Kate Steadman over at Healthy Policy has a great post about what Wal-Mart’s approach to health care should be teaching Liberals. She begins by quoting Ezra Klein:
What taxpayers should be outraged by is that Wal-Mart isn’t following their ethos to its logical conclusion and loudly advocating for a universal health care system. They should be angry at the hypocrisy, not the usage of federal/state health programs.
Bingo. What’s bad here is that people can work full time and still be unable to afford health insurance. It’s not that Wal-Mart isn’t spending enough on health insurance; they don’t spend enough on wages. Higher wages, more than anything, would make a huge difference.
These points are right on. The problem with Wal-Mart’s approach to health care is not that it takes advantage of government programs–we like that–but that it is hypocritical in the way Ezra describes above. And as Kate rightly describes following Ezra, the matter here is not the health care they don’t provide, it’s the wages. It is unconscionable that someone could work full time and not make a living wage.
Barbara Ehrenreich deals with precisely these issues in her book Nickel and Dimed, which I highly recommend. This is an issue Democrats could win big on if they found a way to coherently state their position. The two key elements are that the state can and should provide health care for all citizens, and that employers should pay a living wage to all employees.