In light of yesterday’s Federal ruling that Obamacare’s famous individual mandate is legal, I would like to offer a few thoughts on why I think this is a good thing. That is, in the already emerging run up to the next presidential election, Obamacare is at stake. If the legality of the health-care proposal isn’t being shot down by activist conservative judges, it’s under attack by Republican presidential contenders. That said, I’m not one to argue much about the overall virtues or vices of Obama’s health reforms; certainly, some of its provisions seem to go too far and others not far enough. That’s probably the truth of any political document in general right now. However, what I can do is argue that such legislation is probably overall good for Americans in the current economic situation, allowing for, and encouraging, a new breed of entrepreneurs.
The first point to recognize is that, after the market crash of 2008, the economic situation around the world, including the US, has significantly changed. Fulltime jobs with benefits and retirements are becoming a long-lost reality to some of us. Rather, a host of persons are recognizing that the only way in which to make money during this dismal economic state is to work several jobs at once, some through traditional means and some through entrepreneurial means. In neither case, however, are health insurance benefits a built in provision. Individuals, rather, must be able to buy these benefits on their own. Herein lies the first rub.
One can really only gain access to health insurance right now if one has a job through which one can gain a bargaining position against insurance companies; this tends especially to be the case if one has a pre-existing conditions (which many, if not most, persons do according to insurance standards). My wife and I are fortunate; she has a good, fulltime, benefitted job, and I am able to buy into her insurance program through her work. Before that, however, I had no insurance. This was not for a lack of trying to gain insurance nor an unwillingness to pay an insurance premium. It so happens that I have a pre-existing condition called asthma, which means that I was rejected from several insurance packages, even the large-deductible, low-pay insurance plans called “catastrophic insurance.” In other words, hard-working, entrepeneurial people who are willing to pay for insurance packages cannot even gain access to such packages if they want to, not without a federal mandate forcing insurance companies to offer insurance packages to such persons.
Second, I must admit to personally seeing some benefits to the new economic situation outlined in the second paragraph. Old and dying institutions—their structures and their modes of compensation—may finally get a chance to do just that: rest in peace. Moreover, an entire order built around them and their demands may itself teeter. Why is this possibly a good thing (and one can only be hopeful without being dogmatic that things will turn out “better”)? When one works several jobs at once, entrepreneurially piecing together several partial jobs into a living, there is a certain amount of freedom one can gain, especially from the traditional demands of managers, work-weeks, and work-places. These demands will, of course, be replaced by other demands, but, with some luck, hopefully more based on the values and schedule of the entrepreneur, who can now choose to work mostly from home, set aside time to spend with one’s children, etc. In other words, there may be new economic opportunities that allow an entrepreneur to live a more fulfilling family life while still contributing to the overall economy.
I happen to know several persons who are thinking in precisely this way and want to take a chance and step out entrepreneurally into this new economy and stake a small claim. Presumably, too, this is the kind of creative self-expropriation that conservatives who despise Obamacare concern themselves. What, however, is the main reason that persons do not in fact jump out into this new economy and try to develop their nascent but burgeoning ideas? They don’t want to subject their children to the possibility of losing the health benefits attached to their current jobs—health benefits that, again, they can gain in no other way than through such jobs. Herein arises a concrete contradiction on the right: Obamacare would, for all its faults, encourage entrepreneurship by allowing persons who want to separate themselves from dying corporate institutions to do just that while retaining the main benefit of working at older institutions: access to health insurance.
With these points made, I don’t try to offer anything particularly new or innovative here, and readers probably have a myriad of other reasons for both accepting and rejecting the proposals. However, I’ve simply wanted to offer a couple of thoughts on why conservative opposition to Obamacare on economic grounds is absolutely misplaced. Just the opposite: Obamacare will help hard-working, entrepreneurial people to continue to add economic strength and vitality to a dying economy.
In my next political post, I’ll give you my reasons for deciphering my political positions not by party but by joint opposition to the US Chamber of Commerce and the AARP.