successful retailer in history.