Today, George Will informs us that General Motors is a "failed welfare state", because it offers health insurance coverage to its employees and that coverage is expensive. (He presents another complaint as an afterthought - that many GM brands and cars are unattractive to consumers. So perhaps he means that GM is like Lada, except Lada didn't have to pay its employees' health care costs.) I'm still trying to figure out what he means here:
But remember: Employer-provided health insurance is employee compensation. It became important during World War II, when there were wage controls and a shortage of workers. Because wages could not be bid up, companies competed for workers by offering the untaxed benefit of health care. If GM's $5.6 billion were given not as untaxed workers' compensation in the form of health care but as taxable cash compensation of equal after-tax value, it would cost GM substantially more than $5.6 billion. Which means that soon -- GM's UAW contract is up in 2007 -- GM's workers may have to give back a value of at least $1,500 a year.Hm. So, but for the wage controls of WWII, no GM worker would have cared about having health insurance? (Perhaps that explains why no corporation which has come into existence since the end of WWII's price controls offers health insurance to its employees.) Is he suggesting that if GM were to convince the government to offer a national health care plan, worker wages should increase by approximately the $6,500/year GM presently spends on their care, but due to tax considerations that GM might have to wrestle with the UAW about offering only a $5,000 raise to substitute for health care coverage? Even accepting Will's argument, I somehow don't see it as likely that the UAW would strike over "only" achieving a $5,000 per worker raise.
In any event, what I found most interesting about this piece was Will's notion that any company that offers health insurance to otherwise uninsured workers is a "welfare state". Presumably, in Will's world (although he certainly would not surrender his own employer-paid health insurance) everybody else should be uninsured.