Thursday, December 23, 2010

Idi Amin: 'Wal-Mart: the Ultimate Welfare Queen'

Note: unlike many guest pieces on Et tu, Mr. Destructo? today's article comes from a real, live person. Idi Amin Dada has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. Since his exile at the hands of imperialists, he has busied himself researching topics ranging from politics to philately. Fans can find him engaging in lively debates on FreeRepublic, Redstate, AIPAC, and Stormfront, where he blends in seamlessly. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Rolling Back Lives... One State Budget at a Time

You'd be forgiven for not hearing about a recent bill proposed by a Democratic state legislator in Ohio that targeted businesses whose employees are compensated so poorly that they rely on public aid. No story besides this transcriptless audio report on Northeast Ohio Public Radio seems to exist.

With continuing dire warnings from deficit hawks that found their voice the instant Barack Obama won the Presidency, with the Ohio state budget in such dire shape, and with newly-elected fiscal conservatives licking their lips in anticipation of taking office, a chance to reduce the state budget gap seems like it would gleefully be seized. But if you're Ohio state Representative Bob Hagan (D), such an offering has been rejected without a single sensible reason consistent with the political ideology of the Republican party, which doesn't publicly state that the only welfare it favors is the corporate form.

That Walmart is the biggest offender of compensating its employees so poorly that they must rely on state safety nets to ensure they don't starve or die from a treatable illness should not come as a surprise. Nor should the numbers. Over 15,000 Walmart employees in Ohio are on Medicaid, and over 12,000 rely on food banks to feed their households. To ensure that Walmart compensates its employees fairly, as in a manner that doesn't make their workers have to eat and get medical treatment in the same way as the unemployed, seems like a no-brainer.

To sweeten the pot for fiscal conservatives who say "So fucking what?" it helps reduce the state budget woes. Walmart is effectively responsible for sucking up $67.5 million annually by not treating its employees well. Taking any kind of measures against companies to ensure that they're bringing more revenue to the state than they're costing is a clear winner, as Walmart taking any kind of action that'd result in a net negative loss for the state is extremely doubtful.

Republican opposition was even more unspecific than is standard for the party of intangible indignation, with Republican State representative David Daniels stating simply, "Today, what we have decided to do is demonize employers in the state of Ohio," and that the bill was "brought forth simply done to do that." Although no exact quote is available, he also apparently believes it is unfair to pick on Walmart and other big employers, which employ primarily young, unskilled inexperienced individuals, and people who simply want to work a second job.

This fits wonderfully into the mantra of Republicans refusing to govern because it exemplifies their faith in a free market and unscientific societal forces that will make all right, rather than legislation. Although there is no way to confirm that a majority or all of those positions are held by the demographics Daniels describes, there still should be something in place to ensure that companies compensate their employees fairly.

Even if one buys into the belief that you don't have to pay teenagers fairly, how can one justify compensating unskilled workers like garbage? Aren't they the people we should be training or giving the means to afford training, in order to build up the most skilled workforce on the planet and feed into the American exceptionalism machine?

Ohio State Representative Dave Burke (R) agreed, calling the bill's proposal an irresponsible, "off-base" McCarthyist style witch hunt. He asks a great question, echoing fears Daniels also expressed: "Why would we want to drive and de-incentivize the very entities that create a very healthy tax base in the state of Ohio?" As long as by "healthy" you don't mean "medically well" or "financially not ruinous" he's 100% correct. His chances of being an up-and-comer are still slim, however, as by using the word "McCarthyist" as a pejorative, he risks undoing the massive recent efforts by conservatives to rehabilitate the former Wisconsin Senator's image.

He also claims Walmart should not be a villain — after all, it recently donated over $1 million to the state's food banks which serve over 12,000 of its employees. Burke has much to learn. Business should never shit where it eats. It's the job of the taxpayers to clean up after the messes businesses make, the same businesses who then complain about the mess being made in the first place and whine that taxpayers aren't cleaning it up fast enough.

Representative Stephen Dyers (D) pointed out that if Walmart was afraid of being known as the state's biggest corporate welfare recipient, it could just pay its employees more. The state Congress was having none of that, and the bill tied in the House. Seeing as how it would have died in the Republican state Senate, and that next-session Republicans will control both Houses, Hagan's attempt to let Ohians see where their tax money goes is effectively dead.

At one point, Hagan defensively argues, "Don't say 'This side of the aisle only cares about the workers.' We care about those people that employ those workers," apparently in response to a Republican comment on the bill. Although this was part of an unsubtle and brutal dig at companies whose employees are on public assistance, that the argument, "You only care about workers," is seen as a valid attack in a political debate speaks loudly about the state of the country, our new American hypercapitalism.

Every last progressive gain of the past century is being targeted, but when the company store is also your employer, what've you got to complain about?