On the front page of its “weekend” edition, USA Today declared that the health care law was to blame for a drop in corporate profits. Unsold copies sat in their displays as people walked past, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the newspaper was owned by a corporation that was in business first and foremost to make a profit, whatever high-minded “ideals” it might strive for as a sideline activity. Did passersby say to themselves “I must purchase this newspaper, because the health care law will cut into its profits if I do not?” No, they didn’t purchase it because of its generic news content, high in calories and low in protein. There are many other alternatives to acquire one’s news, some more disreputable than others.
Yes, apparently some large corporations that offer health care insurance may find their costs rising steadily, but this has been happening for many decades. It is why many small companies didn’t provide any at all to their employees, and millions of low income people could not afford health insurance. It was why Harry Truman proposed universal health insurance in 1947, why Medicare was passed into law, why the Clinton administration tried and failed to craft an affordable health insurance law. Many businesses that are now complaining about the health care law have no right to complain at all, since their bottom line should have improved at the expense of their employees, saving money by dropping substandard medical plans, refusing to take advantage of small business plans and telling their employees to seek insurance through the federal or state exchange programs at their own expense.
The truth of the matter is that alleged loss in profit is only noticeable because business wants you to believe it is a result of the ACA instead of some other reason (like management incompetence, aka Boeing). “Our profits would be even higher if not for the ACA,” is what they are telling their stockholders. Oh, poor babies. Analysts say that the actual affect on profit is maybe one percent. In 2012, corporate profits were a truly shocking 14 percent of GDP, the largest percentage since 1950, when the U.S. controlled the post-WWII world market in manufactured goods. On the other hand, the percentage of income going to employees is at its lowest rate since the mid 1960s. While disposable income for individual wage earners remained nearly stagnant since 2008, corporate profits has risen at an unfathomable rate of 20 percent per year.
How can this be possible during a supposedly “soft” economic cycle? What does this say about corporate culture? What does it say about the priorities and values of this country—let alone its morals and ethics? There is only one possible explanation for: This country values profit over people. The whining about “Obamacare” suggests that Republicans and their corporate puppet masters would rather have low-income people die—because they are “replaceable”—than allow them to have even the semblance of well-being,
In the final analysis, however, the biggest “problem” is “uncertainty”—sometimes purposely so—about how the health care will affect the way business is done. Once “uncertainty” is overcome, things will go back to “normal.” But not entirely; the health care law will force corporate culture to re-evaluate the “principle” of profit over people, if only just a little bit.