"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - - - William Blum

March 15, 2006

The AFL-CIO released a study this week, The Wal-Mart Tax, detailing the tax burden imposed by Wal-Mart on each state due to the public assistance needed to supplement the workers' very low wages and high health insurance premiums. Following is the portion of the report concerning California (my state; lightly edited for continuity):

A 2004 study by the University of California at Berkeley Labor Center found that Wal-Mart employees’ reliance on public assistance programs, including health care, costs California $86 million annually, with health-related costs accounting for $32 million. According to the study, 23 percent fewer Wal-Mart employees participate in the company’s health care plan than is typical for employees of large retailers in general. And Wal-Mart families use 40 percent more in taxpayer-funded health care services and 38 percent more in non-health public services (food stamps, Earned Income Tax Credit, subsidized school lunches and housing) than the families of all large retail workers. The study concluded that if other California retailers followed Wal-Mart’s example when it comes to wages and benefits, it would cost state taxpayers an additional $410 million annually to provide public assistance to workers. While the company evades costs for worker health care, Wal-Mart has benefited from at least $48.5 million in taxpayer financed economic assistance in California since 1991. The Wal-Mart Tax: Shifting Heath Care Costs to Taxpayers 3 California has had to address significant budget shortfalls over the past several fiscal years, and future gaps are predicted through 2010. Medi-Cal spending has been on the rise over the past several budget years, and more than 1 million additional people have enrolled in the program since the 2000-2001 fiscal year. Spending on the program increases by 10 percent per year as a result of increased costs and enrollment. Over the past two fiscal years, California has cut Medicaid benefits and taken a variety of other steps to control costs.

See the original report for all the supporting references to each stated fact.

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