A Not-So-Merry Christmas for Business
I hate feeling gloomy at Christmastime, but it’s hard not to. It’s now obvious that Congress is giving us a most unwelcome Christmas gift in the form of their massive health-insurance reform bill—even though the bill itself will be largely unknown to the Congressmen themselves, and completely unknown to the public and press. And just in time for an “historic” Christmas Eve vote, that is likely to go down in political history as one of the most cynical political maneuvers of all time . . . one that could possibly foment a grass-roots citizen revolt. I suspect life is about to be made as miserable for Democrats and Republicans as the past four months have been for concerned citizens, especially business people. This is not what I had expected to be contemplating over the 2009 holiday season: Last Christmas, I truly believed that by now we would be seeing a resilient private sector leading the way to economic recovery; that’s before I figured out how irrelevant the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration believe business people are to the country’s fiscal health. They really BELIEVE that more government is the answer.
The vote will be historic all right: The more than 3,000 pages of legislation promulgated by the House and Senate does make clear that the “reform” will represent the largest expansion of government since the New Deal; its more than 100 new regulatory agencies that will stand between you and your doctor are just the beginning. And this massive overhaul of one-sixth of the American economy (by the same folks who can’t balance a budget) will be done without the support of a citizen majority, which will either further poison the political well or hasten the revolt against the legislators who have made such a colossal hash of an issue that Americans want to be resolved in a common-sense manner.
I don’t know any business person who doesn’t want to see reform in our health delivery system that will allow portability, cover pre-existing conditions, and reduce costs so that individuals and government units can pay for reasonable coverage. Yet decade after decade government illustrates that its bullying cannot reduce prices, but the free-market can. However, free-market solutions are impossible when government controls insurance commissions and won’t allow competition across state lines; when government actually discourages tort reform; when government says it wants to hold down fraud and abuse that even IT admits is rampant in the bureaucracies it created, but then sees only more bureaucracies as the medicine to prevent it; when the Federal government refuses to implement the good-delivery models that some states have achieved on their own.
So I fear it will be a very blue Christmas for the business sector and for Americans who wish to retain their economic, social, and personal rights to health care centered squarely on an unfettered doctor-patient relationship. Even Mother Nature and 15 inches of snow couldn’t bust up the Congressional Cut-and-Paste Club that is determined to pass SOMETHING since the President has said that he will sign ANYTHING. Do it quickly, while the country is preoccupied with the holidays and digging out from under the snow!
This will be a victory for the ages—if you are to believe the tele-prompters—because America has been waiting for this since the 1940s. Hmm. If my parents and theirs could hear that fractured view of history, they would be laughing, then spinning, in their graves. This country’s inexorable march to socialized medicine was a subject of their great concern for most of my growing-up years, because my family had first-hand experience with government-run health care: We all spent many hours sitting in military dispensaries waiting to see a corpsman or nurse. Because I was prone to pneumonia as a child, my parents would pay out-of-pocket for a civilian doctor when I got sick, rather than subject me to the rationed care of our free “single-payer system.” And they did the same for my grandmother, who lived a wonderfully productive life into her mid-nineties, free from fear that advancing age might foreclose sensible medical options.
To cause this amount of national dismay in the name of cost savings, is what galls me the most: Press and politicians alike have conveniently overlooked the phony-baloney math that undergirds this sham: ObamaCare requires FOUR YEARS of tax collections before the first year of “restructured benefits” (costs) kick in. How convenient: You get to run your new business with four years of revenues to make sure your first year in business will be “revenue neutral.” Oh yes, the cost-curve will “bend down” after that, they say. Right. Just like all the other innovative government programs whose upward-bending cost curves could turn hard-core Pollyannas into teeth-grinding poly-cynics. It is simply stunning that this bill requires 4 years of taxes to pay for 7 years of mandates. Once you understand this bizarre calculus, you understand the we’re dealing with a house of cards built on a massive ponzi scheme: Bernie Madoff Goes to Washington.
PPA TAKES A STAND
I’m very pleased to see that PPA has weighed in to tell the Senate that their bill is not good for photographers or other businesses. And they are encouraging all of us to contact our represesntatives. Please do. Even if they don’t listen. Keep it up; if you don’t raise your voice you’ll never be heard. To read PPA’s statement, click here. PPA’s language was a lot kinder than mine would have been, but I’m really proud that my association is taking a stand when so many other organizations with constituencies that will be hurt by this legislation have either been paid off or are too fearful of Federal power to speak their mind.
The saddest thing of all for me this Christmas is seeing heartbreaking story-after-story of the hard times so many families are enduring because of joblessness, and knowing that their only hope for better times ahead can be provided to them not by bigger government, which serves to put the breaks on free enterprise, but rather by the private sector, which is the creative engine of job growth. It simply IS. Government can tinker around the edges, but it cannot create a robust and “real” economy. As they always do, businesses that are weathering this economic downturn are doing so by making the hard decisions and creating the out-of-the-box actions that government, by its very nature, finds impossible to manage, largely because its ranks are dominated by unions that demand wage and benefit increases, even in the face of a fiscal crisis and at times when the business sector obligingly downsizes, reinvents itself, and pulls its own weight so that government can hitch a ride. No big news here.
But there is something very new at the heart of this story, and for me it’s pretty chilling: Historically, government has respected and encouraged the unique roll the business sector has played in restarting the U.S. economy during hard times. But the table below made me wake up to why the Obama administration has been so indifferent to and even hostile toward the private sector. It points strongly to the unprecedented lack of private sector experience in the Obama cabinet and goes a long way to explain why the administration thought it could placate the business community with a one-day “Jobs Summit” attended by some big-business political allies, union bosses, academics, mayors, and non-profit representatives, while denying access to the three major advocates for business owners: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Foundation for Independent Businesses, and the National Association of Manufacturers. What a charade! They weren’t invited because they oppose the pending health care legislation. In the end, ideology trumped job creation, and the Great Recession has just become even harder to reverse. The chart below speaks volumes.
And as we near Christmas Eve, word is now leaking out about the sleazy backroom deals that Harry Reid cut to literally—LITERALLY—buy the votes of recalcitrant Senators: A veritable holiday tableau of what the public hates most about politicians, brought to you by the folks who promised change in business-as-usual Washington. Give me a break.
I’ve started my 2010 Christmas list a bit early: I’m keeping a list of the breathtaking deals that were cut to make this 2009 devastating “present” to the American people possible. I’m hoping that as fellow citizens see exactly how business is being conducted in Washington, some of the fine folks who sold out their constituents will find a way to put some coal (or other fossil fuel) in their stockings next November. Perhaps I’ll post something about this next year.
In the meantime, I’m heading for a family holiday in Deep Creek, and as it should be in this glorious season, I’m taking a most welcome time out from the real world.