I've been trying to make sense of exactly why Wal-Mart is endorsing employer mandated health care and, more importantly, why the SEIU is playing along.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, joined hands with a major labor union Tuesday to endorse the idea of requiring large companies to provide health insurance to their workers, a move that gives a boost to President Obama as he is pushing for health legislation on Capitol Hill.

“Not every business can make the same contribution, but everyone must make some contribution,” Wal-Mart’s chief executive, Michael T. Duke, wrote in a letter to White House and Congressional officials, adding that he favored “an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage.”

The letter was issued jointly with Andrew W. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents two million workers, many of them in the health care industry, and John D. Podesta, who ran Mr. Obama’s transition to the presidency and leads the Center for American Progress, a Democratic policy organization here.

I would think that if Wal-Mart was going to endorse any healthcare plan, it would be a single-payer plan, which would effectively allow them to stop (directly) paying for healthcare altogether. But this is Wal-Mart, and so why do something that helps their workers when they can just pretend and gain a competitive edge.

The likely employer mandate that Wal-Mart wants to see would cost every business that doesn't provide benefits to part-timers, particularly those that finagle hours so that full-time employees are nominally part-time. The clearest example of this? Retailers, particularly grocery stores. If there's one operational tactic that Wal-Mart has perfected, it's short-term loss for long-term gain. Five years of an employer mandate on most small margin retailers around the country will put many of them out of business, leaving Wal-Mart with an effective monopoly across most of the country.

The real question is why SEIU is letting themselves get played like this. An employer mandate is one of the worst possible ways to achieve universal health insurance, forcing everyone into the current terrible private health insurance system through employers, which is like curing your polio by going around smacking other kids in the knees with hammers.