Republicans’ aggressive obstruction of the Affordable Care
Act has mystified me at times. I’m pretty sure I get it now, though.
The catalyst was Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ comment over
the weekend that now would be a good time to abolish public sector unions once
and for all. A light went on for me. There’s a connection.
This is fundamentally about the relationship between you and
Forget this Tea Party nonsense about Obama’s “socialism,” or
his birth certificate. Forget abortion, same-sex marriage and gun rights. Forget
immigration. Let’s even set aside taxes. The mainstream Republican elite is all
about the party’s corporate base, and its mantra is about maximizing value to shareholders.
Peel away all other layers and that’s the essence of the GOP. These people are professionals.
Teabaggers and evangelicals vote; corporations pay the bills.
This is my first post since
November 4, 2008. *sigh*
Corporations try to be rational about their costs, which is
why so many jobs are outsourced to low-wage countries. Nevertheless, companies
appear to see value in locating some operations in the US. The problem with
this, however, is the cost of maintaining American workers’ standards of
living. We’re not cost-competitive.
Republicans, on behalf of their corporate backers, have long
wanted to change that. They began making real headway in 1981, when the Reagan
Administration, in its true defining moment, fired over 11,000 striking air
traffic controllers, banning them from federal jobs for life. This was not just
a blow to public sector organizing; it was the beginning of the end for unions
generally. This is of a piece with a core conservative strategy: To hold down
labor costs in the US by shifting the balance of strength in wage and benefit
negotiations as far as possible toward the side of management.
Not long ago, General Motors sought to blame its poor
financial performance on its health care obligations to its employees and
retirees. For each car that rolled off its assembly lines, GM said, about $2000
of the price came from workers’ health care benefits. One might think this
would make companies like GM strong backers of universal, single-payer health
care, which would shift the burden of health benefits off the backs of
employers altogether, making them more competitive with companies in countries
with single-payer or heavily subsidized systems. But no. It doesn’t work that
How much have you given up just to keep your present
corporate job? Ever thought about ditching it and starting your own business?
What stopped you? What stops a lot of people isn’t the lousy economy – it’s
health care. Buying insurance as an individual or a small start-up is daunting.
It’s nearly impossible for a lot of freelancers. Health insurance binds you to
your employer. Haven’t had a raise in three years? Fed up with long hours,
doing what used to be two or three people’s jobs, doing without niceties like
IT support? Hey, at least you’ve got health insurance. Sure, the co-pays keep
going up, but at least they can’t dump you altogether because of your
It matters, strategically, to your employer to have you
dependent on them for your benefits. It keeps you complacent and willing to accept
a much weaker negotiating position when it comes to your own future. Perhaps
this is what makes it so attractive for globalized corporations to maintain
operations in the US – Europeans do strikes and boycotts. Americans have never
gotten the hang of those things – this in a county where a typical CEO makes over 400 times what an average worker makes
, a ratio an order of magnitude
larger than anywhere else in the developed world.
Corporate executives and their shills in Congress have no
trouble squaring this with their consciences. No, it isn’t only Republicans.
The erosion of workers’ positions toward their employers, in good markets and
bad markets, has been a Republican project since the Nixon Administration (the
folks who midwifed the birth of Managed Care in the US). But since 1968, only two
US Presidents have not been parties to this undertaking: Jimmy Carter and Barack
This helps to explain the relentlessness of conservative
campaigns to destroy the reputations of these two men.
If you’re not an investment banker or a C-level executive,
it should underscore the importance of supporting Barack Obama’s re-election.