Obama’s 100 days: What’s good for GM is good for the country
In the most pressing first 100 days of a president since Harry Truman, Barack Obama signals a pendulum swing back toward equilibrium between business interests and public interest: Rick Wagoner out as the mediocre chieftan of GM; Wall Street titans held to public scrutiny for running their profit machines into the ground; a move to end tax breaks for companies shifting jobs and revenues overseas. These are three big examples of shifting some burden back onto companies and the people who run them. If you screw up, you pay some consequence, even if it’s just being the subject of a sermon from the bully pulpit. If you’re punished because you keep Americans employed while competitors “off-shore” workers, that’s not right either. These moves are a good thing for American capitalism. It’s about competing after all, not protecting the entrenched players.
The worst move for business these 100 days: lack of universal healthcare. So far the emphasis has been on computerizing medical records. If you’re CEO of Athenahealth, you’re psyched. Otherwise, can that really make a difference? Health care costs place American companies at a distinct disadvantage. The cost of health care in the United States is 134 percent higher than the median cost of the nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. GM, for one, says health care costs adds about $2,000 to the sticker price of every car it makes. Removing that cost from companies suddenly drastically improves the bottom line. It may come at the cost of slightly higher tax rates on corporations, but I think most would jump at the trade. Can you find a company head who isn’t worried about health care costs? If so, it’s probably because he or she stopped offering health care years ago.
And for struggling entrepreneurs, it would be a welcome reprieve. I for one, saw my premium go up 15% this year – and I’m not sick. But I’m worried.