Last year, the public was treated to a truly brazen display of corruption when Maryland Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich (at right in the photo) held a photo-op with Wal-Mart's vice president (at left in the photo) to veto a bill passed by Maryland legislators that would have forced the company to provide better health benefits to its workers. Ehrlich's move came after Wal-Mart held a fundraiser for him. Now, as Jonathan Tasini points out, Maryland Democrats are fighting back - working on a bill in the upcoming legislative session to override Ehrlich's veto.
Wal-Mart is the largest and wealthiest company on the globe. It is so flush with cash, its CEO was recently complaining to reporters that he didn't like his Lear Jet. It's high time that this company start providing minimum health care benefits to its workers. The company pockets hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and the least the communities it operates in should expect in return is minimum standards for workers.
Not surprisingly, in response to the veto override effort, the Chamber of Commerce issued a report claiming that the Wal-Mart proposal violates federal law. That's really truly rich - Big Business is arguing for federal preemption of states rights when it suits corporate interests, even as it argues a case before the Supreme Court demanding states sovereignty when it would mean more taxpayer giveaways. Hypocrisy, apparently, no knows bounds when corporate profits are on the line.
For those of you who think asking the largest, most powerful company on the planet to provide minimum health care benefits to workers is a "liberal" idea - think again. The idea was recently floated by the Republican Speaker of the Idaho House - not exactly a "liberal" and not exactly a "liberal" state. This is not liberal or conservative - it's common sense.
Corporations have fought court battles to achieve the right to be recognized as people under U.S. law. Yet, they are only willing to accept the privileges - not the responsibilities - of that distinction. If companies like Wal-Mart want all the benefits of being "people" such as legal/constitutional protections, they should expect to be required to contribute something to the society at large. One of those requirements should be providing minimum benefits to workers. In Maryland, we will see if that basic idela can win out in our political system, or whether a flood of corporate money can subvert even the basic tenets of a civil society.