Monday, January 23, 2006

Walmart, Ehrlich, and Hyman

Hyman engages in yet more journalistic malpractice in his recent commentary on WalMart.

Specifically, Hyman attacks the Marlyand state legislature for overriding the veto of Governor Bob Ehrlich of a law that would require Walmart to spend more money on its healthcare plan for employees.

Without any evidence to support his assertions, Hyman calls the bill “anti-worker,” suggests that it will cost taxpayers money, and says that “The WalMart bill was passed to appease the United Food and Commercial Workers Union - because WalMart workers have consistently voted down union efforts to organize them.”

Don’t bother trying to parse that last sentence for anything resembling logic—there isn’t any.

In fact, turn Hyman’s assertions on their head, and you get something closer to the truth. One WalMart worker who lobbied in favor of the law said that although she had been working at the retail giant for five years,
she still couldn’t afford the company’s healthcare plan. When the majority of Walmart workers can’t get health insurance through the company, they end up using taxpayer subsidized healthcare systems, often in ways that are not financially sound (e.g., going to the emergency room to get treatment for a chronic condition that would be better handled with ongoing medication).

Even for those bottom-liners who don’t put any stock in the ethical argument that an employer (particularly as one as huge and wealthy as WalMart) owes its employees an affordable health plan, it makes financial sense to have WalMart fund a reasonable plan for its workers rather than letting the government subsidize the maintenance of the company’s workforce.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Bruce Newcomb has to say:

“[WalMart] is eating everybody else alive. They come in and suck the town dry. I
resent that. Wal-Mart's blowing people out of the water, and if they're doing
that by having the public sector subsidize their health care, that's wrong.
That's really wrong. Rather than taxpayers subsidizing the wealthiest
family in the world, maybe the wealthiest family in the world ought to reimburse

Is Mr. Newcomb a disgruntled WalMart employee? Some sort of agitatin’ union boss? A garden variety bleeding heart liberal?

None of the above. He’s the Republican speaker of the heavily Republican House of
Representatives in the highly conservative state of Idaho.

The content of Hyman’s argument is so obviously nonsensical and contrary to common sense (e.g., the less a company spends on healthcare for its workers, the better that plan probably is) as to be laughable.

A larger meta-issue is the continual disregard Hyman has for basic journalistic integrity.

Again, Hyman uses his nationally syndicated segment to comment on an issue in his own backyard of Maryland (although, to be fair, Hyman did have the decency to do a separate Baltimore-only edition of “The Point” last week when
he attacked a local competitor in the Baltimore media).

Again, Hyman does not mention that Governor Ehrlich, whose position on the WalMart bill Hyman is defending, is
his personal friend and former employer (Hyman staffed for Ehrlich when Ehrlich was in the House of Representatives).

Again, Hyman does not mention that
Ehrlich aggressively lobbied on behalf of Sinclair’s business interests when he was in the House.

Again, Hyman does not mention that when he was running for governor, Ehrlich received large
campaign donations from Sinclair executives (not to mention WalMart itself).

Again, Hyman does not mention that Sinclair-owned stations
attacked Ehrlich’s opponent in the gubernatorial race.

Again, Hyman does not mention that Sinclair gave illegal campaign donations to Ehrlich in the form of
freebie rides on the corporate helicopter as he went from campaign event to campaign event.

Again, Hyman does not mention that Sinclair and Ehrlich worked out
a quid pro quo deal in
which Sinclair produced Maryland tourism ads featuring the governor for free in exchange for the state of Maryland buying $60,000 of ad time on Sinclair stations.

Again, we’re left to ask the question that won’t go away: does Hyman have no shame?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 6.32


At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At a time of crisis in the American manufacturing industry, when GM, Ford, Delphi and a host of others, should be crying for a single-payer health care system to help put them in a more competitive position with foreign manufacturers, they are silent. Why is this you ask? Well, the truth is, they are using this issue to help them solve their 'union problem' (dump their contracts and health/pension benefits) and justify the outsourcing of American jobs.
When will the sheeple wake up?
Thanks Ted.

At 11:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to echo "anonymous"'s sentiment (and no, I'm not Anonymous #1).

We are witnessing a health-care debacle: What else do you call a system that sucks up 16% of our nation's GDP -- the highest in the known universe -- yet fails to return top care and even basic coverage for all? It's the product of "money first" attitude toward conducting businesses (instead of ethics first or fairness first).

It sure was smart of the Republicans to suck up to the Religious Right. A lot of good Christians that I know are appalled at the era of greed that we live in and how our government sides consistently with making the obscenely wealthy even more obscene. That alliance (based on abortion) basically silences a group that would otherwise be castigating BushCo for its rapacious attitude toward the commonwealth.

So here is where the Republican Party again has no clothes. It fine and dandy by them that Walmart's wages prevent its employees from getting healthcare... because just let Joe Taxpayer pick up the tab (as was noted by Anon 1). Funny how that crowd will complain about the legendary fat welfare mom living off of us taxpayers, but will side with More Greed on issues such as universal healthcare and better wages.

God save us.


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