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31Mar/08Off

What’s Wrong With the USA? Wal-Mart Offers a Clue.

A lot of people in the USA (myself included) are asking these days, "What's wrong with our country?"

I have the answer: a company worth well over $90 billion spends millions on lawyers to recoup far less than that, from a brain damaged woman whose son was killed in Iraq. What the hell am I talking about? What demented nightmare scenario am I referring to? Is this the latest horror flick? The plot from a suspense thriller?

No, it's just your local Wal-Mart.

Check out this story on CNN's website: Brain-damaged woman at center of Wal-Mart suit. Here's a synopsis: Woman works for Wal-Mart. Woman gets hit by truck. Wal-Mart pays out $470,000 as part of their health plan. Woman sues truck company, wins one million, gets $417,000 (rest goes to legal fees.) Wal-Mart health policy says they have the right to sue for money paid out when an employee wins damages. Wal-Mart sues to take back the $470,000 they spent. They win. Later, woman's son dies in Iraq.

So, my fellow Americans, are you still wondering what's wrong with our country? I'm not. It's the people who pursued this suit for Wal-Mart.

According to the article, Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley takes a shot at justification: "this is done out of fairness to all associates who contribute to, and benefit from, the plan." So is he saying every Wal-Mart employee racks up $470,000 in health expenses? Or is he saying every Wal-Mart employee is brain-damaged? Wasn't this woman, as an employee, paying into the plan on her own? Didn't she cover her own expenses?

The CNN article also states Wal-Mart "has the right to recoup medical expenses if an employee collects damages in a lawsuit." Fine, they have the RIGHT, but not the OBLIGATION. Just because you have the right doesn't make it right. Did anyone along the way say "Wait a minute, do we really need to do this? Does Wal-Mart really need this money? Can't we let this one go?" Did anyone resign in protest? Did anyone protest at all? It doesn't seem like it, and that's the problem.

The comments supporting Wal-Mart on the CNN message board for this story came in the predictable two flavors.

There's the "corporations don't owe us anything" crowd. I don't know when the reason for people's existence was to support corporations instead of the other way around, but I'll take them at their word. So they'll understand when I laugh as Wal-Mart builds a twenty-four hour super-center in their backyard. When Blackwater sets up a firing range near their kids' playground, I'll crack up. When Exxon spills oil in their drinking water and refuses to pay for it, I'm going to repeat their words: "Hey, corporations don't owe you anything!" You want corporations to be unregulated? Then you'll understand my laughter as they run you down.

The other flavor of negative input? "OMG! What a sense of entitlement!" The injured woman did pay into Wal-Mart's plan, so shouldn't she be entitled? I really have to think you're missing a conscience if you're accusing a brain-damaged woman, who can't remember her son is dead and relives the pain every time she's told, of having a "sense of entitlement." How dare she believe she deserves the health-care she paid for!

We should ALL feel entitled to some basic human decency. Why? Do I really need to explain WHY? Do you want to live in a world where people are not entitled to respect? Anyway, as Americans, we pay taxes. The roads that trucks drive on to ship Wal-Mart crap, we paid for. The police forces that throw people in jail for stealing Wal-Mart crap, we paid for. I'm not paying taxes for kicks. I'm paying them to support the infrastructure of a nation. You and I paid for that infrastructure so Wal-Mart could make money selling crap.

Corporations DO owe us something.

As long as the USA allows corporations to trample people, this country will remain a place prone to viciousness of the most absurd variety, like this case.

Even from a solely business standpoint, pursuing this case was totally asinine. The only way Wal-Mart could have scored more negative publicity points is if they resurrected Jack the Ripper and made him their spokesperson: "We're slashing prices!"

I can see their public relations team now, nodding their heads. "Hey, that's not a bad idea!"

SOURCE: Brain-damaged woman at center of Wal-Mart suit. By Randi Kaye. CNN website, March 25, 2008.

p.s. I've sent Wal-Mart the following letter and copied Michael Moore and Robert Greenwald:

Your website (Wal-Mart Facts and News-How We Help-Military Support) makes many claims about supporting the troops. I am wondering how these noble commitments to U.S. troops are reconciled with suing a severely injured former employee of yours whose son died in Iraq? Reference this story on CNN's website: Brain-damaged woman at center of Wal-Mart suit. March 25, 2008. I challenge you to live up the image you're so desperately trying to manufacture, and help this woman. Thank you.


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Larry Nocella is the award-winning author of the novel Where Did This Come From? available at Amazon and Xlibris and other fine online book stores. Where Did This Come From? is also available as an eBook. For more info, visit Larry Nocella's website at http://www.larrynocella.com/.

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