One of my interests these days is defending Wal-Mart against the misguided barbs of its critics. In the last year, I've participated in two different public forums on Wal-Mart, one defending putting a Supercenter in the next town over and the other as a "responder" to the new anti-Wal-Mart documentary "The High Cost of Low Price." I have posted my remarks on the latter on my website. My apologies for some of the local references there, but the audience was leftist students and local community members.
When I did that forum, however, I wish I'd had access to this paper (PDF) by Jason Furman. (Hat tip to Don Luskin at the Krugman Truth Squad.) Some of this was reported on in a Washington Post op-ed, but the paper has tons more good stuff in it. One item not noted in the op-ed is this:
Wal-Mart is relatively unusual in that it offers health insurance both to full- and part-time employees. By comparison, only 60 percent of firms economywide offer health benefits and only 17 percent of firms offer health benefits to part-time workers. Target, for example, does not offer benefits to people working less than 20 hours per week. Wal-Mart, however, has longer waiting periods for eligibility for benefits than many other firms, 6 months for full-time workers and 24 months for part-time workers.
It never ceases to amaze me how many distortions people have created around Wal-Mart, as well as the level of sheer fear it creates among certain folks, both right and left. Perhaps, much like the BDS ("Bush Derangement Syndrome") coined by Charles Krauthammer, we need a WMDS for those who seem to froth at the mouth at the mere mention of Wal-Mart. If so, let me take credit for first coining "Wal-Mart Derangement Syndrome" as the acute onset of paranoia, irrationality, and/or economic ignorance in otherwise normal people in reaction to any one or more of the policies, the practices, the prices, the products, the aesthetics, if not the very existence, of Wal-Mart.