business news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of legislation that would mandate health care expenditures by companies, one MNB user wrote:

I am no fan of Wal-Mart, but any rational person should see that these health care spending mandates are just a get Wal-Mart tactic. I would love to analyze the statistics that are used in the debate, but they probably never asked the probing questions to reveal the entire picture. How many people were on state insurance when they started at Wal-Mart? How long was it before they were removed from state insurance? Why are these people still on state insurance if Wal-Mart says it offers insurance? Anyone who has used statistics knows that they can be manipulated to say just about anything, especially if you are trying hard to support your hypothesis or bias.

Health care insurance is important, but when did it become a right? Health care coverage is part of the overall benefits package offered by employers to attract and retain employees. These decisions are made by companies based upon their core values, the marketplace and what they can afford. Some employers offer employee purchase discounts (of varying rates) - others do not. Some offer stock purchase plans - others do not. Some offer child care - others do not. Some have 401Ks - others do not, etc., etc.. Growing up, I was taught that I should go to college and get a good education. That way I would have a bigger choice of employment opportunities and could look for employers that offered the benefits that were most attractive to me. Should we just let the government mandate the whole benefit package?

I think the changes in pay and benefits that the union is agreeing to will only hurt the grocery industry in the long run. In a service industry, employees are the most valuable asset. In today's market, entry level employees can make more money at a fast food restaurant than at a grocery store plus they get free meals. Grocers should look at different menu plans for benefits. For example, offer a higher wage in exchange for not providing health care to students covered on their parent's plan. Offer a different wage that includes a free meal. By doing a mix and match, employees are empowered to tell you what they think is important in deciding to work for your company.

Will the supercenter make today's grocery store obsolete? Unless grocery stores find ways to add higher margin items to their mix, I can only see the picture getting more difficult. From what I have read and heard from older relatives, people were concerned that A&P was going to monopolize the grocery industry some 30+ years ago much as is the conversation with Wal-Mart today. Look at where A&P is today. Changes in customers and market places require retailers to adapt to the changing needs of their customers. Let the market dictate what happens - not the government.

As we lose non-service jobs overseas, our government sits on its hands. The way to reverse the trend is to get the government out of business, so business can react to these changes. There are too many regulations on the books that increase business costs without any clear benefit and impede business growth and hiring. Until we find a way to change this all-powerful government thinking, good high-paying jobs will be harder and harder to find. Business owners don't forget - press the government to put Wal-Mart in its place, guess who could be the next one in their sights.

MNB user Steve Cavender wrote:

Being a resident of the Socialist Republic of Washington, it doesn't surprise me that Washington State Legislature would follow the lead of Maryland concerning mandatory minimum contributions to health care. The first two laws passed by our new Governor, Christine Gregoire and the state Legislature were:

1) To impose the highest gasoline tax in the nation (when the cost of fuel was already at an all time high).
2) To pass the highest Inheritance / Death Tax in the nation.

All this under the guise of, "Improving the future of all Washingtonians". Seems to me that these new taxes come directly from the pockets of the residents of our great state - not a positive effect on my future, not to mention my children's future. And, without any fiscal accountability, we can pretty well guess where the money is going.

MNB user Bill Justin chimed in:

These states are crossing a line that will cost their states jobs and growth. Quite contrary to the result they desire. If they require 9%, make it apply to all businesses as a tax at least that is equal. Any tax in my mind seems regressive.

And MNB user Bob McMath wrote:

When government, including the individual states, starts to dictate the portion of income that must be spent on this or that program, the citizens better watch out. I can understand what the concern is about health coverage, but there is a lot more to this than immediately comes to mind. For example, what about the spouse of our people in the military service? They are covered by government insurance as active duty (as well as retirees) and have no need or desire for coverage by the spouse’s employer. So to be covered by Wal-Mart for example, would be duplication. Or if not spent on those people who don't need it, becomes a tax to the government body.

We already have the minimum wage legislation with a real push to raise the minimum wage. In California, the Governor has proposed to raise the wage by a $1.00 amount. In the end, who pays for this -- us, the consumers. Talk about inflation.........

We also got a number of emails responding to yesterday’s piece about McDonald’s admitting that it uses wheat and dairy products to season its French fries.

MNB user Peter Rinck wrote:

As parents of a 4 year old daughter with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac (gluten allergy), (we believe) McDonalds has actually been poisoning her KNOWINGLY. Ingredients are ingredients.

Granted, Celiac issues are not generally known, (they will be as many more Americans are being diagnosed than previously believed at risk by the medical community) but one must assume a company as vast as McDonald’s must have a heightened awareness of all allergens in their food service recipes and should be well aware.

The issues of Celiac/Sprue, (Sprue is a skin condition related to gluten,) are significant and highly dangerous. This is really outrageous behavior by one of America’s largest corporations.

Once, I was “believer” that “majority rules” and these sorts of things pandered to a fringe minority of people who needed to take responsibility for their own health. Now, we are that minority. That said, a simple ingredient list required by law is all that’s necessary to prevent contamination and health issues that range from stunted growth to cancer.

For McDonald’s to have falsified the list for whatever reason is despicable and not just harmful, but intentionally harmful. McDonald’s fries were once a rare treat for our daughter who has a menu limited in ways most parents can not begin to comprehend.

I hope there’s a special deep fryer in hell for those responsible for this. Not to mention your equally important dietary and religious comments.

Now we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop for Wendy’s, Burger King, etc.

MNB user Lisa Malmarowski wrote:

Maybe it's just me, but I find it really hard to believe that McDonald's didn't know what was in their fries OR couldn't or wouldn't demand to know.

Ignorance isn't a defense - not when you're a multi-national company.

And, MNB user Liz Schlegel wrote:

Okay, help me out here. How do they NOT know what's in them? And why did they have to wait for "science to improve"? I know I'm old-fashioned, but I thought French fries were sliced potatoes cooked in hot oil. What else is in there?!

When my lovely husband makes French fries at home, he slices potatoes (russets) as thin as possible. Soaks them in water (so they don't turn brown). Dry them (pat on paper towels). Drop a few at a time into hot oil (vegetable but not canola, sometimes with sesame). Repeat. Serve with salt. They are delicious and simple - not a health food, but a great tasty side dish. Especially with a burger (now, my Mom makes the best burgers in the world, but we're talking fries so we'll stick with that). And a Vermont-brewed beer.

The best flavor is REAL flavor. I can't get over McDonald's dependence on preservatives, "flavor enhancers" and other unnatural methods to create what is, at base, a very simple food.

People in the business of processed food know that when McDonald's changes, everything changes. Maybe they need to have "fresh fries" prepared and frozen (without extra ingredients) in factories around the world (like Anheuser-Busch with beer). Maybe they need better training at the frying level, or better equipment -- whatever it is, I'm sure they have the skill set to tackle the real problem without continuing to add undisclosed "extras" to the fries. It's time for them to stop doctoring their fries and just fry 'em up!

We commented that if the fries are being cooked in oil flavored with beef and seasoned with dairy, this could create issues for people who have restricted diets because of religious beliefs. And one MNB user responded:

If people have religious dietary restrictions (in this case, Kosher I don't know what other religions may have similar restrictions) and are eating McD's fries, they get what they deserve. It is not McD's fault - they don't claim to be Kosher, and everyone who really does keep Kosher knows that they are not. This is not to say that the issue is not a public relations problem for McD's, as they were apparently giving out false info. to people who may have allergies, just that it shouldn't be a religious issue. The religious who have diet issues, and may complain about this, should know better.

In a story yesterday about baby boomers eating more and better than other generations, we commented that this was no surprise, since we are the most self-indulgent generation in modern history.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

MNB user Gretchen Murdock responded:

Maybe we are self-indulgent as a generation, but we are also experimental, experiential, and refuse to be categorized as “older”. New Yankelovich research shows that lines are blurring and that age demographics are less meaningful than ever before. I prefer to think of us as more flexible than other generations. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
We’re with you.

Of course, one MNB user who is part of Gen-Y had a different perspective:

No surprise that us children of boomers are the first generation in American history to be worse off than our parents.

Thanks, Boomers, for the tax cuts and quick-fix governing that will cost us billions. Sorry we won't have time to visit you in the home, we'll be busy working our second jobs...

So young, and yet so bitter…

Finally, we questioned the wisdom of Sears trying to void the long-term contract it has with Bob Vila, but one MNB user thought we had it all wrong:

This should have been no surprise, once Sears got Ty Pennington. He's young, good looking, has a "golden halo" TV show and appeals to more demographic groups. Sounds cold, but the truth's all about who's HOT and who's not. Sorry Bob, you're not.

It is a measure of how hip we are that we had to google Ty Pennington’s name to figure out who he is. Apparently he has some sort of home improvement TV show…

Go figure.

KC's View: