Thursday, November 20, 2008

Health Care For Employment

The expenses of automakers' commitment to retiree benefits has sparked an idea that seems like a great one. The whole country needs health care, and if we had it, a large part of the automakers' burden would be lifted.

In addition, employers great and small would have the burden of insurance lifted, and be able to employ more workers, with better salaries if the country would put in place a civilized nation's health care system.

I heard a reference to health care that prompted me to this conclusion, from Congressman Ryan on Washington Journal this morning. He mentioned that the health care benefits weren't an expense in Canadian auto industry, because that country has a public system that takes care of workers. All workers. Since then, I have been doing a little looking and found another post touting this little nicety.

In an economy with a 6.5 percent unemployment rate and rising, it is too great a risk for the government to sit idly by while an additional 2.5 million jobs disappear. But a bailout needs to be fashioned with care, so that the competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry is improved over the long term.

First, we must use part of the $700 billion bailout package to provide bridge loans to enable the auto companies to meet current expenses in order for them to avoid bankruptcy, but only on the condition that auto company management and the United Auto Worker leadership agree to meet with the top government officials, both in the executive branch and in Congress to fashion a strategy for a restructuring of the industry.

And here is the deal that will need to be struck. The UAW will need to get its members to accept substantial cuts in pay and benefits – far better than no job at all. The government will need to pass a national health care plan for the nation that will also relieve the auto makers of a substantial part of its cost for health care to its workers and retirees. And the government will need to pursue a policy of stabilizing gas prices using the gasoline tax, first keeping gas prices at the pump from rising until we get through the current crisis, but gradually increasing them over time and keeping them stable by varying the gas tax, so as to encourage consumers to want fuel efficient autos. Then the auto companies can count on and plan for an increasing demand for such vehicles, without being seesawed by wild swings in gas prices.

That is the deal that will have to be struck, and there must be teeth in the agreement so all parties stick to it. (Emphasis added.)

While I don't agree with all of this proposal, a lot of it makes really good sense.

It makes so much sense, no wonder it isn't being presented by our occupied White House and all its minions. Our future Secretary of HHS, Tom Daschle, is going to be working toward a goal that would greatly benefit employers.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The irony is that in 1950, GM offered health-care benefits and a pension to its retiree to forestall the UAW's proposal for a regional centralized health care fund. Per Jennifer Klein, Yale University labor historian, "They took on the costs of setting up an individual company pension, at great expense, in order to head off what they saw as too much organized power for workers in the region". Via Malcolm Gladwell's article in the New Yorker:

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The economics-minded Repigs never point out that the dysfunctional American Health System is a crushing weight on labor mobility and entrepreneurship. There are dozens of Western countries with better and lower-cost health systems as examples to learn from, but that would trigger the scarlet letter accusations of 'soshulizm' or 'looking French' followed by atomic wedgies in the Prime Stupid bullying simpleton sloganeering that political discourse has descended to in the age of Bush and Rove and rabies-radio.

Starting a business or being self-employed is considerably more risky when you are throwing yourself to the wolves in terms of health coverage, unless you have a spouse with a secure corporate/state job with benefits.

Perhaps I answered my own question -- lobbying is dominated by large corporations, who like to keep their employees immobile through benefit packages only they can provide. You can't get health coverage on your own (except for a limited time through COBRA) on the same terms as your corporate plan even by paying it yourself, if you leave your job. The last thing corps want is universal coverage to make it easier for employees to head off on their own.

So from a simple economic standpoint we have millions of potential entrepreneurs and innovators, trapped in less-productive situations for themselves and for our economy, due to the dysfunctional provision of health care in this country.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Thanks for the link, grrrljock. Yep, we've got the workers in our present day version of enslavement, while the rest of the world gets better health care without all the downside of our insurance welfare system.

2:08 AM  

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