The Bad Side of Walmart

Someone pointed me to this post, which demonstrates one problem with the world's most successful retailer.

So imagine my surprise when someone came into my office today who has a full-time job. She works 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart. Like many of their employees, she can't afford their health insurance plan. Even if she could, they wouldn't cover her HIV care because it's a pre-existing condition. It isn't even about paying for the drugs, which are expensive – she qualifies for the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which picks up all of her prescriptions for her. Wal-Mart won't pay for office visits to an HIV specialist, and they won't pay for the blood tests she needs to monitor her condition.

So you, the federal taxpayer, will be paying for her medical care. Today you also gave her $40 worth of food vouchers, because after she pays her rent (which eats more than half her wages, and she lives in a slum) there's not a lot left over to buy food. I'm sure you're glad to do it, right? You don't want her to die.

This is a sad story. But the fact remains that this woman's success (or lack of) in life is a product of her own decisions. Why don't people ever see that? She still has a higher standard of living than most people in the world. Would I like to see Walmart provide better benefits? Absolutely. But that is not my decision to make. My decisions to make are whether or not to shop there and whether or not to buy their stock. Economics doesn't operate in a vacuum, so it is tough to say what the world would be like without Walmart. We could be worse off. How can anyone honestly say they understand all the nonlinear dynamic chaotic feedback pathways that are present in this economy?

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I will stick to my position that capitalism works best when there is enough information present for stakeholders on all sides to make the best decision. I'm glad stories like this about WalMart are written, because they get more information out to the public, who can then choose to support low prices, or shop somewhere like Costco that offers better benefits.