Sunday, November 8, 2009
Maybe I should have subtitled this post, "It's not all about you."
We Americans really seem to be lacking the ability to do big picture thinking. I was listening to C-SPAN this morning and once again was struck by the incredible tunnel vision way too many people display. Over and over I heard the complaint that health care reform is going to drive up the costs for small businesses so they won't be able to compete. Several callers, in fact, claimed to be business owners who said having to pay for health insurance would drive up their labor costs and thus they'd lose their competitive edge.
Edge against who? Who is the competition? I can understand complaints about labor costs going up if you're manufacturing widgets to sell to Walmart, because then the competition is child labor in a third world sweatshop working for pennies a day, but if you're a construction contractor? A hotel owner? Someone who runs a local grocery store or tire shop? News flash for those folks: everyone else's costs are going to go up, too. The playing field will actually be more level than before -- because the employers who had been trying to offer health benefits, i.e., the small business owners with some compassion and/or sense of decency, willl no longer be competing with businesses whose idea of health benefits had been keeping a box of band-aids in a desk drawer.
The complaints about health care costs, the mandatory insurance payments, remind me a great deal of the same complaints small businesses engage in every time there's a discussion about raising the minimum wage. They all howl as though their individual business is the only one that is being forced to raise pay rates -- they behave as though their roofing company or restaurant or local supermarket is going to so screwed because everyone else will still be paying the old wages. It never seems to occur to them that if they're being forced to do something, so is everyone else. Nothing's changed in terms of competitive edge. If there is an added cost, it's industry-wide.
It's a good thing I'm not a C-SPAN moderator. I would never be able to resist the urge to tell people to STFU and stop sounding like whining teenage prima donnas.