Have you ever wondered why Big Business hasn’t thrown its staggering clout behind health care reform before now? I have, because it seems to me that it would be a huge relief to get out of the insurance biz and simply compensate employees competitively. With actual money, rather than with a commodity whose costs are always rising. Alas, what seemed like a no-brainer to me never happened. Matt Miller on The Daily Beast explains why.
Corporate America’s reflexive anti-government ideology now stands in the way of its self-interest. This reflex is hardly new, but to the extent it now stops America from adapting successfully to the global economy, this mind-set has become an economic threat in itself. Business originally resisted many government actions that have become widely supported fixtures of American life: child labor laws, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Social Security, the Marshall Plan, national parks, federal aid to education, Medicare. The list is endless, and embarrassing.
‘Often it fought them with such gruesome predictions of awful consequences to our private enterprise system,’ wrote Theodore Levitt of the Harvard Business School in 1968, ‘that one wonders how the foretellers of such doom can now face themselves in the mirror each morning and still believe themselves competent to make important decisions on major matters in their own companies.'”
Check that date again, it was more than 40 years ago that the country’s premier b-school questioned the competence of the nation’s CEOs. I’d say the current economy suggests those questions are still valid. I can only pray that if Big B won’t lobby for what is so clearly in its own interest, it will at least back that thing up while we take a shot at real reform.
For now, only one capitalist redoubt seems to realize that we’re living in a new world: the Committee for Economic Development, the business-led think tank. Its most recent health-care report doesn’t mince words: ‘The nation needs a new system to replace employer-provided health insurance.’
The CED would offer people access to private group coverage via regional insurance exchanges and would subsidize lower-income folks who need help. Over time, it would like government to pay for a basic plan for everyone and fund it via a consumption or value-added tax. The system would include new incentives for health-delivery systems to compete on value. Says the CED’s president, Charles Kolb: ‘Business needs to wake up and rethink this if we’re going to compete in a global economy and do right by ordinary Americans.'”
Pearls before swine, I’m afraid. Another business leader dismissed the CED’s conclusions because members are primarily retired, rather than active CEOs. Hunh? Did they get their chips removed at their retirement parties? Why would a pro-business organization recommend something that wouldn’t benefit its benefactors? That don’t make no sense, but dismissing what’s right is easier than changing an entrenched mind-set, even if that mind-set is reactionary and self-defeating. It’s also how we ended up with the costliest, though far from the best, health care system in the world.