Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 25, 2009

A SHIFT IN FOCUS.... Not surprisingly, President Obama devoted his weekly multi-media address to health care reform today -- the sixth address to emphasize reform in the last eight weeks.

But what I found noteworthy about today's was the target audience of the pitch. In his five-and-a-half minute message, the president didn't mention the word "uninsured." In fact, the address wasn't geared towards the tens of millions of Americans without coverage at all. Instead, Obama talked almost exclusively about the importance of reform on businesses and employers. The president, apparently hoping to drive his point home, referenced the words "small business" 11 times in his message this morning.*

"I recently heard from a small business owner from New Jersey who wrote that he employs eight people and provides health insurance for all of them," Obama said, perhaps aware of the media complaints that his arguments aren't anecdotal enough. "But his policy goes up at least 20 percent each year, and today, it costs almost $1,400 per family per month -- his highest business expense besides his employees' salaries. He's already had to let two of them go, and he may be forced to eliminate health insurance altogether.

"He wrote, simply: 'I am not looking for free health care, I would just like to get my premiums reduced enough to be able to afford it.' Day after day, I hear from people just like him."

The president's pitch was straightforward, and a direct refutation of Republican complaints that reform will somehow hurt small businesses. Obama made it clear the opposite is true.

In fact, the message this morning was released the same time as a new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers on the impact of reform on small business and the ways in which the costs of status quo are crushing employers.

I wouldn't be surprised if the White House felt the need to push in this direction because of polling data suggesting the public is concerned about the implications of reform on employers, especially small businesses. It's worth it, then, for the president to explain that opponents of reform have it backwards.

* edited for clarity

Steve Benen 12:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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there is going to hafta be a full-blown month-long three-ring circus of healthcare messages going out form the Obama admin and the Dems...

Posted by: neill on July 25, 2009 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

As a former small business owner with 20 employees who provided healthcare benefits, I'd have to say that when you look at it from a small business angle, a comprehensive public plan (not an employer-provided plan) is what you want.

The thing is, its not _just_ about the premiums. Its also about your business ending up having to administer a healthcare plan. We were a computer game company. We didn't want to be in the healthcare business at all. I much would have preferred an environment in which I had nothing to do with my employee's healthcare. That's the situation that we would have with a true public plan - healthcare would be a matter between my employees and the govt.

Posted by: Chris Green on July 25, 2009 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Chris Green 12:48

So, if there's a government option that takes your business out of the medical insurance "business", would you give all of your employees a raise in the amount of the medical benefits you no longer have to pay? (If you still employed 20 employees)

Posted by: Putsy Betterman on July 25, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

A doogle a day keeps good health care away. In fact, "a doogle" is a good way to describe the health insurance I had under 3 different employers, all small businesses. We never kept a policy more than six months because as soon as you get your card, the rate goes up. Doogled every time.

We need a full court press from the President and from the people to their reps and senators. We're up against all the money we've paid the insurance companies for all these years.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on July 25, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

How often have you heard the line from employers to their employees of "What would you prefer? A raise or keeping your health care?"

The answer in most cases is "Keep our health care". This is, usually, followed by the employer telling his troops that the health care plan has been kept, however, there will be an increase in co-pays and some limits have been enacted.

An interesting aside to this is a plan which a local food market uses for their employees. For some reason, primary care physicians are not required. The chain employs many young workers. They have a tendency to only use the emergency rooms for treatment of any ailment. Yes, they have coverage, but, they are misusing the system.

Last year, that market chain used the same argument of either profit sharing or retaining your medical. The medical plan was kept with no profit sharing payouts and, the co-pays increased.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 25, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

According to Republicans the small business owner who wrote to Obama should drop coverage for his employees and has no obligation to return part of the money he saves by doing so in the form of wage or salary increases. If his employess can't afford to pay for their own insurance in the even more expensive individual market, tough shit.

Mind you, they will scream bloody murder if anyone points out that this is what they want, but it is clearly indicated if you look at their whining about "mandates" and "hurting small businesses" (a term that for them includes sole proprietorships whose owners make over $1,000,000 in net taxable income).

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 25, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

That's the secret. The middle-class and business owners don't care about the uninsured, they care about themselves. If the price of covering uninsured is costing them more in insurance generally...

So a smart necessary pitch. I've always thought bandying about the uninsured figure or focusing on them is bad politically.

Posted by: MNPundit on July 25, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I love it. My comments are being deleted.

Just goes to prove...

...all you little weiner whiner limp-wristed lemming-like leftwing wacko Libs spend so much time in your Mom's basement pretending you're surrounded by truth, when, in reality, you delete opposing views, and HIDE FROM THE TRUTH.

Ooooooh, wouldn't want someone to hurt your feelings or disagree with you.

It's clear. Conservatives have nothing to worry about because you're a bunch of pussies and cowards.

hahahahahah

Posted by: doogle on July 25, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

This is the right angle. Keep pounding away. If this takes his entire term it should always be at the front of the agenda.

Posted by: Condor on July 25, 2009 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

berttheclock - that's the reason why i never buy a new car -- to many factors to negotiate, especially if you are talking about a trade-in, and a loan, and financing terms, and all that.

When you want to negotiate, you want to negotiate on ONE variable. Any more than that and it's easy to get buffaloed by someone who buffaloes for a living.

So one more reason public option health plans are a benefit for labor.

Big business loves the current system, though. It's a cudgel for labor contracts, and it gives smaller competitors even more of a disadvantage. Ayn Rand's free market at work.

Posted by: inkadu on July 25, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

This is a bit of a rambling rant.

First - In this public discussion, there are two things that keep getting lumped together - affordable health care and affordable healthcare insurance - two distinct things. Unpacking the difference between these two things could change the debate. These two things need to be discussed separately.

Second - The doctors, hospitals, and other medical care providers are the ones who code your bill and deal with the health insurance carriers, and employers are the ones who negotiate with the insurance companies about coverage and cost for coverage. The patient, who is supposed to be the beneficiary, has no idea what is going on, and no reason to look into his health care insurance until his health care is affected. By then it's too late to do anything about what policy to get.

I wonder what would happen if all medical providers and employers were disallowed from communicating with anyone but the patient/employee. Let the employee/patient and insurance companies deal with each other.

Of course I recognize that the medical providers are the real beneficiaries of the insurance policies, so they have a vested interest in the billing and collection process. The patients are just profit units that have to pay both the insurance company and the medical provider.

Posted by: anon, too on July 25, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

putsy - yes, presumably that is what would happen - salaries would raise by hopefully something like (cost of old employer plan - new taxes or other fees business for public heath care).

Posted by: Chris Green on July 25, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Just returned from one of my EXTREEMELY small business ventures- selling our organic veggies at a local farmers market on Saturday mornings.

Makin' about a buck an hour- that's before taxes, though. . .

Many of our patrons work at local health care sites; docs, hospitals. And the subtext of a quite a few conversations (organic, vegitarian, Alternate Life Style customers), is that health costs, insurance costs, and quality of care all suck.

We're on the road to perdition, folks, and something's gotta be done.

Obama is dead on to focus on the small business employer instead of the 'uninsured.' Because those folks don't vote, don't care, and are off the radar as far as screaming to their congressperson.

No, it's the-probably Republican- small business owner who feels the pinch; like someone posted above, they want to build computer games, not do paperwork for insurance coverage. GM is a health care provider that happens to build cars as a side line.

So, talking to the front line small business guy, trying to compete with the multinationals, is where the rubber meets the road.

Getting THOSE guys to buttonhole their rep this August recess is the key. And since they are the same people who write campaign checks, the reps will listen. . .

Posted by: DAy on July 25, 2009 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I would really like to see a thorough refutation of Republican talking points vis-a-vis Obama's health care plan. It's pretty easy to look up some of the wild claims made about the plan, but I think it's necessary to really be able to refute them. You need to be able to explain why conservatives come across as nutjobs.

It's not enough to be dismissive of their viewpoints. I try to understand the Limbaugh segment and I don't get it. On one hand the Republicans want to stymie Obama - it's a political battle. So reform has nothing to do with it. Next you hear how it's socialized medicine and our children will pay for it. We won't be able to keep our doctors, etc.

Seriously I think this blog needs a fairly impartial look at the aims of the plan and then whether there's a shred of truth to the criticism.

Posted by: Justin on July 25, 2009 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe I'm being called a "republican computer game builder" - I gave max contribution to obama and worked on the campaign!

Read my note again - I want a public (prefer single payer) plan. I wish that were obama's position. I want my employees (and everyone else) to have coverage though this plan and for that coverage to have nothing to do with whether or not they are employed at my company. And I'd be happy to have my business pay into the fund that supports this plan. And I'd be able to pay my employees more.

This is the way it would be in canada if I were starting a company there - employee health care would be completely off the radar as something I even needed to think about.

Posted by: Chris Green on July 25, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

We didn't want to be in the healthcare business at all.

I think that's a fantastic point and it needs to be made again and again. Also the point needs to be made about employees who stay in jobs that they hate because of health care benefits-- changing jobs often means no health care for the first 3 months, possibility of limited coverage of "pre-existing conditions" and whatnot. If small business can take health care coverage and its administration off of their books their employees will see raises, in fact it would force a lot of employees to treat their people better because people would have more freedom to change jobs.

Health care has become a luxury that many businesses cannot afford to provide anymore, it also keeps a lot of small businesses from starting up and/or growing. I own a small business and can only employ part-time people because of health care benefits that I cannot afford to provide-- hell, my own health care plan is rather lousy.

The real question at hand is why do people want their jobs to have anything to do with their health care coverage anyways?!? It's not a good system, it's a dinosaur of an idea that is ending, regardless of whether or not we get reform passed.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on July 25, 2009 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

If small business can take health care insurance and its complicated administration off of their books their employees will see raises, in fact it might force a lot of employers to treat their people better because employees would have more freedom to change jobs. Having to stay in a lousy, unsatisfying job just for the health care benefits should be a thing of the past. There is a reason so many businesses are getting behind reform-- they can't afford it and/or don't want health care insurance administration to be part of their business anymore.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on July 25, 2009 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Chris Green: My bad, if you thought i was calling you the dreaded R word. . .

I MEANT that the majority of small bus owners are probably republican; hence they should be targeted by Obama. Because, as any rational thinker can see, health insurance is a cost of doing business- same as raw materials, utilities, and, umm, taxes.

However, taxes are a positive necessity in a functioning society, whereas cutting the other costs- materials, etc- can increase profits without hurting that society.

Imagine, if you will, dear reader, that you were DIRECTLY billed monthly for national defense, fire and police services, even the damn road in front of your shop. Or, like the idea of universal health care, it was part of what government supplied (via taxes)-
to EVERY ONE.

Posted by: DAY on July 25, 2009 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

hopefully somewhat on topic here: new study shows canadians hate their health care...just kidding...they give it high approvial numbers

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/canadians-happy-with-primary-health-care-study-says/article1229169/

Posted by: dj spellchecka on July 25, 2009 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

>it also keeps a lot of small businesses from starting up and/or growing

totally. Particularly in the high tech field and particularly for older engineers for families, a significant factor that acts to prevent people from leaving their boring safe job for the risk of starting something new is the risk factor due to health care.

Posted by: Chris Green on July 25, 2009 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

"The president's pitch was [...] a direct refutation that reform will somehow hurt small businesses. Obama made it clear the opposite is true."

Well, Obama asserts "that the opposite is true." Obama isn't even in control of the reform process at this point - who knows what kind of bill will emerge.

Mr. Benen reveals his cognitive process there: Obama says = Truth. You forgot the part that you (or Obama) needs to make an argument to support a point.

Ever wonder how much different this site would look if Mr. Benen was employed by the Obama administration? I think there would not be an immediately perceptible difference.

Posted by: flubber on July 25, 2009 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Epic fail, flubber.

Obama gave clear, cogent reasons (with an anecdote to spice it up for the press that complained about his "boringly" factual speeches) why small business are being seriously damaged by the status quo.

It is possible the congress will come up with something even worse than we have now, but if so it will be because they compromised too much with the people that don't want to do anything at all.

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 25, 2009 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the thing about the small employer argument. Nifty. But if whatever, 80% of all employers in the US are small business employers and 50% of the employed work for them, why is the Republican argument that health insurance reform would be terrible for small businesses so effective? I'll tell you why. Democrat or Republican, politicians could care less about small business.

Small businesses have no clout. They have a willingness to defy the odds and attempt to provide goods or services in our economy at higher quality and better value than corporate overlords can, but they have relatively little power. As a result, small businesses hate politicians; as they should. They hate them because politicians let corporate giants pay nothing in taxes. They hate them because even if they care about running a business that produces something useful that doesn't rely on destroying the competition, they have no protection from the predatory corporations that are protected by the courts, advantaged by law, and too big to fail.

Why would politicians give a shit about small businesses?

Posted by: NealB on July 25, 2009 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

If America really wanted health insurance reform now, they'd all drop their health insurance tomorrow. Refuse to pay any premiums between now and when serious reform is enacted, and live like our parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents did. They all lived long enough to multiply and survive.

The health insurance problem could be solved in about two days if everyone just dropped health care immediately. Why?

They'd go broke. End of health insurance industry. Huge need for government to solve the problem.

It's hard to understand why 50 million uninsured (that's one of every five or six people you see every day) isn't enough to put them out of business.

But, oh, that's right, I forgot. Those of you who are still paying are paying for the rest of us who can't afford it.

It's all on you folks with high-priced insurance. If you're in the game and you're a winner, you might be able to afford it in the years to come. If you lose, if you're tired of the game, quit now, maybe you'll make a difference. If you're afraid, you're going to lose later, save your money now while you've still got it.

Posted by: NealB on July 25, 2009 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP, as long as they are connected to these Faith-Based Initiatives like C-Street & Youth With a Mission (YWAM) it will be hard to get the health plan we want.

What the GOP want, remember they kept saying the education and health plans should be under charities?

That's because they are partnering/subsidizing with every corporation there is -

for an example,

Saddleback Community Church - Rick Warren's church

Trinity Broadcasting Network

Prison ministries - going into the prisons, just a few names Joel Generation Army (JGA), Chapel of Hope Ministries, First Presbyterian Church of Orlando

They have Senior Living Assistant homes

The C-Street, YWAM is tied up in almost every industry this country has. With tax-exempt status, if they partner with industries/subsidiaries, how much money is taxes?

Posted by: annjell on July 25, 2009 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

Pharmaceutical companies have made so much money - think about how many people are on anti-depressants, which, a lot of the YWAM are fed anti-depressants.

The kids are fed meds for Attention deficit disorders.

Everyone is on drugs, legal and illegal.

But, again, the anti-depressants are used to control people that join these youth ministries.

So, no, the GOP has a strong hold on it. The GOP is only following their marching orders.

Posted by: annjell on July 25, 2009 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

"My YWAM Daze" see:

www.geocities.com/Athens/acropolis/1082/myywam.htm

The writer, taken from notes, describes how the C-Street aka YWAM tries to cast demons out of non-believers, and attempted suicides by youths.

He described an incident of a girl jumping out of a 3-story window after an exorcism.

Read so you will know about the DTS- Disciple Training School and how it affects the GOP with "Moral Government teachings."

Posted by: annjell on July 25, 2009 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

I posted this to another thread previously, but it's very appropriate to this one.

An e-mail to Hugh Hewitt from a (presumably Republican} small business owner:


Hugh- as a small business restaurant owner I’m appalled that very few (politically, media) are discussing the massive impact Obama-care will have on small businesses. We simply cannot afford mandated employer health care in our industry, and keep in mind that our industry is one of the most critical backbones of the entire American economy- there are over 945,000 restaurants in America, employing over 13 million people.

Keep in mind we primarily employ entry level and relatively unskilled laborers in the restaurant business. Our business models are built on razor thin margins as our customers (the American public) demand great value for their food- we simply cannot afford to provide health insurance for our majority unskilled and frequently transitory workforce whom in many cases are already paid higher wages than their skills could demand in an unregulated market via inflation indexed mandatory minimum wage laws. Mind you we do offer solid compensation and health benefits to management and senior staff who by virtue of their skills, responsibilities, achievements and longevity have earned them We are already hammered by mandatory minimum wage increase that have siphoned off critical profits from our business in this time of recession- contributing greatly to significant price increases and labor force reductions already. Now Obama-care is proposing an 8% payroll surtax to finance mandatory healthcare?! This is INSANITY. Restaurants are built on after tax cash flow business models of less than 5% (which mind you has already been chipped by about 2% for min wage increases and price discounting to maintain traffic during a recession has hurt profits as well). Given payroll represents on average 25% of a restaurant businesses sales, an 8% surtax represent another 2 % hit to the bottom line! The senate version is almost as bad. And don’t let the small business exceptions fool you as restaurants are VERY labor intensive, and even a single small restaurant operation typically employees 20-30 people- practically every restaurant in America will be impacted by the mandate. Given that most small business restaurant operators survive on scale (2-10 locations) and again at very low margins, the small business exceptions will provide no relief for the those in the restaurant industry who provide the majority of jobs.

What does the administration think businesses will do in reaction to this law? For starters we will be forced to drastically reduce staffing in an effort to reduce our payrolls and offset the tax impact on our profits- I anticipate the current hiring freezes in the industry to turn into massive layoff waves, and the industry to cut back dramatically to levels that will significantly impact our service models and even our ability to continue to operate. Second we will have no choice but to raise prices significantly- the HIDDEN TAX on the American public is that all taxes are ultimately passed on to the consumer. Third, and perhaps worse, many, many, MANY restaurants will simply not be able to cope with the cost burden and will fold almost overnight, swelling the ranks of the unemployed even more drastically. Finally, the financial incentive to build new restaurants in America will be gone. Say goodbye to new and interesting and convenient cuisine options in your neighborhood as no rational investor will put money in the future into a money losing business proposition.

Posted by: Soozie Q on July 25, 2009 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Soozie Q, first, I'll start off by saying, NO, I did not read your comments.

But let's be real for a minute. Do you not find your comments offensive to the other posters here?

No, I am not one of the moderators. However, we would read and/or respond to your comments if only you knew how to behave yourself. Do you not have any manners?

Now, for me, and this is my opinion, you are coming here for attention, or this is where you find you can take our your frustrations.

I'm only asking you this, because you appear if you are about to "crack." Take this anyway you want, but, as someone who don't know you and sense there's something wrong, chill out.

Stop trying to force your beliefs onto others. There's nothing wrong with voicing your anger or disagreeing with the information. But calm down! Everyone has their own opinions and beliefs without outright attacking other posters.

Are you one of "King's Kids?"

This will be the only comment I have to make to you regarding your behavior. Obviously, I'm not alone, most people prefer not to respond to you. Do you see that?

Posted by: annjell on July 26, 2009 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

No kidding? There are really media complaints that he isn't anecdotal enough?

Posted by: Paul Camp on July 26, 2009 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

So a smart necessary pitch. I've always thought bandying about the uninsured figure or focusing on them is bad politically.


Why is it bad politically? The more that are uninsured, the more that drives up the cost for everyone else.


DAY:
You are flat out wrong. People are uninsured for many different reasons. Plenty of us are politically active.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on July 26, 2009 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

Well, since this isn't actually healthcare reform, and seems to be created entirely to funnel money into the insurance companies 'insurance reform' is at least honest.

I'm not sure how you think creating a welfare option and calling it a public option is going to play out. Only allowing the absolute poorest of the poor to sign up makes this nothing but welfare. I'm usually all for welfare, to be honest, but not if we're talking about something EVERYONE needs. This isn't an option for 91% of america according to the CB. How the fuck is that a 'Public Option'.

We all know what happens when a program only effects the bottom 10%: Budget cuts, budget cuts, and more god damned budget cuts. All those folks, Overwhelmingly democrats, are going to be pushed out of that public plan and forced to by private insurance with their own money. All because the Democrats in congress are too corrupt to tax the wealthy to pay for this. All because they are so corrupt they are treating this as nothing but a way to keep insurance companies afloat.

The rest of us, those who don't qualify for the welfare option, get to by our health insurance. No choice in the matter. No real options, as most of us live in monopoly areas only served by one or two carriers. We're just going to be forced to buy insurance we can't afford with subsidies that are going to face the same budget cuts that afflict the welfare option.

What is being crafted is a bill that barely helps, maybe a little at the edges, but drastically harms all Americans by increasing the political power of the insurance companies who's products we will all be forced, with no choice and no options, to buy.

Basically, we've been lied to for a very, very long time. This isn't the Public Option we were told we'd get. This isn't even a public option.

Posted by: soullite on July 26, 2009 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

Soullite, we are all angry. Yet, the President said he wanted to clean up the corruption.

That would be hard to do if people keep electing the same corrupt politicians that have been in office longer than I've been alive.

There's a lot he's up against. Everything is tied back to C-Street. The elected officials are affraid to talk about it, let alone, are in on it.

Remember Ted Haggard, he's back in business. No one follows up, and they go back to their old tricks - yet, this is a big intricate web of scams.

see http://www.streetprophets.com/storyonly/2007/8/27/185928/387

this is interesting because here's the allegations: Ted Haggard asked friend Paul Huberty to help with "Families with a Mission." Another branch of YWAM. Ted notes he would get 90% of donations to buy a new building.....

Apparently, Paul Huberty, was court-martialed in Germany for child sex offenses - he leaves and moves to Hawaii. Allegedly not registered for sex crimes. Subsequently, convicted of attempted sexual battery and registered as a child molester in Hawaii.

Mr. Huberty moves to Colorado, and doesn't register as a child molester but still with YWAM - there's something with the 501c, using mailbox as personal not as a business.

There's allegations of money laundering.....

***With YWAM (Youth With a Mission) having branches and partners/subsidiaries around the world, these people are hard to keep up with, some are now working at newspapers/television, lobbying.....So, the child molestors can be in other countries working through this ministry and no one knows about it.

Posted by: annjell on July 26, 2009 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

the second i saw the magic words "an e-mail to hugh hewitt," i quit reading.....better trolls, please...

Posted by: dj spellchecka on July 26, 2009 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to disturb your echo chamber, dj.

That's how the left insulates itself from genuine debate. You tend to dismiss out of hand information if it comes from an opposition source, without evaluating the content.

It's almost as if genuine debate on the actual merits would shake your faith or something.

This thread is about perceptions of the healthcare plan's effect on small business. Several mentions have been made of the perceptions of Republican small-business owners. So I thought (silly me) that you might want to hear the thoughts of one small-business owner/employer on the subject.

Again, my apologies.

Posted by: Soozie Q on July 26, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK
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