February 13, 2005

Businesses Unite!

The Washington Post today looks at the vast sums of money being plunked down by business groups into the various GOP fights on tort reform, Social Security, Medicare, etc. Quite strikingly, in many cases most of these corporations don't stand to benefit at all from some of these particular fights—what, for instance, does the National Association of Manufacturers care about phasing out Social Security? Insofar as the Bush phase-out plan slashes benefits over the long term, it will only put pressure on them to provide more generous pensions.

Unless, of course, they can work with the GOP majority later on to dismantle labor unions. Ah, so now the strategy makes sense! Even more likely, though, the vast K Street lobbyists network Republicans have built up over the years simply means that businesses will blindly support Republican Plan X, no matter what it is, in exchange for various forms of corporate pork and tax deductions later on.

None of that is quite surprising, and much of it fits in with the tendency of American businesses to think very short term—responding to stockholder pressure rather than the health of the business 40, 50 years out. As Matt Miller writes in the Times today, it would be nice if businesses could take the long view and realize that they would actually benefit from some sort of single-payer health care system—surely they're not idiots enough to believe that Bush's "Health Savings Accounts" will get them off the hook. The trouble, as Miller notes, is that they're only worried about tomorrow: "chief executives are interested mostly in shifting costs to workers to solve their problems - rather than helping to lead efforts to re-engineer America's radically inefficient health sector in ways that would solve everyone's." Until this attitude changes—and I don't see how it will—there's little likelihood businesses will ever be swayed by arguments that some welfare state components will only help them.
-- Brad Plumer 1:21 PM || ||