This Sunday morning, August 9Th, I watched the NBC program "Face the Nation." There was quite a bit of discussion about, for lack of a better name, "The Obama Stimulus Program," and the Congressional plans for health care with Mayor Cory Booker(D)of Newark, New Jersey and Michael Bloomberg(I) of New York City. Interestingly both agreed that tax relief for small business was the key to stimulating employment in their cities. Mayor Booker even mentioned fmr. Congressman Jack Kemp's enterprise zone program as an example of government tax relief that works.
Employment statistics show that small business creates more jobs than giant companies do in the United States. Much of the discussion about whether the stimulus program is working centered on as New York Times reporter David Brooks said "if it temporary, targeted and timely?" All agreed that the "Cash for Clunkers (see previous post) has been all three of those things and is very popular with the America People.
Enter discussion of health care reform. Again according to the "Meet the Press" panel, even the most well informed cannot articulate what is in the bill and what its effect will be. Again the consensus is that the American people want to see health care costs come under control and that issues like preexisting conditions be addressed through legislation mandating insurance companies to cover them. When asked about the need to increase taxes for middle class Americans to pay for the plan, no one on the panel could explain how the program would be financed and they avoided the issue of tax increases.
In one of the early plans for financing universal health care, small businesses would be required to cover their employees with a health care plan or they would be penalized with additional taxes. While I am personally sympathetic with the plight of the uninsured, I recognize that the way to increase employment is to give tax relief to small businesses not burden them with additional taxes that may well cause them to close down. I personally understand the issue of small business payroll because I co-owned and operated a convenient store for ten years with sales of over 1 million dollars annually. At the end of each month, I had to write withholding checks to the state and federal government as well as insurance premiums for workers compensation. I can tell you that it was often a great challenge to be able to pay our employees and the government in the same payroll cycle. I believe my company was very typical of small businesses all over the country. I can tell you that if my company had been required to provide health care coverage for our employees we could not have continued to operate thus laying off between fifteen and twenty-five full and part time employees. In this case the governmental cure would have been worse than disease.
America needs health care reform. More people should be covered and costs must be stabilized but the devil is "in the detail." The ultimate reform must be fully understood by the members of Congress and the Administration proposing it. It must be bi-partisan and it cannot be rushed through in a rough shod manner with its effects unknown. The stimulus plan was rushed through and the results are mixed at best. Health care is simply too important and too complex to become a political football. This is not the time for our government to promote legislation that might actually cause more unemployment. All of our government's time should be spent on evaluating the action they have already taken and looking forward to how America will recover the millions of jobs that have been lost. Unemployed citizens do not pay taxes. Unemployed people become depressed and desperate. They become hopeless and they stop supporting local issues like school levies thus hurting the economy even more.
I would suggest that Health care reform is not the number one issue in America today. The number one issue in America today is creating sustainable jobs and getting our people back to work. After that, the government should focus on other important issues of which health care is one.