Obamacare: Not so bad for small business after all

Makini Howell is the owner of a small restaurant in Seattle.  Her piece in the Washington Post sheds light on some of the lesser-known parts of Obamacare, namely the ones that make it easier and cheaper for small businesses to insure their employees:

I knew that if we wanted to grow, we needed to attract a great team of cooks and servers who were talented, committed, and motivated to help build the business. Offering health insurance was big on my list, but it seemed completely out of reach on a small business budget.

Then, President Obama’s health care reform law came along. When I crunched the numbers, I found out that the law’s health care tax credit for small businesses would immediately cut 20 percent off the cost of insuring my employees. And in 2014, when the law’s fully in effect, that tax credit goes up to about one-third of my costs.

Suddenly, providing health insurance wasn’t just something I dreamed of doing – it was something I actually could do. About three months ago, right around the two-year anniversary of the law, I began enrolling my employees in a health insurance plan for the first time. Let me tell you – that felt good!

It does feel good!  It’s almost as if lawmakers anticipated a health care overhaul could be harmful to small businesses and actually put things into place — like the tax credits Howell mentions, for example — that would ease that burden and make it possible for businesses to meet the requirements to insure their employees.  I know I’m going out on a limb here, but maybe Democrats have in interest in protecting small business, too.

Probably not, though.  It’s a lot more fun to believe that President Obama hates capitalism and the free-enterprise system and gets off on sticking it to entrepreneurs, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.

Required Reading

Was on the road yesterday, so didn’t have a chance to post — did read a few things on the interweb though that I wanted to pass along.

Five out of six Democrats reduced the national debt as a percentage of GDP, while four out of six Republicans raised it. The story is similar on budget deficits, with five of the top six performances recorded by Democrats and four of the bottom five recorded by Republicans. With respect to GDP growth, three of the top four performers were Democrats and four of the bottom five were Republicans. In reducing the poverty rate, the top three were Democrats and two of the bottom three were Republicans.

  • Liberal Bias Alert! — via Ballon Juice.  Basically Joe Olivo is a small business owner who has been appearing on lots of news shows claiming Obamacare is going to keep him from hiring more workers.  But it turns out he’s a guy dispatched by conservative politicos to be interviewed whenever anyone talks about Obamacare’s effect on business. Yet NBC and NPR are treating him like he’s just a run-of-the-mill small business owner.

So Joe Olivo isn’t just some random business owner—he’s dispatched by [National Federation of Independent Business] whenever there’s a need for someone to play a random small business owner on TV.

NFIB, you will not be surprised to learn, is linked to the ALEC and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, and to the usual rogues’ gallery of right-wing zillionaires.

Sore losers or secessionists?

ImageWell, the verdict’s in: the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act.  So that’s it, right?  The 26 states that had joined together in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law and were delaying its implementation until after the ruling will have to buck up and comply now, right?

Evidently not.  In the wake of their SCOTUS defeat, Republican governors across the country are simply refusing to comply with the law.  Michele Bachmann and Jim Demint are encouraging this.  Governors Bobby Jindal (LA), Rick Scott (FL), Scott Walker (WI), Sam Brownback (KS), and John Kasich (OH) have all made it publicly clear that they won’t be implementing the required exchanges (“an online place where people can comparison shop for health insurance. It looks much like a Travelocity or Orbitz website, but for health insurance”).

Yeah, these governors know the bill was lawfully passed by the United States Congress and signed by the President of the United States.  And, yeah, the Supreme Court of the United States did rule the law was constitutional.

But they don’t wanna!  It’s no fair!

Plus if these exchanges actually went up people might like them!  After all, as the Kansas City Star asked today, what’s not to like about an “on-line marketplace where consumers can easily learn what kinds of insurance policies are available and at what price?”  Well, a lot, actually, if your party’s political platform is tied to Obamacare’s success being as bad as 9/11.  (Please do click on that link.)

Maybe I shouldn’t be concerned, though.  I mean, it’s just states effectively nullifying laws set forth by the federal government.  What harm has that ever done?

A Modest Proposal: The ObamneyCare Bus Tour

President Obama needs a game changer on health care — yes, the SCOTUS victory was big, but it’s not enough.  Democrats need a near-complete reframing of the issue.  Unfortunately, they lost the messaging battle over the ACA so badly the first time around that it’s going to be tough to make this happen.  Furthermore, Chief Justice Robert’s dubbing of the fine for not purchasing health insurance as a “tax” instead of a “penalty” has handed Republicans a new political weapon with which to bludgeon the president’s plan.  Rest assured, they will use it.

However, the SCOTUS ruling gives President Obama and the Democrats a small window of opportunity — the victory does give them some temporary momentum.  It may be a long shot, but Democrats need to swing for the fences if they hope to mitigate the damage health care could do to their chances this fall.  The Obama campaign needs to act swiftly and boldly — if they don’t take advantage of this wave they’re riding in the wake of their win at the Supreme Court, the issue will be lost for sure.  So here’s what I’ve got: The ObamneyCare Bus Tour.

Let me explain.  Whenever Bill Clinton won a legislative victory, he did a victory lap around the country letting people know what he’d just accomplished.  President Obama did no such thing after the passage of the ACA — now he’s got a second chance.  Unfortunately, though, it’s too late for just a run-of-the-mill bus tour.  He’s got to make this one different.  He’s got to be bold for the media to pay attention; for it to work, everyone in America needs to know about this tour.  That’s why he should issue an open — and very public — invitation to Mitt Romney to join him on the tour.

Here’s why: Mitt Romney and the Republicans’ biggest vulnerability on health care is that the Obamacare they love to hate so much was actually their idea in the first place.  As Mitt Romney admits here, the Obama administration modeled the national plan after the one Mitt Romney had crafted and signed while governor of Massachusetts.  The only way to take this issue off the table for the Republicans is to solidify in voters’ minds the Obamacare-Romneycare connection; the president should tie himself to Romney’s Massachusetts plan 100%.  Make anything bad that Mitt Romney says about the ACA seem like the shameless political pandering that it is.   That’s what the ObamneyCare Bus Tour would aim to do.

That’s why quite a stir has to be made about inviting Romney to join the president on the tour.  Obviously, he’s not coming along.  But the president should make it feel like the former governor is with him all the way.  Be quite adamant about the name “ObamneyCare Bus Tour.”  Make posters. Hang them high and wide.  The campaign could pitch the tour with something like

We figured since Romney’s plan in Massachusetts was our model for the national plan, he’d want to be here with us to celebrate this great victory for the American people.  Mitt Romney deserves a lot of credit.

On the stump, the president should make it explicitly clear that he used Mitt Romney and the Republicans’ idea for his health reform bill.  Something like

You know, Governor Romney and the Republicans came up with this great idea to cover everybody without having the government take over, and we liked it so much, we decided to use it ourselves.  All of a sudden though, once I put my name behind it, they were all against it.  Unfortunately, they made a choice not to do the hard thing, not to do what was right for the American people, but to do what was best for their party and their political careers.  And that’s a shame.  But I think Governor Romney knows better, and that’s why I offered him to join me anyway.  He deserves a lot of credit for the passage of this bill, and we named this tour after him to give him the recognition he deserves.

When the president is on the stump, he should quote at length from speeches Romney gave in support of the mandate.  There’s lots of good stuff from this Romney speech.  More video of Romney supporting the mandate here, plus a slew of Republicans doing the same in this ThinkProgress video.  Let Romney and his allies make the case for you.

This is also a great opportunity to let the American people know all the popular things that are in the bill that they didn’t hear about the first time.  Talk about the elimination of lifetime caps; how insurance companies can no longer deny people coverage based on preexisting conditions; how adult children can stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26; how no one can be dropped from their insurance plan when they get sick; how seniors get $250 to fill the Medicare prescription drug donut hole — these are the highlights.

It would have to be announced Friday so it could take up the weekend news cycle and be big news on the Sunday shows.  The campaign should send top surrogates out to all the shows — Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation, etc.  The tour could start on Monday at the state capital in Massachusetts — driving home the Romney home state connection — then could make its way across the country, hitting Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada.  Throughout the week, surrogates should be sent to all the morning shows — Today, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning — as well as the evening political shows.  Arm them with talking points (and make sure they stick to them — no Cory Booker moments) about the similarities between Obamacare and Romneycare as well as the popular provisions of the ACA that Romney now says he would repeal.  This has to be an all-out media blitz; we only get one shot at this.

Obviously, this sounds a little silly — and it is. But it’s great political theatre, and it would capture the attention of the punditry.  At the very least, the media will spend the week saying the phrase “ObamneyCare,” which hits at the whole point of the charade: solidifying the connection between what the Supreme Court just upheld and what Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts.  When it comes down to it, they’re virtually the same exact thing.  Once voters know that, they’ll see Mitt Romney’s attacks on Obamacare as the shameless, disingenuous political pandering that they really are.

In the 2010 midterms we saw can happen when Democrats let Republicans dominate the discussion on health care.  If Democrats don’t do everything they can to neutralize this issue in 2012, they risk repeating that fate.  If that means doing something as outlandish as an ObamneyCare Bus Tour, so be it.

Are 50 different sets of rules really more workable than one?

To the folks on the right who criticize Obamacare because the law is “a mess” — too long, difficult to enforce, etc. — is it really consistent to also support Mitt Romney’s idea that each state should have its own plan?  Isn’t having 50 different plans for 50 different states infinitely (well, at least 50x) more complicated than having one national plan, even if that plan is, admittedly, very complex?

And for those who oppose the ACA because they think it’s harmful to business: If you’re worried about businesses having to navigate the complicated terrain of government regulation, isn’t having one law that applies to businesses no matter where they are in the country a lot simpler than businesses having to figure out which of the 50 different sets of rules applies to them?  Under such a system, what happens to businesses that operate in multiple states?  Do they have to treat employees differently based on their state of residence/employment?  Or would businesses be under only the jurisdiction of the state in which they are headquartered, thus creating perverse incentives for states to “race to the bottom” of health care requirements to attract businesses?

Mitt Romney will continue to assail the ACA as a “bad law” and criticize it for a lack of workability.  He has a right to do so — implementation of an overhaul of an industry that makes up 1/6 of the economy is inherently complicated.  But his implication — that 50 different laws passed by 50 different states is somehow more workable and will be easier for patients and businesses to deal with — well, to borrow a phrase used recently by Antonin Scalia: it boggles the mind.

Did Obama dig his own grave on health care?

Krugman thinks so.  He sounds at least a little prophetic here back in December of 2007 during the Democratic primary — this is in response to then-Senator Obama criticizing the individual mandate portions of the health care plans of both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards:

[L]ately Mr. Obama has been stressing his differences with his rivals by attacking their plans from the right — which means that he has been giving credence to false talking points that will be used against any Democratic health care plan a couple of years from now.

Mr. Obama’s health plan is weaker than those of his Democratic rivals, but it’s infinitely superior to, say, what Rudy Giuliani has been proposing. My main concern right now is with Mr. Obama’s rhetoric: by echoing the talking points of those who oppose any form of universal health care, he’s making the task of any future president who tries to deliver universal care considerably more difficult.

I agree the fact that Republicans can run ads with clips of Obama speaking out against the individual mandate is politically unsightly.  But I don’t think the Republican attacks are really that dependent on the notion that “even Obama said this was a bad idea.”  Up to this point they’ve focused a lot on the fact that the mandate was unconstitutional.  With that option now gone, it looks like they’ll turn to attacking the ACA as a “massive tax increase.”  Neither of these are dependent on Obama’s prior opposition to the mandate.  They would stick just as easily even if the president had never been on the other side of the issue.

With regards to the idea that Obama gave Republicans talking points to use against him: this sort of implies they wouldn’t have come up with anything bad to say about it if he hadn’t given them these ideas.  If there’s anything these last few years have proven, it’s that Republicans can pretty well come up with lines of attack on the president on their own; in other words, they would have thought of them anyway.

So, in retrospect, it doesn’t look like Obama’s opposition to an individual mandate during the Democratic primaries has hurt him that much.  Still, the role reversal of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on the mandate issue is remarkable.  More on that later.

Starting Somewhere

I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while, but the SCOTUS decision today was the impetus.  Basically, I think thoughts sometimes, and people say it’s good for you to let them out.  So I’m giving it a try for a while.

It’s going to be mostly political — a mix of policy and politics, with an emphasis on messaging and strategy.  Both analysis of what the candidates are saying and what I think they should be saying.  My hope is that I can channel my energy here and thus avoid trolling on Facebook, a place where the waters are rougher and most people (understandably) don’t care what I think.

So let this (futile) venture begin.