Friday, January 13, 2006

Beating Up on Wal-Mart

Washington Post editorial:
"AMERICAN BUSINESS has few whipping boys so irresistibly whippable as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., whose treatment of employees, competitors and suppliers conjures cold-eyed corporate heartlessness. . . . state lawmakers in Maryland are preparing to impose legislation on the retailer so arbitrary that it may achieve the near-impossible feat of casting Wal-Mart as the victim.

The Maryland bill would force firms with more than 10,000 in-state employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payrolls on workers' health insurance plans or make compensatory payments to the state. Only three other Maryland employers have more than 10,000 workers on their payrolls -- Johns Hopkins University, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Giant Food Inc. -- and they already meet or exceed the 8 percent threshold. Apparently, only Wal-Mart, with about 15,000 full- and part-time employees in Maryland, does not; thus the bill applies uniquely to Wal-Mart. 9emphasis added)

Maryland's legislature passed the bill last year, but Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) vetoed it. Lawmakers, urged on by big unions, appear on the verge of overriding the veto despite furious lobbying by Wal-Mart. The legislators, joined by Giant Food (Wal-Mart's unionized competitor), insist disingenuously that they are not singling out the big-box retailer but are merely setting a standard. . . . ."
Is this not the epitome of rent seeking? Can't we find a clause in our Constitution that would bar state government, as well as Congress, from engaging in rent seeking? How about:
". . .No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." [14th Amendment]
Does it make sense to say the 14th Amendment allows a state legislature to create a statute that singles out a specific business?

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