Opponents of clean air and water standards are putting their money into a new set of wheels. It's called the TRAIN Act (TRAIN stands for Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation - read the bill here).
Put briefly, this proposal is an attempt to open a new line of attack on the Environmental Protection Agency and rules that protect and promote clean air and water, veiled in the language of "cost-benefit analyses." And when the proponents of this proposal say "cost-benefit" analysis, what they really mean is "cost-cost" analysis - that is, an evaluation that takes into account only the costs and not the benefits of clean air and water for businesses, local economies, and communities.
The fact is, we already have review processes set up to look carefully at the full picture of costs and benefits when it comes to updating the standards that protect our air and water. We have plenty of cost-benefit analyses, both from government agencies and from independent third parties. And when you look at the full picture, it's clear that the benefits of our air and water standards far outweigh the costs for small businesses and for our economy overall.
A new briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute reaffirms these conclusions. The paper, which looked at both final and proposed EPA rules, found that for nine final rules and four proposed rules studied:
- The combined annual benefits from the nine final rules exceed the costs by $32 billion to $142 billion a year (with benefit/cost ratio ranges from 4-to-1 to 22-to-1).
- The combined annual benefits from the four proposed rules exceed the costs by $160 billion to $440 billion a year (with benefit/cost ratio ranges from 12-to-1 to 32-to-1).
Looking at these benefit-to-cost ratios, we're talking about an impressive return on investment.
Clean air and clean water are Main Street values and always have been. A true cost-benefit analysis shows that they make economic sense for small businesses and for the economy as a whole.
Here's hoping for small businesses that the ill-conceived TRAIN Act never leaves the station.
We, the undersigned business owners, executives and investors, call on the President and Congress to end tax dodging and support a level playing field for business by enacting strong legislation to stop tax haven abuses. Offshore tax havens reward tax evaders, rob public coffers of needed revenue and offload taxes to responsible businesses and households.
May 27: VA Court Decision on Corporate Campaign Contributions Tilts Playing Field Against Small Businesses
Small business owners urge reconsideration and reversal of Friday’s ruling wiping out remaining protections against flood of corporate money in elections.
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a federal district court judge in Virginia overturned a century-old precedent in ruling that corporations should be permitted to make direct political contributions to candidates for office. The Main Street Alliance released the following statements from national spokespeople in response:
Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, OR and MSA steering committee member:
This decision is not only bad for democracy, it's bad for free and fair competition and especially bad for small businesses. Success in business should be determined by who can offer the best products and services, the best value, the best customer service - not by who can spend more to buy influence with elected officials and then use that influence to game the system.
Overturning a century of precedent to allow corporations to contribute directly to political campaigns is going to take a deck that's already stacked in favor of big corporate players – against small businesses – and stack it even more. If this decision is allowed to stand, our Congress and state legislatures will become wholly-owned subsidiaries of large, multi-national corporations that have no allegiance to this country, or any other, but only to their own short-term financial interests.
Small business owners like me, we know we have to compete against the big corporate players to offer the best value and service to our customers. We welcome that challenge. But give us a level playing field, not a system that's rigged so the big corporate spenders win every time.
David Borris, owner of Hel's Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, IL and MSA executive committee member:
This decision tilts the playing field even further in favor of large corporations at the expense of America’s small businesses. Small businesses are already at risk of getting swamped by price-gouging in health insurance. We're already getting soaked as big companies like GE dodge their taxes and leave us to hold the bag. As if all that wasn't bad enough, along comes a judge in Virginia who blows up the last levees protecting us from getting drowned in a flood of corporate money in politics.
Unless this decision is reconsidered and reversed, it's going to be a serious problem, and not only for today's small businesses. It will threaten to choke off new start-up opportunities as large corporations will write the rules of the game and then act as their own umpire. This decision goes against the very idea of America as the 'land of opportunity.'
Small business owners demand to know if insurers are bankrolling new campaign to undermine health law
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and allies announced their latest campaign to undermine the nation’s new health law by attacking one of the law's funding sources: a fee on health insurance companies. The Main Street Alliance released the following statement from David Borris, owner of Hel's Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, IL and a member of the Main Street Alliance executive committee, in response:
Health insurance companies are reporting the biggest profits in their industry's history, beating analysts' expectations by an average of 30 percent in the first quarter of 2011.(1) So let me get this straight: the U.S. Chamber and its allies are arguing to let insurance companies off the hook from paying their fair share to bring the small business benefits of the health law – things like rate review and a value for premiums requirement – to market? And they’re making that argument in our name, in the name of America's small businesses?
This looks like another case of small business identity theft – hiding behind small business arguments to defend big insurance profits, just like when health insurers secretly funneled $86 million to the U.S. Chamber in 2009 to fund attacks on health reform in the name of the business community. We'd like to know, are the insurance companies bankrolling this latest campaign, too?
(1) Reed Abelson, "Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care," The New York Times, May 13, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/business/14health.html?emc=tnt&tntemail0=y
The country observed National Small Business Week in May (see the Presidential Proclamation). The Main Street Alliance marked the occasion by releasing its “State of the Small Business Nation – 2011.” This white paper includes a “Small Business Top Ten List” of concrete policy opportunities to level the playing field for small businesses and help them create jobs.
While pundits and politicians like to label policies “pro-business” or “anti-business,” as if there were one unified business interest, the reality is that policies that make winners out of some businesses make losers out of others. As Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, put it, “You’re never going to have one hundred percent unanimity. Never. There is inherent tension… I laugh every day when someone calls and asks what does the business community think.” (1)
While Mr. Josten pointed to tensions between oil and gas companies, wholesalers and retailers, investment banks and retail banks – all big corporate players – his point applies even more so to the dynamics between big business and small business. While pundits and politicians like to lump all business interests together, the truth is that policies that benefit large corporate players very often tilt the playing field against small businesses.
In a cover letter to President Obama, senior administration officials, and congressional leaders on May 18, Main Street Alliance business leaders wrote:
Our members come from states across the country and a wide range of sectors, but we are united by a common set of values – small business values. We believe in what we do, we stand by our products and services, and we want people in government and corporate leadership who do the same. We stand for fair play and a level playing field. We stand for having each other’s backs. We believe America’s future prosperity depends on everyone contributing their fair share.
These small business values are what guide our business decisions and our commitment to advancing policies that fulfill the promise of an economy that works for all of us – small businesses, our employees, and the communities that sustain us.
(1) James Verini, “Show Him the Money,” Washington Monthly, July/August 2010, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2010/1007.verini.html
On May 19, Main Street Alliance members from Louisiana and Maine were joined by Senator Dick Durbin on a conference call highlighting the disproportionate impact of debit card swipe fees on small businesses. Rules limiting swipe fees, passed last year and set to go into effect this summer, are now under attack from the banking lobby, with an amendment under consideration to delay the rules from taking effect for up to 24 months.
Here are a sampling of quotes from speakers on the call:
Mary Noel Black, owner of The UPS Store at Citiplace in Baton Rouge, LA:
“This system is broken and small businesses are paying the price in constantly increasing debit swipe fees. Small businesses have the least leverage, the least ability to negotiate with the big banks and the card companies, so we end up with the worst contracts.
“Those who say they want to delay and study this issue, are really only paving the way for these much-needed swipe fee limits to die a quiet death. Every month of delay on the new swipe fee rules is another $1.3 billion bailout to the banks – delaying 15 months translates into another $15-20 billion gift to the banks, paid for off the backs of small business owners like me.”
Rita Moran, owner of Apple Valley Books in Winthrop, ME:
“Swipe fees are uneven, unfair and it’s absurd! This issue pits one business against another and the customers are caught in the middle. Every day I have customers come in, hand me their debit card and say they want to use it as a credit card because the banks told them to. This is divisive. Beyond the dollars and cents issue, this is a community issue.”
Senator Dick Durbin, Assistant Senate Majority Leader:
“The swipe fee issue is a very important issue for small businesses across America. These are tough times. I’ve heard so many speeches on the floor of the Senate – by both political parties – about how we need to stand behind small businesses because they are the job creators of America. Moving the new swipe fee rules forward is a key opportunity to do that.
“Last year, we got a bipartisan vote of 47 Democrats and 17 Republicans to set the Federal Reserve on the path to establishing reasonable interchange fees. Swipe fees account for $1.3 billion each month, the lion’s share of that going to the biggest banks on Wall Street. We want to end the price fixing by the card companies, end this rip-off of consumers and small businesses by making sure these fees are reasonable.
“The next two weeks are a critical moment for this issue as we wait for the Federal Reserve to announce the rule in the first part of June. We’ll get to look at the rule, dispel rumors about what the rule will do, and then we can move forward from there to implement the rule by the July 21st deadline and ensure fair treatment for all of our small businesses.
“I encourage small business owners in every state to be in touch with your Members of Congress and let them know that this is a critical issue for the growth and expansion of small businesses across America.”
On March 30th, Main Street Alliance leader Rick Poore made the trek to Washington, DC from his business in Lincoln, Nebraska to testify at a hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health.
Rick discussed his support for the new health law. He told his story of steep annual rate increases - several times in excess of 30 percent - in the years before the passage of the health law. And he recounted how his current insurer does rating differently, spreading risk and costs more effectively across younger and older workers, and how he sees that as a microcosm of how the new health insurance exchanges will help small businesses by expanding risk pooling and spreading risk more effectively.
Rick's opening remarks from the hearing are pasted below:
Chairman Pitts, Ranking Member Pallone, and members of the Health Subcommittee,
Thank you for the invitation to testify today. My name is Rick Poore, and I own DesignWear, a screen printing business in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’m also a member of the Main Street Alliance small business network.
I’ve been a small business owner for 17 years. I started with 3 employees, and we’ve grown to employ 29 people.
I offer health insurance to my employees. It makes sense for morale and retention. But our rates have gone up every year – several times over 30 percent.
At the same time, our benefits were whittled away, in an effort to keep things affordable, until we had little more than a fig leaf left.
Two years ago, I switched to a new insurer. They do rating differently, spreading risk and costs more evenly, and it’s markedly cheaper for me overall. I see this as a microcosm of the new health insurance exchanges coming in 2014.
The country counts on small businesses to create jobs, but if you want to talk about a job-killer, look no further than runaway health insurance costs. Small businesses’ ability to create jobs has been seriously undermined by insurance costs more than doubling in 10 years.
We saw years of steep increases, with no tools to do anything about it. Without bargaining power, I had better odds from a midway carney than I did from my insurance company.
The Affordable Care Act is finally changing that, for the better.
The argument that the health law will cost our economy jobs ignores reality. It ignores the lessons of the last decade, where it was the lack of action by Congress to curb skyrocketing costs that left small businesses in the lurch.
The real threat to job creation is the threat of repealing the law and going back to a system that stacks the deck against us.
On the employer responsibility requirement, we’ve got to remember two facts. First, over 95 percent of our nation’s businesses have less than 50 workers and won’t be impacted. Second, 96 percent of businesses with more than 50 workers already offer coverage.
If some larger businesses complain that paying for health coverage will harm their ability to create jobs, remember that when they don’t pay, the rest of us pay their way for them, and that hurts our ability to create jobs. This is anti-competitive.
Imagine if my competition stopped paying wages and I was held responsible for making their payroll. It may sound crazy, but that’s effectively what we’re doing with cost shifting in health care.
Recent data from insurers in Nebraska, Kansas City, and national companies like UnitedHealth Group and Coventry show encouraging increases in small business coverage. ,
From the tax credits to stronger rate review and the value for premiums requirement, the health law is already helping small businesses offer coverage, save money, and plow those savings back into job creation. We’ll get even more help in 2014 when the insurance exchanges open.
I’m looking forward to broader risk pooling and bargaining power in a Nebraska insurance exchange.
There are 40,000 firms in Nebraska with less than 50 employees that could buy in the exchange, employing 230,000 people. Talk about increasing my bargaining power.
I know insurance lobbyists are trying to blame recent rate increases on the new law. But insurers find an excuse to raise rates every year. If they’re raising them again, it’s in spite of the law, not because of it.
Even insurance executives admit this: an executive in Massachusetts said recently that only one percentage point of his company’s increases this year was due to the new law.
Small business people are problem solvers. We wake up every day looking for a better way to do business. We take whatever pitch is thrown at us and do something with it.
Problem solving is what the American people send Representatives to Washington to do.
Here’s the thing about problem solving: most solutions aren’t perfect out of the box. But that’s no reason to scrap them. We make a start in the right direction and correct the course as needed.
Our country and our economy can’t afford to go back to a health system that stacks the deck against small businesses. We’ve got to move forward.
The other day I had to ask my wife when we actually started DesignWear – as a habit, I believe most entrepreneurs look mainly forward and rarely back. That’s what I’m asking you to do.
By moving forward, you can level the playing field for small businesses, allowing us to focus on creating jobs and building our local economies.
Every day until the end of the Congressional recess on September 8, MSA is featuring a real-life story of a small business owner impacted by the health care crisis here on our COUNTDOWN page. It’s our SMALL BUSINESS COUNTDOWN TO HEALTH CARE, and it’s part of our national STAND WITH SMALL BUSINESS initiative. MSA small business owners are calling on Members of Congress to stand with small business, not the insurance industry, and pass real health care reform when they head back to Washington DC on September 8.
DATE: SEPTEMBER 1
COUNTDOWN METER: DAY 7 - ONE WEEK TO END OF RECESS
STATE SPOTLIGHT: ILLINOIS
Radha Jaya Raghavan
Systems Integration Consultant
I’m a certified IT professional, and I recently started my own consulting business. As a self-employed person, my insurance premium has skyrocketed in recent years. Since November 2007, it’s gone up five times, with an overall premium spike of 55 percent to 60 percent.
The premium hikes all started when my doctor sent me for a test because of family medical history. I was then hit with a higher premium and an out-of-pocket expense to cover the cost of the test. Every time I called, they had a different story about what was covered and what was not. Eventually, I paid a lot of money out-of-pocket, because I was afraid that my credit history would be destroyed while they delayed payment.
My fear is that my insurance rates will keep rising, and I’m very unsure whether I’ll be able to maintain coverage. I’m afraid to go to my doctor for a check-up or get any routine exams done. I’m worried that I'd be giving the insurance company an opportunity to increase my premium yet again.
We need to have care and treatment that is easy to obtain, without having to mortgage one’s house or file for bankruptcy. The system should encourage entrepreneurs, not penalize them with confusion and higher insurance costs. That’s what health care reform means to me.