The Widdershins

Archive for October 8th, 2014

monopoly-guy

Just in time for the “holiday season”, Wal-mart decided it couldn’t wait to hand out the lumps of coal to its employees.  The company has decided it can no longer afford to offer health insurance coverage to its part-time employees.  Further, they decided they also needed to increase the cost of coverage for their employees who will still have coverage.

The world’s largest retailer said it would raise health insurance premiums for its entire U.S. workforce beginning in January. In addition, Wal-Mart will end coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, a change that will impact 2 percent of U.S. workers, or about 30,000 people.

Okay…fair enough.  The company says it is experiencing “higher health care costs” and also “It said more people than expected had enrolled in its plans and its annual forecast for health care costs had risen by 50 percent.”.  Okay, I think I get this now:  Wal-Mart offered health care coverage to its employees…employees signed up for that coverage…Wal-Mart goofed and didn’t expect that many employees to sign up. (?)  Huh..what?  The largest retailer in the world doesn’t employee HR or finance people smart enough to guestimate how many folks would sign up for their health care plans?  Well I certainly think heads should roll, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of their rank and file employees.

The decision to reduce coverage came a week before the company’s chief executive, Doug McMillion, is due to face fund managers and analysts at an annual meeting for the investment community. Wal-Mart has been struggling to boost profits, with U.S. same-store sales flat or declining for the last six quarters.

Wal-Mart said the move would bring it in line with many of its competitors. Target Corp and Home Depot Inc recently announced cuts to benefits in light of the Affordable Care Act.

Ah yes, the good ole A.C.A., aka Obamacare.  Well I guess they had to blame it on something.  Now, reading the article I could not help but laugh out loud at this:

Wal-Mart’s Welborn [senior vice president of global benefits] said on a conference call that the company had not yet figured out how much it would save by cutting benefits. The company said in August it expected to spend $500 million on U.S. healthcare this year, up from its estimate of $330 million just a few months earlier.

The yahoo article points out that the decision “would primarily hurt lower-income workers, many of whom are being left behind in the economic recovery.”.  And that brings up another interesting little fact that I’m sure some of you are are aware of,, either by personal experience or stories from family members and it’s called the great wage slowdown.

The typical American family makes less than the typical family did 15 years ago, a statement that hadn’t previously been true since the Great Depression. Even as the unemployment rate has fallen in the last few years, wage growth has remained mediocre. Last week’s jobs report offered the latest evidence: The jobless rate fell below 6 percent, yet hourly pay has risen just 2 percent over the last year, not much faster than inflation. The combination has puzzled economists and frustrated workers.

The Times article goes into a lot of economic stuff which I’m just about totally unfamiliar with.  The writer does say Obama gave a speech touting the unemployment drop and that surely good times will be here again soon.  One thing I found ironic from the Times piece was this little nugget:

As for the other entry in the ledger, the biggest reason to think economic growth may translate more directly into wage gains is the turnabout in health costs. After years of rapid increases, they have slowed sharply in the last three years. Mr. Obama likes to give more credit to the 2010 health care lawthan most observers do, but he’s not wrong about the trend’s significance.

Ohhhhhkay then.  So health costs have gone down (sharply?) yet they are high enough that Wal-Mart must stop offering coverage for some of its part-time employees.  My head is spinning here.  I guess the good thing for the Wal-Mart employees affected is that they will be able to look for health care on the exchanges since they won’t have company-sponsored insurance any longer.  After all, Wal-Mart has got to watch that bottom line, especially if any of the Wal-Mart heirs still have company stock.  And speaking of those Wal-Mart heirs…

When people speak of the uber-rich, they surely have the Wal-Mart heirs in mind.

Consider the Wal-Mart heirs: Since 1983, their net worth has increased a staggering 6,700 percent. According to a report released last week by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute, here’s how many American families earning the median income it would have taken to match the Waltons’ wealth in a given year:

  • In 1983, the Walton family’s net worth was $2.15 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 61,992 average American families, about the population of…Peoria, Arizona
  • In 1989, the Walton family’s net worth was $9.42 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 200,434 average American families, about the population of…Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • In 1992, the Walton family’s net worth was $23.8 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 536,631 average American families, about the population of…San Antonio, Texas
  • In 1998, the Walton family’s net worth was $48 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 796,089 average American families, about the population of…The State of New Mexico
  • In 2001, the Walton family’s net worth was $92.8 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 1,077,761 average American families, about the population of…Chicago, Illinois
  • In 2013, the Walton family’s net worth was $144.7 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 1,782,020 average American families, about the population of…The State of Louisiana

I just have to wonder if that’s what Mr. Sam had in mind.

Okay, this is an open thread.  Talk amongst yourselves (if you wish!).

 

 

 

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