Advocates of Single-Payer

This shocking article, especially in light of their tactical PR moves, makes a number of people theorize that WalMart would be advocates of a Single-payer health care system.

No. Just the opposite.

In 2004, WalMart spent $650k to defeat Proposition 72. Now a careful reading may have some wondering how a bill requiring heath coverage is not the antithesis of “single payer.”

But that’s because most people’s understanding of economics is naïve.

[The business of single-payer after the jump]

Disclaimer: I may be personally biased against WalMart.

Walmart has and will continue to block any federal or government moves for more or standardized health care? Why?


When labor is inelastic and plentiful, single payer and mandatory coverage are the same thing from the perspective of the employer. It is just nominal that the money comes from the individuals taxes in the former and the corporate tax in the latter, since the corporation pays the latter in the form of higher wages.

While Walmart was spending half a million dollars blocking Prop 72 and other statewide referendums, Costco stood on the sidelines, Why? Because Costco already has such a generous health plan that they took hits on Wall Street.

Right now, the bulk of the economic hit for health care for WalMart employees is being absorbed by the government in terms of uncovered individuals and emergency room visits due to poor coverage. This is augmented by the fact that labor is plentiful and therefore churn can be high making eligibility for the meager coverage harder. This means the total cost of health care for WalMart relative to its competitors is subsidized by our government.

Any move toward single-payer, even if it benefits the industry as a whole, is bad for Walmart relative to its competitors in a zero sum sense.

Walmart isn’t stupid and so they move to block this.

The five dollar day

In the 1914, there was a future Nazi sympathizer who got an idea that he should pay a decent minimum wage with a reasonable work week. This benefited the company and the country in the long term. It is how Costco justifies their employment practices. Isn’t it time we move beyond the brutal calculus of win-lose into things that create collective benefit?

In the end, Walmart is doing acting pathologically, because we authored the rules for them to behave in this manner and they are maximizing that function. Corporations have license at our behest. Isn’t it about time we incentivize them to act socially responsible?

Prop 72 irony

Reading about Prop 72 before going to vote, the interesting thing was that the “Against” stated that the biggest problem was the extra cost would cause businesses to leave the state of California in order to avoid coverage.

This is the mathematics of zero-sum applied to states. Reasonable enough right?

But then I looked at the authors of the document, Californians Against Government Run Healthcare—basically a bunch of retailers and restaurants. I thought of the realism of driving 236 miles to Nevada in order to eat at Chili’s or shop at Walmart right before I pushed “Yes” at the voting booth.

I wish others had a similar image of the absurd before they voted and the bill went down narrowly in defeat.

Parting though

I supposed they needed the money from a brain-dead divorced mother of a dead Iraq war vet to defray the costs of overturning all those statewide health-care referendums.

[Read more about the Deborah Shank on From Obsidian Wings and Balloon Juice.]

2 thoughts on “Advocates of Single-Payer

  1. No, Walmart don’t need to take money away from her family…they should just win the case and leave the money there….ethically.

    They said that they did this to be “fair” with everyone else. Who would want to be hit by a truck to collect the money…?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.