In a June 30 letter to the White House, Wal-Mart endorsed Obama’s health care plan. The letter was jointly signed by Andrew Stern, boss of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and John Podesta, who led the Obama transition team and is chief executive of the Soros-funded Center for American Progress.
Although the move was unexpected to some, it was no surprise to NLPC. In a Special Report published in 2006 and updated in 2008, I chronicled the company’s move to the Left in a futile campaign to placate liberal critics like Wal-Mart Watch, funded by SEIU. On major issues except for “card check,” Wal-Mart has become a powerful tool of liberal activist groups.
Obama’s plan includes an employer mandate to vastly increase government control over health care ostensibly to provide coverage to 46 million uninsured Americans. Wal-Mart’s support represents a betrayal of the large segment of the business community opposed to the plan, not to mention a betrayal of the free-market principles that made Wal-Mart great.
The letter from Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke was personally delivered by Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations, to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Dach is a veteran Democratic political operative, who once worked for President Bill Clinton, whom Wal-Mart hired in 2006 as part of the company’s ill-conceived campaign to tame its critics.
Wal-Mart’s collaboration with its union enemies on health care is not new. On February 7, 2007, then Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott held a joint press conference with Stern where he announced the retailer’s support for the labor movement’s longtime goal to create a government-run system of universal health coverage. It did no good. Unions continued to fund multi-million dollar campaigns attacking Wal-Mart.
Although Scott stepped down as company CEO in February 2009, he still plays a significant role in the company as chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors.
Wal-Mart has now thoroughly rejected the brilliant entrepreneurial legacy of its founder Sam Walton. Wal-Mart was once hailed as a hero by numerous free market advocates for its success and initial decision to stand up to union bullying. Now, it has joined the ranks of General Motors, Citigroup, AIG and other corporate sellouts to peddle the dangerous expansion of government power sought by the Obama Administration.
Wal-Mart’s betrayal sent shock waves through the business community. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says an employer mandate would force companies to cut jobs, lower wages and drive many out of business.
The National Retail Federation, the main lobby for the industry, said it was “flabbergasted” by Wal-Mart’s decision. “We have been one of the foremost opponents to employer mandates, said Neil Trautwein, vice president of the trade group. “We are surprised and disappointed by Wal-Mart’s choice to embrace an employer mandate in exchange for a promise of cost savings.” Trautwein added that the employer mandate is “the single most destructive thing you could do to the health care system shy of a single-payer system…[and] would quite possibly cut off the economic recovery we all desperately need.”
In a February 9, 2007 interview on the Fox News show, “Your World With Neil Cavuto,” I summed up the problem:
Wal-Mart just doesn’t get it. They don’t understand that there’s no way that you can appease the Left. These people are ideologues. They’re anti-free market, they’re pro regulation and there’s no way you can cave in to their agenda.
Wal-Mart may foolishly believe it is buying peace from Stern and the union bosses. In fact, the company is setting itself up for an even more relentless assault by the Left who now realize it will sell out its friends. The real tragedy is that in jumping on Obama’s nationalization bandwagon, Wal-Mart may be jeopardizing not just itself but America’s economic future.