- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

Thanks to Maryland’s state attorney general, Doug Gansler, for dropping the so-called Wal-Mart bill. A Democrat, he deserves credit for more than simply dropping it, however. We now have a tacit admission of what this episode was all about.

Having served its cynical electoral purposes and having been called unconstitutional by two federal court rulings, the bill is now revealed for its true purpose. Who benefitted? Not the 16,000 Wal-Mart workers in question. Union politickers, their bargaining prospects and politicians craving publicity and union money were the chief beneficiaries.

If workers hadn’t realized this already, they do now, and should agree that this bill was an outrageous case of partisan health-care theatrics, bereft of substance, highly beneficial for its partisan backers and pointless for the rest of us. We hope they don’t feel too used.

Originally called the Fair Share Health Care Act, the Wal-Mart bill would have required companies with more than 10,000 employees in Maryland to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on health care or else contribute to a state fund for the uninsured. If that sounds “progressive,” it isn’t. Only one company met the criteria, and it was Wal-Mart, the bete noir of liberals voters everywhere, which employs 16,000 in the state. Meanwhile, hidden in plain sight last year were the approximately 800,000 Marylanders not employed at Wal-Mart who lack adequate health care. They received nothing from the political circus surrounding this bill. They continue to be underinsured.

Of course, the bill’s Democratic backers were much happier to wear the reformer’s white hat and discuss the evil of a company from Arkansas that dares to open its doors in Maryland — all the while letting union bosses all too happy to finance this charade fill their electoral coffers. That’s much more congenial for Democrats in an election year. The statesman’s option, after all, would have been much more difficult. It is never easy to speak frankly about the fiscal choices that any real reform of Maryland’s health-care system requires. Attacking Wal-Mart is a free lunch.

Meanwhile, a month ago, the first Wal-Mart inside the Beltway opened for business. More than 11,000 applied for the 330 jobs at the Landover Hills Wal-Mart.

Here’s what this pointless debate has gotten Marylanders: Electoral victories for Democrats, a continuation of the health-care crisis, time and money wasted in two federal courts and another round of battering for the state’s already sub-optimal reputation as a place to do business. With leadership like this, no wonder state Democrats need a big multinational to demonize.

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