How Obamacare is Great for Entrepreneurship

by Benjamin Studebaker

I have a right-wing argument for Obamacare (which makes sense, because the broad outline of Obamacare, née Romneycare, was originally conceived of by republicans in the early 90’s). I’d like to share it.

So, the right believes in a strong ethic of personal responsibility, of pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps, that America is the land of opportunity and that if you’re willing to work hard, you should be allowed to prosper and to do with what you earn as you please. It is for this reason that the right has always been aggrieved by obstacles to entrepreneurship. As they conceive it, if you want to do society the immense service of creating jobs, innovating, improving living standards, and increasing the tax base by starting your own business, the state is simultaneously a sadist and a masochist for standing in your way.

Well, one of the reasons that so many would-be entrepreneurs never start their own businesses is the large number of significant risks and challenges associated with self-employment. These obstacles deter people who would otherwise become job creators from doing just that. Among the most prominent of these obstacles is the difficulty of finding affordable health insurance individually. Many of those who do choose to be self-employed attach themselves to salaried employees through marriage, but for those without a salaried partner, this remains a tremendous obstacle.

The right should be especially pained by this, because recent economic research does suggest that self-employment positively correlates with per capita income growth and poverty reduction. Contrary to some perceptions, the self-employed are the entrepreneurs, not unproductive laid off individuals unable to find employment elsewhere.

So how might this be resolved? Well, we could pass a law that requires insurance companies to offer individuals insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions, and we could offer them a subsidy to help them buy insurance even if their present income is not very high.  This would ensure that would-be entrepreneurs could leave their current salaried positions without having to worry about losing their healthcare and being unable to get it back. And, of course, Obamacare does these things.

Yet, when we listen to people on the right talk about Obamacare’s potential to help make employees less dependent on their employers for survival and more capable of striking out on their own, they tend to frame it very differently. Instead of emphasizing that this liberates workers to pursue the American dream, the right frightens people by telling them that their employers will dump their coverage or change their plans, either because the employer penalty for not providing coverage is too small or because of the tax on Cadillac plans that cover unnecessary and excessively expensive kinds of healthcare.

This isn’t true–in Massachusetts, employers responded very positively to the carrots and sticks Romneycare offered them to continue to provide insurance, so much so that Massachusetts experienced an increase in employer coverage during the same period in which employers nationwide were reneging on providing coverage:

But this is beside the point–why would the right want employer coverage in the first place? All it serves to do, from their point of view, is tether employees to their salaried jobs and prevent them from becoming job creators.

This suggests that the right is not really interested in helping salaried employees to become entrepreneurs, that it actually wants employees to face a stiff penalty for leaving their dead-end jobs. This is only reasonable if the right is interested in defending the interests of existing corporations and businesses more than it is in advancing the causes of potential future ones.

But think about it–why wouldn’t they be? Existing corporations and businesses actually have money to donate to campaigns. Potential future enterprises only have wishes and dreams, and it’s well known that new businesses fail far more often than they succeed. It’s rational for the right to put its benefactors first. What’s more, it’s rational for the right to put its benefactors first while simultaneously claiming to be advancing the cause of entrepreneurship, because the average voter likes entrepreneurs and likes the idea that one day, if he really wanted to, he could be one without the state getting in his way. But in order to walk this tight rope, to in practice guard the interests of its financial supporters while maintaining the facade of protecting the interests of its voters, the right has to gloss over and hide any way in which Obamacare might open the door for Americans wishing to join the ranks of the job creators.

When you get right down to it, the Republican Party is not the party of those wishing to succeed, it is the party of those who have already succeeded and wish to keep the pool of successful people from growing too wide, lest it dilute the value of their achievements both to themselves and to wider society. The sad thing is that there remain many groupies for the rich, voters who believe themselves to be like the rich in spirit or mentality but nonetheless are not wealthy themselves and almost certainly never will be. As a result, these voters vote against their own interests.

At least rock star groupies get to go to the concerts and have sex with the musicians. When the rich throw their parties in their gated communities, the people who foolishly vote for the policies that advantage them are never in attendance.