NFIB’S Dan Dan­ner: 5 ques­tions with Decker

Small busi­ness takes on Oba­macare

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Brett M. Decker

At the end of March, the Supreme Court will rule on NFIB’S chal­lenge to Oba­macare. What’s your con­sti­tu­tional ar­gu­ment against the health care law?

The pri­mary ar­gu­ment we will be mak­ing is that the re­quire­ment that ev­ery Amer­i­can pur­chase health in­sur­ance is an un­prece­dented and un­con­sti­tu­tional over­reach of fed­eral power. More plainly, never be­fore has the gov­ern­ment forced in­di­vid­u­als to buy a prod­uct, and if the man­date is not struck down, there will be noth­ing that the gov­ern­ment can’t com­pel Amer­i­cans to pur­chase. Congress has au­thor­ity to reg­u­late com­merce but not to force peo­ple to en­gage in it.

If the man­date is found un­con­sti­tu­tional, NFIB be­lieves that the en­tire law should be struck down. Just do the math— with­out the man­date, the law would be fi­nan­cially un­ten­able. Fur­ther, it would no longer do what Congress in­tended it to do, which was ex­pand cov­er­age and pro­vide in­sur­ance at a lower cost. With­out the man­date, noth­ing even re­motely re­sem­bling the cur­rent law would have been passed by Congress or signed by the pres­i­dent.

How im­por­tant is this de­bate over health care for the small busi­nesses you rep­re­sent?

The health-care de­bate is of mon­u­men­tal im­por­tance to our mem­ber­ship. For decades, small-busi­ness own­ers have been say­ing that ris­ing health-care costs are one of their top con­cerns. Un­for­tu­nately, it is abun­dantly clear to our mem­ber­ship that the new health-care law is not go­ing to help re­duce the cost of pro­vid­ing health care to their em­ploy­ees. In fact, this law goes as far as to pun­ish and fi­nan­cially pe­nal­ize small-busi­ness own­ers that both pro­vide and do not pro­vide cov­er­age. The em­ployer man­date and health in­sur­ance tax are small-busi­ness job killers. NFIB’S Re­search Foun­da­tion sim­u­lated the job-loss im­pact on the pri­vate sec­tor should the health in­sur­ance tax go into ef­fect, and we found that 125,000 to 249,000 jobs will be lost be­cause of this one tax; small busi­ness will shoul­der 59 per­cent of this bur­den alone.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the em­ployer man­date is al­ready forc­ing mem­bers of ours to re­con­sider how they struc­ture their work force. Some em­ploy­ers of over 50 em­ploy­ees are con­sid­er­ing shift­ing their full-timers to part-time, drop­ping health in­sur­ance al­to­gether, or re­duc­ing em­ploy­ment to drop be­low the thresh­old. These moves by small-busi­ness own­ers may dras­ti­cally al­ter the pri­vate-sec­tor work force as we know it. The fi­nan­cial penal­ties as­so­ci­ated with the em­ployer man­date are al­ready fac­tor­ing into the bud­get plans of small-busi­ness own­ers and many are al­ready fore­cast­ing an in­abil­ity to af­ford it. Sim­ply put, the health-care law is a field filled with land mines, bear traps and pits ready to take down a small-busi­ness owner. Re­peal­ing these egre­gious pro­vi­sions and get­ting back on the path to­ward re­duc­ing the ac­tual cost of health care is a top pri­or­ity for NFIB and our mem­ber­ship.

Oba­macare is merely one ex­am­ple of new red tape in­sti­tuted in re­cent years that threat­ens to stran­gle busi­ness. What other reg­u­la­tions — whether al­ready on the books or in the works — are your mem­bers wor­ried about?

Due to the sheer vol­ume of new rules com­ing down the fed­eral reg­u­la­tory pipe­line, there are far too many to list here. In fact, over 4,200 new rules are pend­ing, 845 of which will af­fect small busi­nesses. The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA), the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion (OSHA), and the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board (NLRB) are the worst of­fend­ers. For ex­am­ple, the EPA is work­ing to fi­nal­ize a new rule that would set vir­tu­ally unattain­able new lim­its on in­dus­trial boiler emis­sions. We are ad­vo­cat­ing that the EPA use a health-based stan­dard rather than the tech­nol­ogy-driven stan­dard pro­posed in the new rule. We are lead­ing a coali­tion ad­vo­cat­ing for sen­si­ble, rather than puni­tive, reg­u­la­tions called Small Busi­nesses for Sen­si­ble Reg­u­la­tions. The coali­tion web­site has a more com­pre­hen­sive list of trou­ble­some new reg­u­la­tions that will cost small busi­nesses — and the econ­omy — po­ten­tially bil­lions of dol­lars.

NFIB has come out strongly against cur­rent re­form in cor­po­rate tax rates be­cause these don’t help small busi­nesses. What’s that dis­agree­ment all about?

Let me be clear that the NFIB is not op­posed to cor­po­rate tax re­form. The prob­lem we have heard in the cur­rent de­bate is that the cor­po­rate rate will be low­ered at the ex­pense of small busi­nesses fil­ing as in­di­vid­u­als by elim­i­nat­ing many of the de­duc­tions and cred­its they cur­rently use. Around 75 per­cent of small busi­nesses file taxes on their busi­ness in­come at the in­di­vid­ual rates. Tax re­form must be done com­pre­hen­sively to avoid these “pass-through” busi­nesses from be­ing un­fairly pun­ished. We be­lieve that busi­ness tax rates should be low­ered at both the cor­po­rate and in­di­vid­ual lev­els and more per­ma­nence should be added to the tax code to avoid the an­nual guess­ing game of which cred­its and de­duc­tions, so-called tax ex­ten­ders, will be con­tin­ued, re­duced or elim­i­nated.

The White House is beat­ing the drum that the econ­omy is turn­ing up. How do small busi­nesses see the eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment com­pared to a year ago?

Small-busi­ness own­ers are op­ti­mistic by na­ture, but they are not en­cour­aged by the cur­rent state of our econ­omy. They have been plagued by eco­nomic un­cer­tainty for years, and now with the ex­pec­ta­tion of new costs, taxes and reg­u­la­tions to come, there is lit­tle in­cen­tive for them to ex­pand and hire new em­ploy­ees. The Small-busi­ness Op­ti­mism In­dex — our met­ric for owner sen­ti­ment — was lower in Fe­bru­ary 2012 than it was in Fe­bru­ary 2011. In the course of the last year, small-busi­ness own­ers ac­tu­ally be­came more con­cerned and more un­cer­tain, not in spite of what the gov­ern­ment is say­ing and do­ing, but be­cause of it. Un­til Washington shows Main Street that it is ready to lis­ten and ad­dress the needs of the small-busi­ness com­mu­nity, our econ­omy will con­tinue its slow and in­cre­men­tal re­cov­ery.

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