Monday, July 27, 2009

Was Joe the Plumber Right?

The well documented campaign dust up between Barack Obama and Joe the Plumber highlighted the concern that many people-particularly small business owners-had about the big government, "share the wealth," predilections of the Democratic candidate. Foe his outspokenness, Joe became a target of a national smear campaign to discredit the messenger; particularly because of the way his message resonated with so many Americans.

As we examine the president's health care plan, however, we can't help but feel that Joe's insights were extremely prescient; and that the small businesses that Joe the Plumber became the spontaneous spokesman for, are in the cross hairs of health care "reform." Which is why we were so put off by the president's claim on Saturday, that his reform plan would benefit the little guys.

As the NY Times reported: "The Congressional Budget Office said Saturday that a new agency proposed by President Obama as a way to cut health costs might save only $2 billion in its first four years, and that there was a high probability that “no savings would be realized.” The report came as Mr. Obama tried to build support for his health care plan, arguing that small-business owners would benefit because they could buy coverage through an insurance exchange and receive tax credits to help pay for employee health benefits."

Gee, why didn't we realize this-and why do all the organized small business groups demur from the president's avowed concern for the smallest firms? Can it be that a bit of misdirection on the president's part? Here's what Obama says: "In his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, Mr. Obama said that small businesses were being “crushed by skyrocketing health care costs. Because they lack the bargaining power that large businesses have and face higher administrative costs per person, small businesses pay up to 18 percent more for the very same health insurance plans — costs that eat into their profits and get passed on to their employees,” Mr. Obama said."

But sir, your plan makes things much worse: "In the weekly Republican address, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State argued that the Democratic proposals were “bankrolled by a small-business tax.” She said that jobs would “evaporate” under the Democratic plan because businesses would not be able to afford to meet their payrolls. The National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses, opposes the Democratic health care legislation under consideration in the House. “Now is not the time to burden our nation’s job creators with new, expensive mandates, punitive payroll taxes and a new government-run program,” said Brad Close, the association’s vice president for public policy."

Now it would have been nice if the Times had done a little more in depth analysis on this-and not buried the NFICB response at the tail end of the story; something that even the CBS evening News managed to do: "President Obama tried to regain momentum on health care today by claiming in his weekly address that his plan would benefit small business owners. He said small businesses now pay 18 percent more for health insurance than large businesses do. Just 48 percent of businesses with three to nine employees offer insurance, while nearly all businesses with 200 or more employees do. But do small business owners think they'd benefit from a change?"

And the answer totally rebuts the president's position: "Small business owner Tom Sawner runs an online education service in Arlington, Va. He believes his employees deserve health care coverage. But he doesn't want the government telling him he has to provide it, reports CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier. "I think small business owners need to have the ability to make their own choices for their people and their company and their location," said Sawner, the CEO of Educational Options."

As Sawner goes on to point out: "I am very concerned about what might come down in a government program or how I'm going to be taxed an additional 8 percent of payroll if my plan doesn't fit with what Congress, in their infinite, wisdom says will be best for my business," Sawner said."

So, as we have said, if small business is the bedrock of the American economy-an economy that is really down in the dumps at the present-do we really want to impose new mandates that will tamp down expansion and job growth; and even redistribute the wealth in the process? The current health plans are too ambitious and too costly-and in our view could easily create a system even worse than the one we have now.