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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


January 20, 2006

The Veto Override: Right as Rain

Tom McLaughlin

The first few days of the Maryland General Assembly caused the entire nation to watch in amazement as the courageous Democrats overrode Governor Robert L. Ehrlich's veto and told Wal-Mart to provide health care benefits to all its employees.

Wal-Mart really took the governor and the Republicans for a ride. Somerset County is the poorest county in Maryland with the highest unemployment. Jobs for the watermen are now at the huge prison complex at Westover, near Princess Anne, because the oysters have been decimated by disease and the crabs have been over harvested.

Most of Somerset is wetlands. There is only one major north-south highway with the Chesapeake to the west and the Atlantic to the east. It is here Wal-Mart promised to build a major distribution center. It promised jobs at very low wages for the already below poverty line citizens.

When one looks at a map, you can see the plan was ridiculous from the start. Trucks would have to cross the Bay Bridge at Annapolis and then turn south, away from the populated areas to unload. Vehicles from Virginia and south could use the tunnel but the merchandise is far from the ports where goods from China, Korea, Malaysia and other countries disembark.

Wal-Mart already has local "distribution centers" called Sam's Clubs. From strategically placed in centers like Salisbury and Frederick, the trucks can move the stuff quickly to stores located in smaller towns.

Wal-Mart had no intention of ever building the center. Most people on the Shore knew that. After he vetoed the bill, the governor and others came to Somerset and watched as Wal-Mart officials unveiled imaginary plans. Time passed, nothing. Wal-Mart just made the gesture to secure the governor's veto. Even if the veto had not been overridden, they still would not have constructed this false promise.

Who should provide health care to the people, the government or private industry? Can Maryland afford to shoulder the burden as corporations continue to reduce benefits? Obviously, the state legislature has sent a clear message that Maryland cannot afford to pay and the responsibility rests with the corporations. And if they don't accept, their responsibility, which they won't, a law had to be passed to force them to do so.

But the private sector has done it to themselves. Prescription costs continue to rise as the well-documented greed of the pharmaceutical industry grabs larger and larger chunks of the non-insured workers income and health plans.

Thousands are needlessly employed in the insurance industry as people try to figure out who owes what to whom. During my mother's illness, I received over 123 "do not pay this" letters.

Privately managed hospitals cut expenses to the bone to eek out a small profit and when that is not enough they raise prices to gouge the insurance companies to get more money. They, in turn, raise premiums that cost the companies more money and they cut benefits to the workers. This is where the government must step in to regulate the private sector which everyone agrees is out of control on health care.

Congratulations to Maryland Democrats who had the courage, under the most intense lobbying efforts in recent memory, to override the governor's veto and set an example that every state in the nation must follow.



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