For years, even before Barack Obama was elected, one of the many complaints liberals (mostly) had about the current employer-based health insurance system was “job lock”—if you have insurance at your job, particularly if you or someone in your family has health issues, then you’re going to be hesitant to leave that job. You won’t start your own business, or join somebody else’s struggling startup (unless they provide insurance), and this constrains people’s opportunities and dampens the country’s entrepreneurial spirit.
That this occurs is intuitively obvious—you probably know someone who has experienced it, or have experienced it yourself. And today there’s an article in that pro-Democrat hippie rag The Wall Street Journal entitled “Will Health-Care Law Beget Entrepreneurs?” Amid the worrying about the implementation of Obamacare in January, and the quite reasonable concern that the news could be filled with stories of confusion, missteps, and dirtbags like that Papa John’s guy cutting employees’ hours rather than give them insurance, to avoid the horror of increasing the cost of a pizza by a dime,11This is important: when you hear a story about an employer who cut his employees’ hours so he wouldn’t have to abide by the law, what you’re reading about is a jerk who doesn’t want to offer his employees insurance, not some inevitable consequence of the law. That’s a choice he makes. And don’t forget too that the employer mandate only applies to companies with 50 or more employers, and 96 percent of them already offer health insurance, even without a mandate. it’s a reminder that there will probably be lots of stories like this one in the news too, stories about people whose lives have been changed for the better by the fact that Americans will have something they’ve never had before: health security.
So what kind of effect could the elimination of job lock have on the economy? That’s tough to say. The study referred to in the WSJ article finds that people are much more likely to start a business if they get their health insurance from their spouse’s job than if they get it from their own job; in the former case you’d still have insurance if you started a business, while in the latter case you’d lose it. In addition, and this is particularly interesting, even though you might think of 65-year-olds as looking forward to days of golf and eating dinner at 4 p.m., a large number of people seem to start businesses pretty much the minute they become eligible for Medicare. While it’s hard to get insurance in the current private market if you’re 44, it’s basically impossible if you’re 64.
So it seems that the fact that after January, job lock will be history means that more businesses will be started. How many more? Well, we don’t know yet, and it could depend in part on how affordable the insurance you can get through the exchanges is compared to what people are getting from their employers. And it will be hard to measure precisely how much more economic activity is generated by businesses that wouldn’t have otherwise been started. Obviously, some will succeed and more will fail.
Nevertheless, beyond additions to GDP, there’s something psychological that shouldn’t be discounted, touchy-feely though it might be. The end of job lock means the end of a certain kind of fear that all of us under the age of 65 live with to one degree or another. It’s the fear that leaving a job, voluntarily or otherwise, could become an utter financial calamity if we or one of our loved ones has a health problem. Even if you wish reform hadn’t been grafted on to the existing employer-based system (I’ll raise my hand on that one), ending that fear is huge; it’s one of the best things Obamacare does. Even if it’s difficult to communicate on a bumper sticker.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 9, 2013
Companies that have threatened to drop coverage of their employees as a result of Obamacare are vocal, but according to a new study they are also few and far between. Only a total one percent of businesses said they are not going to continue coverage in the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans survey. Another 2 percent said that they are “somewhat unlikely” to continue providing health care to their employees. Meanwhile, 69 percent will definitely cover employees, and 25 percent “very likely” will.
The results are encouraging primarily because they show businesses have growing confidence in Obamacare — last year, the survey showed that far fewer companies were certain to continue their health care plans. It also means business leaders are beginning to recognize the benefits providing employees with health coverage:
That hefty percentage of respondents who said coverage definitely will be offered in 2014 contrasts with a similar survey the IFEBP did last year, when only 46% of respondents said coverage would definitely be offered. That greater certainty expressed by employers about offering coverage next year may the result of several factors, said Julie Stich, research director for the Brookfield, Wis.-based IFEBP. One factor may be a greater consideration by employers on how offering a health care plan can significantly aid in the recruitment and retention of employees, Ms. Stich said.
Offering health care does, indeed, aid recruitment and retention. And if three percent of companies chose not to do so while the rest do, they will likely suffer the consequences. Lacking health coverage also drives away some of the best employees, especially when, under Obamacare, those employees will then be forced to take on the cost burden of healh care coverage themselves.
By: Annie-Rose Strasser, Think Progress, April 11, 2013
After the election, word was that we had just lived through another Year of the Woman. After all, a record twenty women will now be serving in the US Senate next term, representing a fifth of all seats. We had previously failed to breach the 18 percent mark in that legislative body.
But women’s progress has stalled out somewhere else: the top of the private sector. The research organization Catalyst released its 2012 Census today, which tracks the number of women in executive officer and board director positions. Women held just over 14 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies this year and 16.6 percent of board seats at the same. Adding insult to injury, an even smaller percent of those female executive officers are counted among the highest earners—less than 8 percent of the top earner positions were held by women. Meanwhile, a full quarter of these companies simply had no women executive officers at all and one-tenth had no women directors on their boards.
But as in the Senate, progress may be slow and even small percentages can be victories. Did this year represent a step forward? Not even close. Women’s share of these positions went up by a mere half of a percentage point or less last year. Even worse, 2012 was the seventh consecutive year in which we haven’t seen any growth in board seats and the third year of stagnation in the C-suite. Meanwhile, women may hold the majority of the jobs in growing sectors such as retail, healthcare and food service, but of the executive officers in those industries they represent less than 18 percent, under 16 percent and just 15.5 percent, respectively.
If this is the sign of the end of men or the richer sex, I fail to see how. Reversing these numbers may take time. But we’re not even on a steady uptick—we’re stuck on a plateau. Fortune tellers who tell us women are on track to dominate the economy need to explain how that can be if we aren’t seeing any movement in these top indicators. Representing half the workforce can still mean inequality if we aren’t breaking through to the top jobs.
By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, December 11, 2012
Leaders of the American business community, who have long indulged the Republican far right as an instrument toward their own ends, seem to be growing weary of its political excesses. Recognizing the public verdict of last month’s election, corporate officialdom is moving toward moderation on taxes and other issues, showing support for the Obama White House and edging away from congressional Republicans.
The latest top executive to endorse the president’s position on rescinding the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent is Fred Smith, CEO of Federal Express and a former economic advisor to Senator John McCain — who denounced as “mythology” the notion that raising the top rate would damage the U.S. economy.
Smith joined a lengthening queue of business leaders from all sectors who have stepped up over the past week to voice their acceptance of increased taxes as part of a budget agreement to break the stalemate on Capitol Hill — not only to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff on December 31, but because fairness requires the wealthy to pay their fair share. Randall Stephenson, chief executive of AT&T, the nation’s largest telecom company, told Business Week that higher taxes and more revenue must be part of any budget agreement. So did Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs. And so did a group of defense industry executives from companies such as United Technologies, RTI International, TASC and Northrop Grumman.
Income tax rates “need to go up some,” said David Langstaff, the CEO of TASC, at a Washington press event organized by the Aerospace Industries Association, a defense lobby. “This is a fairness issue — there needs to be recognition that we’re not collecting enough revenue. In the last decade we’ve fought two wars without raising taxes. So I think it does need to go up.”
Indeed, the president was warmly received this week when he visited the Business Roundtable, a powerful Washington lobbying group that officially prefers Republican policy on maintaining the Bush tax cuts unchanged. “This room likes a winner,” said Roundtable chairman James McNerney, the CEO of Boeing, as his members applauded the president, who worked the room as if among old friends. They didn’t seem terribly upset when the president told them that tax rates — their tax rates — would have to go up, and in fact, they are reportedly supporting him on the need to avoid another destructive struggle with Congress over the debt ceiling. Evidently they won’t go along with the kind of blackmail game that congressional Republicans played with the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011, leading to a credit downgrade and slower growth for months afterward.
The suddenly sensible sounds emanating from the business community are astonishing when contrasted with the anger displayed toward the president by many of these corporate suits only weeks ago, when they berated Obama as “anti-business” and loudly yearned for a corporate-style Romney presidency. Resoundingly rebuked by the electorate, which overwhelmingly favors Obama’s positions on taxes and entitlements — and stands ready to blame the Republicans if no budget agreement is achieved — the business leaders are backing ever so subtly away from their traditional alliance with the GOP.
These brand-conscious executives suddenly have realized that the Republican brand, especially at the congressional level, is politically toxic. And they would rather not be too closely identified with it at this dangerous moment.
Remarkably, the Tea Party Republicans have now alienated their party’s most important constituency — the upper echelon of the business community. It is a profound irony that the issue raising friction between these politicians and their erstwhile backers is a fanatical partisan determination to defend the tax benefits enjoyed by those same wealthy executives.
The president’s opponents are backing themselves into a corner where even their own old friends cannot defend them. Meanwhile Obama may finally have learned that if he stands firm and refuses to negotiate with himself, he can win over public opinion and break the partisan obstructionism.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, December 7, 2012
So Obama, defending his plan to raise taxes on the rich, says this:
“If you are a wealthy C.E.O. or hedge-fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They are lower than they have been since the nineteen-fifties,” the President said. “You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.”
And billionaire hedge-fund manager Leon Cooperman, a former Obama supporter, responds with this:
“You know, the largest and greatest country in the free world put a forty-seven-year-old guy that never worked a day in his life and made him in charge of the free world … Not totally different from taking Adolf Hitler in Germany and making him in charge of Germany because people were economically dissatisfied.”
Cooperman, like so many of his fellow super-rich, is upset at Obama’s class-warfare “tone.” But in response, as Chrystia Freeland documents in her definitive New Yorker treatment of billionaire Obama hate, Cooperman raises the level of divisive rhetoric light-years beyond Obama’s, straight into a galaxy of ludicrous imbecility. It is beyond irrational to compare Obama with Hitler, or to argue that in any meaningful way his administration has waged class warfare against the rich. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times, Obama has been great for the rich!
Freeland says it again:
The growing antagonism of the super-wealthy toward Obama can seem mystifying, since Obama has served the rich quite well. His Administration supported the seven-hundred-billion-dollar TARP rescue package for Wall Street, and resisted calls from the Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, and others on the left, to nationalize the big banks in exchange for that largesse. At the end of September, the S. & P. 500, the benchmark U.S. stock index, had rebounded to just 6.9 per cent below its all-time pre-crisis high, on October 9, 2007. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have found that ninety-three per cent of the gains during the 2009-10 recovery went to the top one per cent of earners.
Vein-popping blood-pressure spikes are hard to avoid when one reads about the hurt feelings of America’s billionaires. Seriously, if you’re looking for ways to provoke real socialist revolution in the United States, the behavior investigated by Freeland is surely the best way to go about it, outside of mass-mailing invitations to a storm-the-barricades party to every American on food stamps. Flaunt your entitlement! Bemoan the hardship of your 14.1 percent tax rate! Complain that you are not getting enough credit for endowing the local symphony!
But the real wonder is that Obama doesn’t take more advantage of this obvious public relations bonanza. It is impossible to imagine anything that could play better for Obama with working-class voters than the fact that “hostility toward the President is particularly strident among the ultra-rich.” Franklin D. Roosevelt knew what to do with banker ire — just a few days before Election Day in 1936 he famously told a crowd at Madison Square Garden that “I welcome their hatred.”
Obama should be doing the same.
Or maybe he is. Because if we want to understand why polls show Obama up comfortably in Ohio, at least part of the reason has to be that Wall Street billionaires hate him — and like the other guy.
By: Andrew Leonard, Salon, October 1, 2012