Tag Archive for 'health care reform'

What President Obama doesn’t get about creating small business jobs

In the two previous posts, I reported on things I liked about President Obama’s State of the Union speech and my critique of his specific small business jobs-creation ideas.  In this post, I predict that all of the tax credits, bank loans or other policy gyrations designed to influence small businesses to create new jobs will fall woefully short of a successful result because none of these issues are the reason businesses aren’t creating jobs. The reason for sluggish jobs creation is best described by paraphrasing a recent movie title: Mr. President, we’re just not that into your policy initiatives.  Here are the two issues Obama doubled-down on in his speech that are in direct conflict with his hope of new small business jobs.

Health care reform: Most Main Street small business owners will be reluctant to hire new employees as long as Obama and his party’s leadership push a health care reform agenda that sounds confusing at best and prohibitively expensive at worst.  Mr. President, if you want more small business jobs, scrap the current health care reform bill in Congress and start over with market-based solutions that make health insurance portable by giving tax advantages to the individual rather than the 20th century model of deductions for the employer.

Climate change legislation: America’s businesses, large and small, are already the most carbon-efficient in the world when the appropriate measurement is ascribed, per dollar of GDP.  Mr. Obama should congratulate businesses for this and encourage more of the same, instead of deriding and demotivating the marketplace with his climate-change policies that cause small businesses concern over what will happen to their energy budget if the current climate-change legislation is passed. 

President Obama, your current strategy for motivating small businesses to hire more people won’t work. You need better small business advisors who can prevent you from embarrassing yourself with statements and proposals that demonstrate how out-of-touch you are with Main Street.

Recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I reported in more detail on these issues. Take a few minutes to listen and, as always, let me know what you think the government can do to help small businesses hire more people. Listen Live! Download, Too!

The difference between health care reform and politics

In the beginning, there was a philosophical desire to reform health care in America. One thing that most people on both sides of the debate agreed upon is that something must be done to improve the way we deliver and pay for health care. Initially, the debate was over how to accomplish that Herculean task.

In Biblical days, the Pharisees had, as they claimed, the power “to bind and loose.” Currently, Democrats have this kind of legislative power, but interestingly enough, there is a debate within the debate among the Democrats as to how to accomplish reform, primarily along the lines of how much the government should be involved in our health care system.

When you blend this debate-within-the-debate with the political prudence of galvanizing some kind of bipartisan reform legislation, then stir in the arbitrary time pressure President Obama and the Democrat leadership has placed on this process, the result is a contest between so many different legislative proposals that the average person watching can’t possibly score this game at home.

In all of this convolution, there is one thing that is starting to become clear to regular folks: those in the “damn the political torpedoes, full speed ahead with reform now” camp are starting to look like their objective has evolved from health care reform for its own sake to health care reform purely for the sake of politics. No one is naive enough to believe that any health care reform won’t be political, but when we’re talking about a topic that involves 17% of the U.S. economy and has few peers in terms of the personal impact on every American, shouldn’t we expect the final product to actually be more focused on reform than on accomplishing a political win?

Watching this embarrassing mayhem has led me to want no health care reform legislation at all right now. Any bill produced in the current process will be so flawed that it will surely create more damage than solution. The reform process should be scrapped completely until market opportunities and governmental checks and balances can be debated with the single purpose of setting our health care system on a track that makes sense for Americans living in the societal and market realities of the 21st century, not a victim of the vestiges of 20th century political party dysfunction.

As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Jim Blasingame’s 2010 crystal ball predictions

This year marks the 10th year of my Small Business Advocate Crystal Ball predictions. For the first nine years, my accuracy percentage has averaged 70%, including 13 for 16 in 2009. Take a look and see what you think about how I will do in 2010.

2010 Prediction: The fragile economic recovery will continue at a marathon pace with steady annual GDP growth of between 2% and 3%.

2010 Prediction: Surviving small businesses will have fewer competitors due to recession casualties and fewer start-ups.

2010 Prediction: Big business layoffs in 2008-09 will produce small business opportunity in two ways: less competition for customers and outsourced business from the big guys.

2010 Prediction: Reversing the 2009 trend, growing small business loan demand will signal Main Street recovery.

2010 Prediction: Improved balance sheets and TARP repayment won’t cause large banks to increase small business lending.

2010 Prediction: Community banks will continue to increase as the option-of-choice for small business growth capital.

2010 Prediction: The multifaceted challenges of the real estate triumvirate of housing, mortgages and commercial will continue to produce significant economic headwinds.

2010 Prediction: The second jobless recovery in a decade will result in unemployment above 9% at year-end.

2010 Prediction: Diminished consumer credit, combined with a new aversion to debt, will stunt economic growth.

2010 Prediction: U.S. stock markets ended 2009 flush due to earnings based on expense cuts, not revenue growth. This scenario will not repeat in 2010.

2010 Prediction: So called “health care reform” legislation will be signed into law along strict party lines.

2010 Prediction: Election-year realities will cause Democrats to forsake their leadership’s goals for pro-union and cap-and-trade legislation.

2010 Prediction: Republicans will increase seats in both houses without gaining control of either but will win a filibuster minority in the Senate.

2010 Prediction: The federal government will intervene to keep California out of bankruptcy. New York will follow.

2010 Prediction: Under pressure from within and without, a desperate Iranian government will take steps that disrupt geopolitics and global markets.

2010 Prediction: Recognizing the power of community building technologies and practices, small businesses will increasingly leverage these tools to find new competitive advantages.

2010 Prediction: With increased product information and user experiences available online, The Age of the Customer has begun. More customers will choose businesses offering online platforms that promote dialogue and deliver targeted information.

Finally, continue to expect a deliberate, marathon-like recovery.

I talked about these predictions in more detail recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Take a few minutes to listen and let me know what you think about my prophecies. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Reviewing Blasingame’s 2009 Predictions and accuracy

It’s time to review my 2009 predictions from a year ago and tally my accuracy.

Prediction: In 2009, Main Street and small businesses, not Wall Street, will suffer the most. Reality: Unemployment 10.2%, Dow Jones up 55%, +1.

Prediction: The recovery will begin in the second half of ’09. Reality: Technically, the recession ended Q2, +1.

Prediction: The credit crisis will hurt business start-up opportunities. Reality: Record low new businesses, +1.

Prediction: Retailers and big-ticket sellers will suffer the most in 2009. Reality: This one was easy, +1.

Prediction: The Obama administration will produce a successful small business economic relief plan. Reality: Shouldn’t have said “successful,” -1.

Prediction: Community banks will thrive in 2009. Reality: Except in states hit hard by real estate speculation, community banks have been the bright spots in the economy, +1.

Prediction: Unprecedented government intervention will not bear economic fruit until the second half. Reality: “Cash for clunkers” in Q3, +1.

Prediction: The Obama administration will not push the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act in 2009. Reality: Bingo! Expect it in 2010, +1.

Prediction: Congress will not pass a “cap-and-trade” bill in 2009. Reality: House 1/Senate 0, +1.

Prediction: The Obama administration will not recommend any tax increases. Reality: No new taxes, but many “recommended,” -1.

Prediction: The Obama administration will push hard for healthcare reform in 2009. Reality: Economy and health care reform have been 1a and 1b, +1.

Prediction: Al Franken, will be the next Senator from Minnesota. Reality: Franken was sworn in July 8, 2009, +1.

Prediction: The Fed will begin nudging interest rates up in Q4. Reality: Didn’t happen, -1.

Prediction: Oil prices will average below $65 per barrel. Reality: 2009 average was $59.04, +1.

Prediction: The electorate will rise up against the federal government over poor leadership and anti-growth policies. Reality: Tea Parties, +1.

Prediction: Wall Street and Washington created most of our economic problems, but Main Street small businesses will lead the recovery. Reality: Any questions? +1.

After a bad ’08 (7 for 15), I went 13 for 16 in ’09, putting my 9-year average at 70%. How’d you do?

Health care reform ideas that work for small business

There seems to be no stopping the government’s plan to begin the incremental takeover and ultimately control of America’s health care system. The most likely bill seems to be the one being written by Senator Max Baucus, (D-Montana), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which would result in a sweeping overhaul of an industry that is one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

But instead of health care reform for its own sake, meaning that the issues that need fixing are addressed and logical adjustments are put in place, what we now have is health care reform for the sake of politics. If you think this is an overstatement, consider this: Currently over 550 amendments have been proposed to the Baucus bill. This ridiculous number of amendments, plus the fact that there is an arbitrary push to get a bill signed into law this year, is proof that this effort is all about politics and has very little to do with quality reform.

America has a filet mignon health care system that is not perfect and could use some fixing. But please explain why we would let this sausage factory we call Congress get control of a $2.5 trillion industry that, unlike any other industry, touches the most intimate aspects of the lives of every American. Why would we allow the same people who have managed Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the U.S. Postal Service into de facto bankruptcy to take over our health care system? And shouldn’t the horror we’ve seen with the mismanagement of VA hospitals give us great pause before we hand over our health care system to the government?

You would be correct to point out that the current proposals aren’t about an immediate takeover of the U.S. health care system. But anyone who thinks this isn’t the ultimate plan is living in a fantasy world. Once this bill is passed, the socialized medicine, single-payer system camel will have its nose under the free-market economy tent and it will just be a matter of time before this stinking dromedary will be wreaking havoc in America’s living rooms.

There are many ways the marketplace and government can work together to accomplish true reform, not the least of which would be tort reform, but here is just one:

Take away the employer deduction for employee health insurance expense and replace it with tax credits given to every American to shop around and buy their own health care insurance, the same way we shop for, and buy, everything else. If you, or your employer, want you to have a better plan, you can pay for that with after-tax dollars. With this plan, a federal law would also be needed to allow individuals to buy insurance across state lines, thus avoiding the various state insurance mandates

This simple reform would solve many problems, including but not limited to:
- create a more efficient insurance system
- create more competition – real market-based competition
- create more innovation, both in insurance and health care products and services
- create more marketplace jobs and fewer government jobs
- eliminate an employee being held hostage to a job because of insurance benefits
- eliminate the “pre-existing medical condition” problem
- Americans would become health care consumers, instead of just co-paying patients.

All of these elements would be good for small businesses, but especially because they would help level the benefits playing field in competing for workers.

Perhaps the greatest flaw of this health care reform idea is that it’s simple and would actually work in real life – a concept seemingly foreign to members of the political class.

As always, looking forward to your comments.

The lion of the Senate and small business

The lion is dead.

The senior Senator from Massachusetts, Edward Moore Kennedy, has lost his battle with brain cancer, which, like the rain, falls on the just and the unjust, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak.

The only thing the name Kennedy is more synonymous with than wealth, public service, power and privilege is unspeakable tragedy. It has been said that to whom much is given much is required. In the case of clan Kennedy, much has indeed been given, but surely too much has been taken away. Now the youngest child of Joe and Rose has been taken by a tragic disease.

In the hours since his death, many have reflected on his life and work, including those who agreed with his politics and those who didn’t. I am in the latter camp.

I didn’t know the Senator, but we have mutual friends and they loved him. Apparently, you were fortunate if he called you friend. And it’s admirable that, for someone to the manor born, he could have lived a life of leisure but chose rather to dedicate his energy to public service. That service, however, too often was at cross-purposes with two things that I love and have dedicated my own life’s work and energy to: the marketplace and small businesses.

For years I have been an ardent and public critic of Senator Kennedy for championing issues that I believe are harmful to small businesses. For example: minimum wage increases, laws that promote unionism, carbon emission laws that threaten the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, innumerable tax increases and the one about which he was the most passionate, his Big Kahuna, universal health care.

He was known as the “liberal lion of the Senate.” For the same reasons that he earned that moniker, I gave him another one: the arch-enemy of small business. I think I know enough about the Senator to believe that he wouldn’t want me to be a hypocrite today, so I still stand by that appraisal of his record.

There is at least on thing that Kennedy and I had in common: a sometimes ill-advised courage of our convictions. I much prefer those who feel strong enough about their ideas to declare them. Unfortunately, in my opinion, most of the public policy convictions Kennedy declared I consider the work of someone out of touch with what has made America great, our free market system.

But Ted Kennedy was an icon for something else that is great about America, individualism. God help us if America ever stops producing individuals like Ted Kennedy and if it ever prevents such an individual from declaring his convictions – even when I disagree with them.

Rest in peace, Senator Kennedy; I won’t miss your work but I will miss your spirit.

Recently, on my small business radio program I talked about Senator Kennedy with two members of my Brain Trust. Rich Galen, publisher of Mullings.com, a Republican who worked on the other side of Kennedy’s policies, and Bill Brandt, President of DSI, Inc., a Democrat, who was a friend of Ted Kennedy for over 30 years. Take a few minutes to listen to these conversations, and be sure to leave your thoughts.

For Rich Galen:
For Bill Brandt:

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