The ef­fects of Oba­ma­nomics

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

Robert J. Sa­muel­son’s ar­gu­ment that Pres­i­dent Obama’s “ highly par­ti­san” re­form agenda has pre­vented eco­nomic re­cov­ery [“Judg­ing Obama’s eco­nom­ics,” op-ed, Jan. 3] was wrong on three counts.

First, while the means and meth­ods are open to de­bate, re­form­ing health care and pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment are bi­par­ti­san goals. Far from be­ing par­ti­san tac­tics, cou­pling short-term stim­u­lus and fi­nan­cial re­form with ef­forts to re­duce the drag of ris­ing health-care costs on the econ­omy made per­fect sense.

Sec­ond, there is no ev­i­dence that health-care cov­er­age re­quire­ments start­ing in 2014 had any ef­fect on the hir­ing de­ci­sions of any busi­ness, re­gard­less of size, in 2010. The far like­lier cul­prit in the slow re­cov­ery was ex­ces­sive cau­tion by busi­ness and con­sumers alike fol­low­ing the near-death ex­pe­ri­ence of 2008 and 2009.

And third, since ex­ces­sive re­gard for “ busi­ness con­fi­dence” was a key con­trib­u­tor to the re­cent fi­nan­cial and eco­nomic col­lapse, some min­i­mal at­ten­tion to reg­u­la­tory re­form was jus­ti­fied. To sug­gest oth­er­wise is to bind all po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in a Catch-22 wherein busi­ness con­fi­dence is un­der­mined by long-term threats (e.g., ris­ing health-care costs) and ef­forts to ad­dress those threats.

For­tu­nately, there’s no real rush to judg­ment on Mr. Obama’s eco­nomic per­for­mance, as vot­ers will have the fi­nal say in 2012.

By then, Obama’s “par­ti­san” agenda will be rec­og­nized as some­thing else: lead­er­ship.

Wil­liam D. Cordes, Washington

Top Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing Speaker John A. Boehner, have re­peat­edly stated that “Oba­macare is a job killer for busi­nesses small and large.” [news story, Jan. 3].

Re­ally? The 2009 fed­eral health-re­form law re­quires em­ploy­ers with 50 or more full-time-equiv­a­lent em­ploy­ees to pro­vide health in­surance for each full-time worker or pay $2,000 per full-time worker into a health in­surance ex­change. There are no em­ployer obli­ga­tions for part-timers. At 2,080 hours per year per full-time worker, that’s the equiv­a­lent of pay­ing 96 cents per hour per full-time em­ployee. Since no em­ployer con­tri­bu­tion is re­quired for the first 30 em­ploy­ees, the re­quire­ment equates to 48 cents or less per hour per em­ployee for busi­nesses with 60 or fewer full-time em­ploy­ees. A job killer? Hardly. How about for­go­ing an hourly raise of 48 to 96 cents from 2010 to 2014 to elim­i­nate any fi­nan­cial im­pact on the busi­ness?

Doneg McDonough, Washington

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