Monday, May 10, 2010
I had the pleasure of attending the first of four Job Forums, sponsored by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann across the 6th Congressional District.
The focus and intent was to give a local update from business owners and jobs specialists, and explain some of the challenges small businesses are facing, and put real concrete reasons behind the lag in employment on the local level as well as the national level.
The congresswoman did a wonderful job moderating, asking each speaker to specifically address certain points they each had made in their presentations in order to clarify or expand on an issue.
The first to speak at this forum was Chuck Rau, a local small businessman who is facing the challenge of actually wanting to expand and needing to. He brought up the most obvious and recurring issue facing all businesses today, and that is one of uncertainty, across the board, as well as the credit issue many businesses are facing. How do they finance their companies, when lenders are not lending?
No one really knows how all the new laws being passed, or up for passage will truly effect business or the economy, since they are so huge, vague, and unfinished. Congresswoman Bachmann said that the healthcare bill alone has over 14,000 lines that begin with the phrase: “The Health and Human Services Secretary will…” meaning that there are no answers to at least 14,000 points of action, on which no decision will be made until after the fact, not before. This is just ONE bill. Uncertainty? I think that’s an understatement, myself.
Our next speaker was Greg Theis, a locally self employed contractor. His concerns were primarily the cost of doing business, overregulation, and the healthcare mandates.
He brought up the fact that the proposed penalty fees the new healthcare bill will levy against businesses who do not offer healthcare plans are actually much cheaper than providing pre-tax healthcare coverage, so we can expect many businesses to opt out of even offering any healthcare to their employees. This will mean millions of people will lose their coverage, and have to purchase their healthcare with post tax dollars.
He did have some good news, in that he did tell us that some of the stimulus money has actually been put into the construction industry, so projects that wouldn’t have been done this past year were able to be completed.
The next to speak was David Borgert, the St.Cloud Hospital/CentraCare Director of Government and Public Relations. He gave us the perspective of being a very large employer, as well as that of being a huge part of the local economy, and how recent changes and prospective changes are set to affect the local healthcare industry.
Other speakers were Matt Skwira, a self employed local man, who used a silhouette target to show how he feels when he looks at himself in the mirror- a governmental target. He brought up the use of restrictions to such a rediculous degree and without common sense that they are hamstringing industry and self employment in this state. “They are always coming up with new rules and laws. We have enough, we don’t need more. Let us alone and let us work.”
Next was Mark Bragelman, a banker, who not only spoke about the credit crunch and it’s ongoing effects, but also that even the banking industry has made changes in their hiring practices, chosing to focus on investing in technology instead of human resources. He told us how the administration is saying that banks should be lending, but no one has told the regulators who are visiting the banks, literally yelling at them for doing just that. I guess they didn’t get the memo yet.
Mike Myre, a small business specialist from the State of MN. He brought up the obvious point as to why businesses aren’t hiring as they could be- they are in survival mode, not growth mode. He gave information on the support organizations for small businesses in the state of MN.
Our final speaker today was William Beach, from the Heritage Foundation. He spoke about how the current government policies have failed, and why. Mr. Beach also spoke of how things could have been different, had congress made different choices earlier on. He showed powerpoint graphs that will be available at some point on Michele Bachmann’s website, and I’ll update when they’re available to view. They explain it all much better than I can.
All in all, I didn’t really learn anything new, but did get some clarification on what concerns our local businesses have, and why they are not pulling it together as quickly as the White House had led us to believe they would be.
The speakers were very good, well prepared, and all talked of very specific issues that are hindering our economic recovery on a local level, which seems to be lost in the grander overview of national recovery.
There were numerous other points that were made and discussed, concerning businesses and jobs, but I’m still processing the whole thing, to be honest. I’m sure I’ve missed some things, but if they come to me later, I’ll write another post.
It all boils down to one simple thing that all business owners agreed on during this forum-
The Government is the problem, not the solution, when it comes to putting people to work.
Business owners have no clue if what they had done in the past to pull out of recessions or near recessions will work this time again or not, since the game has no certain rules anymore, with all the new and sweeping legislation on the table like Heathcare, TARP, and Cap and Trade.
As long as this uncertainty lasts, we can expect to see more of the same from businesses. They will continue on in survival mode, not expansion and growth. We should get used to it, as long as government itself thinks it can fix the problems by spending our way out of debt, and taxing, regulating and restricting businesses to the point of closure.
I also had an opportunity to speak with Congresswoman Bachmann after the presentation, and we briefly discussed the provision in the Healthcare bill that will require the filing of 1099′s for businesses on purchases over $600. I had spoken to her about this last week, in her latest telephone town hall. She has informed me that she is following up on that, bringing it up to various committees and congressmembers as another reason why the healthcare bill should be viewed as hostile to businesses, and should be repealed.