December 10,2009

Grassley: Businesses of All Sizes Oppose Health Care Reform Bill

As I travel around Iowa I hear a lot of concern about out of control government spending. People are worried about all the bailouts ... the banks, the automakers. They’re worried about the rising rate of unemployment ... over 10 percent now. They don’t see how we’ll ever dig ourselves out of the deficit hole we’re in ... a deficit that has increased by 1.3 trillion dollars since President Obama’s inauguration. And they’re confused. They’re confused why in the face of all these fiscal problems ... some in Congress are proposing 500 billion dollars in tax increases. They don’t understand why some are proposing the largest Medicaid expansion since the program’s creation. And they want to know why they’re proposing 500 billion dollars in Medicare cuts to create an entirely new entitlement program that this country can’t afford. Nowhere are these worries and this confusion more evident than among this country’s business leaders. Whether it’s the small business owner on Main Street or the CEO on Wall Street ... the message is clear ... stop spending ... get the economy back on track ... and get people back to work.

Unfortunately ... the pending health reform bill will not help address any of these goals. In fact, it may do the opposite. Don’t take my word for it ... let’s take a look at what the groups that represent America’s businesses are saying. Let’s start with the Chamber of Commerce, which represents about 3 million American businesses. In a press release distributed on November 19th, one day after the release of the Senate bill, the Chamber called the Senate bill a “Missed Opportunity to Enact Meaningful Reform.” More specifically ... the Chamber writes, “This bill still contains a government-run plan and an onerous employer mandate, it taxes working Americans, slashes Medicare, spends over a trillion dollars – and after all this – CBO tells us 24 million Americans will still not have health insurance.”

That doesn’t sound like the kind of reform that is going to help get the Chamber’s members back on track. It sounds like they will end up being forced to pay higher taxes and cut jobs. I’m not an economist ... but that certainly doesn’t sound like a formula for getting this country out of a recession. In fact the Chamber’s press release says, “The Chamber believes the path to a healthier economy is to cut taxes, not to raise them by $500 billion.”

And they go on to ask a question that I still can’t find a good answer for: “Why is there still no meaningful medical liability reform? Is currying favor with the trial lawyers worth passing up $50 billion in CBO verified savings?”

I think it’s pretty clear that the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t think this 2.5 trillion dollar bill will cure what ails the U.S. economy. But let’s see what some other business groups have to say.

The National Association of Manufacturers also put out a press release on November 19th. The National Association of Manufacturers is the nation’s largest industrial trade association. Their members build the machines that keep America running ... so they should know a little bit about how to get our economy running again. But unfortunately ... they see Senator Reid’s bill as a step in the wrong direction. Like the Chamber of Commerce ... and pretty much every other business group ... The National Association of Manufacturers has announced that they cannot support the pending bill.

I find it hard to believe that some Senators that claim to be pro-business could support a bill that is opposed by almost the entire business community ... am I missing something? How can some Democrats ... that claim to want to get people back to work ... support a bill that economists from the far right to the far left say will reduce wages and increase unemployment? It just doesn’t seem to make sense. Like other business groups, the National Association of Manufacturers is in favor of reform. Manufacturers realize that we need health reform to lower costs, increase access and improve quality. But according to their press release ... they cannot support a bill that will: “Add massive financial burdens to businesses that are already struggling in this recession.”

They go on to express deep concerns about huge tax increases that will hurt small manufacturers. And they are worried that both the so-called public option and the massive Medicaid expansion will just end up shifting more costs and higher premiums to private businesses. The National Association of Manufacturers ends their press release by saying they, “Oppose the Majority Leader’s bill and urge Senators to do the same as it raises costs and ultimately will destroy jobs.”

Again ... I find myself asking how someone can claim to be pro-business ... but support a bill that is so strongly opposed by the business community. Let’s take a look at what small businesses have to say ... maybe that is where the answer is.

In fact, it was Christina Romer, the President’s top economic advisor, who said in a recent webcast that health reform will: “Benefit small business – not burden it.” Unfortunately ... the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the voice of small businesses ... doesn’t seem to agree. After the release of Senator Reid’s bill, the National Federation of Independent Businesses said: “This kind of reform is not what we need to encourage small businesses to thrive ... we oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act due to the amount of new taxes, the creation of new mandates, and the establishment of new entitlement programs.”

Like the Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers, small businesses want and need reform ... but it doesn’t sound like the pending bill actually addresses their problems. In fact, it sounds like the pending bill simply creates a host of new problems ... problems at a time when this country is coming back from the brink of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. The National Federation of Independent Businesses goes on to say: “There is no doubt all these burdens will be paid for on the backs of small businesses.”

Over the coming weeks, I’m sure some Senators are going to come down here and talk about all the benefits for small businesses that are in this bill. But in the interest of an honest debate ... I hope they will at least mention in their remarks that despite all the so-called benefits ... this bill is still opposed by the voice of America’s small businesses ... it is still opposed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. I could go on and list about half a dozen other business
groups that oppose this bill ..

•    The Associated Builders and Contractors

•    The Independent Electrical Contractors

•    The International Franchise Association

•    The National Association of Wholesalers

•    The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council

•    And ... the International Foodservice Distributors Association

All these groups recognize the devastating impact this bill will have on our economy. We’re facing the highest unemployment rate in 26 years. We’ve already seen the national debt increase by $1.3 trillion since inauguration, or $11,535 per household. The pending bill misses the mark on businesses top priority ... lowering costs. Don’t take my word for it ... the Congressional Budget Office says the Reid bill bends the federal spending curve further upward by a net of $160 billion between 2010 and 2019.

And for all these reasons ... the pending bill is opposed by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses ... as well as almost every other business group in Washington, D.C. The business community has spoken and their message is loud and clear. For Senators that want to bend the growth curve ... this bill is not the answer. For those Senators that want to get people back to work ... this bill is not the answer. And for those Senators that want to get this country’s economy back on track ... this bill is not the answer. If you support American businesses ... you cannot support this bill. Thank you. I yield the floor.