You just know “Good to the last drop,” “Breakfast of champions,” and Just do it,” three slogans that get you out of bed, fed, and exercising. Today, they’re even bigger than the products they sell. They’re ingrained in our minds and our culture—to the benefit of big business.
Big business uses money to control the messages we consume. Nike and Electronic Arts will spend millions this weekend during the Masters Golf Tournament reconstructing Tiger Woods. And the machine rolls on.
Why, then, hasn’t big business tried to hit home the damage that will be wrought by Obamacare? How difficult would it be to come up with a slogan that captures a reduction in choice, massive debt and deficits to the national balance sheet, higher taxes for all (not just for the rich), and 16,500 new IRS jobs? Where has big business been?
You can’t blame small businesses. Small business lobbies, representing 95% of all businesses, have been vocal in their fight against Obamacare, just as they were when they fought back Hillarycare. The most visible have been the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCOC) and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
In fact, the USCOC spent $50 million fighting Obamacare before its passage on March 21 and aims to spend an additional $144 million to try to reform it with the November elections. President Tom Donohue, in a letter to his board of directors, wrote, “The Chamber is going to carry a message across the country that says the health care debate is not over.”
Meanwhile, the response on the part of big business has been a mixed bag at best. This is a travesty, considering that big business represents the largest number of private-sector workers in America. Why so quiet? For one, health care is an employer-driven business. Ever since the early ’60s, when the government imposed wage controls, businesses have used health care and benefits for employee retention and perks.
The perks have grown to be an employee entitlement and a nightmare for businesses. For example, when I was at Fidelity Investments 15 years ago, one of their growth businesses was managing health and benefits Fortune 500 companies chose to outsource. It had become an incredibly complicated and exceedingly expensive task.
Now with Obamacare, many of these same companies are smiling at the door, waving as that responsibility moves on to the government.
Obamacare supporter Wal-Mart is the single largest employer, with 1.8 million employees, followed by Kelly Services, a staffing and temporary help company with 750,000. Here’s what Carl T. Camden, CEO of Kelly, told BusinessWeek on the subject of health care in May of last year: “There are employers that don’t want the responsibility, and we are in that category…. My health care costs total more than my profits.”
What about the companies not in bed with Obama on health care? Is it fair to go after them for not speaking out? No. Some, like Caterpillar, Verizon, John Deere, 3M, and AK Steel, have tried speaking up. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA30) wants to know why, and will bring them to Washington for questioning. Maybe Mr. Waxman should reread the law, which requires businesses to take charges in the quarter they are recognized. Business losses resulting from Obamacare could reach $14 billion, according to some estimates.
Business Roundtable (BRT) is the largest lobby of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies. BRT has been stuck in the middle on Obamacare, trying to do the impossible and satisfy all its members. As a result, BRT has been absent from the debate. You see, large companies don’t have much to lose from complacency, since alienating customers is bad for the bottom line. Being first to speak out is not what big business does.
That’s a shame, considering that they, more than anyone, benefit from America’s free market system.
I’m in the trenches helping you fight for a free market system based on smaller government. Imagine reforming Obamacare with a system based on freedom of choice—like Americans enjoy when buying coffee, cereal, or sneakers. Big business could have helped push that message instead of wavering somewhere in the middle.