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In a comment on another diary today, I mentioned some of the tactics I use to explain to businesspeople why single payer health care would help the US economy, and small business in particular.  What I didn't mention, and the topic of this diary, is the reaction I get almost every time I do so - thoughtful consideration of the idea, and a willingness to learn more. The most common question from them is, "If single payer coverage would be so good for business, why aren't the Democrats making the case for it nationally?"

I don't have an answer for that one, and it's one of the great missed opportunities of our political era. More beneath the orange cumulus cloud of wisdom.

First, my background. Though I am currently self-employed, I have been vice-president of a business employing 25 people, manager of a construction company, a business administrator and consultant, and a graphic designer who worked with many independent contractors. I have seen many different ways of doing business in small and medium size companies, and I know how decisions are made. I understand that in small business the owners are usually personally involved rather than remote, know their employees as people, and think long-term because they are trying to build their business into something to leave to their children. It is in large businesses that I see short-term thinking managers who are willing to shaft employees so their bonus will be bigger, because those bonuses are based on quarterly targets rather than how a business grows over a period of years.

Small business owners and builders are at a disadvantage compared to huge companies - their healthcare expenses are higher per employee than in large businesses with a big risk pool, and the administrative costs of maintaining healthcare insurance are high. Anything that would reduce those costs would advantage small business much more than large ones. In a single-payer environment, there would be no reason for resorting to strategies such as categorizing people who should be employees as independent contractors or temporary workers. Smart business owners don't want to do that, because they know that such workers will jump ship as soon as they are offered a job with health benefits, taking their skills with them. Smart business owners are looking for a solution to this problem, but the Democratic party isn't offering it to them. Our message here is confused and weak - not only are we not pushing for single payer in our party platform, we're not even talking about it even though it is what most of us want.

I think that part of the problem is that many Democrats have such animosity toward those who abuse employees that they express negativity toward all employers - and that isn't going to win over people who are our natural allies. Almost all talk of labor relations on this site is expressed in terms of union versus nonunion - which doesn't mean a thing to a startup with three or four employees who do a variety of jobs, and may be partners or have a profit-sharing plan. That little company may want to grow into a large enterprise or may have no greater aspiration than being a well-run and profitable microbusiness, but anyone who uses the rhetoric of large scale organizing with them shows that they don't understand their needs and values. (And yes, I have heard this happen.)

If Democrats talk about how progressive ideas will help those small enterprises compete with bureaucratic behemoths many times their size, we can really be the party of Main Street instead of Wall Street. The Main Streets of many little towns are still full of mom and pop businesses, owned and staffed by people who fear the anticapitalist rhetoric of some people on the Left. These are the businesses that everyone patronizes, the local places that are active in every community, and the owners are opinion makers in those communities.    

I happen to think that single-payer could be a winning issue, but there are plenty of others - starting with ending some of the tax breaks that allow large enterprises to pay nothing while competitors who can't afford teams of tax lawyers shoulder the burden.

Where is a bold Democratic candidate who will forcefully make the case that progressive ideas will make small business more able to compete with large ones, and in doing so keep our towns and cities vital? Until I see not just candidates making this a big part of their message, I will have little hope of winning over the minds and hearts of a substantial part of the electorate. We may get their votes one or two times because the Republicans are putting up such awful alternatives, but to really make them identify with us, we need to make the case for our ideas helping their community, and it should be front and center in our strategy.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There's another issue at play here (1+ / 0-)
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    Remember, the meme is that it's either business or worker. The middle ground is difficult to occupy. Further, although 98% of all businesses are small (less than 10 employees), it's difficult to accurately guage their pulse since the multinationals possess far more weight and lobbying power. Finally, the Chamber of Commerce is so relentless in it's business rah rah rah, that getting a word in edge wise is impossible. Remember, in the ACA, it was the National Federation of Independent Businesses that was the lead plaintiff.

    •  That's the wedge issue... (0+ / 0-)

      When you say the multinationals possess more weight, you are right - but one of the points I was trying to make was that the interests of the two are not naturally aligned and if we apply a little energy, we could split them off. The NFIB is not an effective representative for small business and isn't widely respected among small businesspeople - the owner at one  place I worked used to be a member but couldn't get anything but a form letter from them when he contacted them with a question, so he quit. A national association of progressive business owners could thrive and make a difference, but as far as I know nobody has ever tried to start one. Everybody who is a progressive business owner has the feeling that they're alone, even though they're not.  

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