Today's political climate is considered to be more polarized than ever before, making it very difficult to determine what is true, what arguments are accurate, what partisan positions mean and whether there is any reasonable measure by which the effects of those positions can be analyzed.
In the 2012 election, healthcare has taken center stage in the public debate, with the emphasis increased by the fact that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA) is currently under review by the
Supreme Court of the United States. The SCOTUS decision may be issued as early as June of 2012.*
The ACA is often referred to as Obamacare because its passage was a priority of the President. Interestingly,
it was modeled in large part on the law passed in Massachusetts by then-governor Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.**
Although the PPACA affects individual healthcare, its consequences are felt throughout the American economy, by businesses large and small. The question is, how? Perhaps more to the point, what impact would the policies of either presidential candidate about healthcare have on small business in the United States going forward? Can we even tell?
Frankly, it is difficult to state with any certainty what the overall effect will be on SMBs in the U.S. if the law is allowed to stand, or, for that matter, if the Supreme Court strikes it down. What is known is that under the Act, small employers that provide health insurance get a tax credit reimbursing them for up to a third to half of what they pay. This is especially advantageous to low-wage employers.
During the Republican nomination process, Governor Romney's primary opponents have argued that Obamacare was modeled in great part on what they called Romneycare, hoping to cast the governor on the same side as the President (i.e., not the GOP side) of the healthcare debate. Assuming the Supreme Court does not strike down the entire law, this may make for some interesting political theater in the general election as Governor Romney may have to parse the Massachusetts legislation for significant differences (if they exist) between that law and the Affordable Care Act.
So, where does this leave American SMBs? Which position (pro or con) best serves small business? If one assumes that greater healthcare access for more Americans is a good thing (as the supporters of the Act assert), then it is likely good for the overall economy if workers are able to afford healthcare and take better care of themselves. This will reduce the drain on productivity caused by illness in the workplace. The counter argument is that the overall cost to the economy far exceeds the benefit of healthcare coverage for more Americans.
The complexity of the issue is borne out by the results of a poll conducted in March of this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation***. The poll showed approximately 60 % of respondents did not have enough information about the act to know how it would impact them personally. Why would it be any different for business owners?
This issue is perhaps one of the most important in recent memory. It is, however, certainly not the only one that has potential significant long-term effects on SMBs and, by extension, the overall economy. It has been reported**** that small businesses make up 99% of all business. Those businesses create 60% of all new jobs. Where the candidates stand on issues impacting SMBs is then of critical importance to the economy going forward.
There's a saying that there are only two things certain in life: Death and taxes. We can probably add disagreement about taxes as a third. Payroll taxes, income tax, sales tax, regulatory fees and state and local taxes all impact SMBs. Much as some would like to persuade us that taxation and government spending are simple matters, those issues are very complex and require understanding at a granular level. The reality of presidential electioneering prevents President Obama and Governor Romney from discussing taxation and government spending in any detail, making it difficult to ascertain what effect their economic plans will have on small business in this country. Yet, understanding what those plans are is essential to making a wise decision come November.
Small business owners should seek out as many different nonpartisan information sources as possible. Relying on thirty-second news sound bites or the latest opinion of a cable TV talking head are poor substitutes for actually informing oneself about the facts. Owners of small businesses might be better served using the following sources instead:
We suggest that you seek out clearly non-partisan sources to determine whether your business is well-served by the policies of either the Democratic or Republican candidate for President. Now is not the time for strict adherence to ideology or blind allegiance to talking points because, as George Bernard Shaw once said, "Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."
*If the Supreme Court holds PPACA to be unconstitutional, the comments contained herein will likely be rendered moot.
**As this was being written, former Pennsylvania Governor Rick Santorum officially "suspended" his presidential campaign.
***A non-partisan healthcare information clearinghouse.
****Research conducted by the Small Business Association and Census Bureau.
About the Author
Carolyn Sokol writes about issues that may affect small businesses such as human resources, HRMS and HR software. She is a founder of PEOcompare.com and contributer to compareHRIS.com which help match small businesses to the right HR or Payroll Service Provider for their particular needs.
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