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Apr. 29 2009 - 4:26 pm | 5 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Obama’s 100 days: What’s good for GM is good for the country

President Obama speaks today in Arnold, Missouri (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

President Obama speaks today in Arnold, Missouri (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

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.


1 Total Comment
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  1. collapse expand

    What’s good for GM is good for the country

    Not if what’s good for the country includes the Chevy HHR on the list.

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    I've listened to Mort Zuckerman brag about the size of his yacht, reminisced with Donald Trump about the NJ Generals and sloshed back $150 bottles of wine with Gordon Getty on camera. I've written extensively for Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Barron's, the AP, The Washington Post Magazine and many other outlets. I also write and edit the Cabot Green Investor (www.cabot.net/green), a newsletter on eco-friendly investing. In addition to writing about business titans and investing, I also write about exotic travel and wine. I'm based on Boston's north shore, with my wife Jeanne, also a writer, our baby daughter, who likes saying new words, and our cat, who sleeps on the daily paper. Reach me at bcoffey at riverleap dot com.

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