What Hillary has learned

| Monday, March 17, 2008

It's a different Hillary Clinton who'll be campaigning in Pennsylvania this time around.

"I think she's learned a great deal," says Dan Danner, executive vice president of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation's largest advocacy organization for owners of small businesses.

Danner is referring to the changes in Hillary Clinton's approach to health-care reform since 1993.

As first lady, she produced a 1,400-page health plan, primarily in secret, that was overloaded with central controls, punishments for disobedience and costly mandates for employers.

Doctors could quit and become architects if they didn't like the idea of being controlled by bureaucrats in Washington or if they didn't like the idea of sending a fax to a non-medical clerk in D.C. for permission to order an X-ray.

Similarly, the attitude from Hillary's central-planning squad was that small-business owners could toss in the towel if they couldn't pay the price of providing the government's newly mandated benefits for 100 percent of their employees.

"I can't be responsible for every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America," Mrs. Clinton said in 1993, responding to charges that her plan would bankrupt businesses and cut employment. Destroy a job through excessive health mandates, she was told, and employees will go from having no health insurance to having no health insurance and no jobs.

No one, of course, was asking Hillary Clinton to be "responsible for every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America." Just the opposite: It was her plan that would cause the undercapitalization.

The anti-business message was clear. Go out of business if you can't jump through Hillary's hoops. A business is a throwaway if it can't come up with the money to pay for the latest mandate.

The nation's response was equally clear. In November 1994, the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Today, Hillary's 1993 plan has turned into 1.5 pages. The arrogance and incompetence are replaced by pragmatism and experience. Instead of employer mandates and criticism of "undercapitalized entrepreneurs," there are tax breaks for small businesses, a recognition of the economic realities that these businesses face, and an appreciation of the top role in job creation that small businesses play in the U.S. economy.

"Under my plan, we won't require small businesses to cover employees," Hillary Clinton now explains. "Instead, we will offer tax credits to small businesses as an inducement to provide coverage."

With job creation, small businesses are nearly the whole ball game in the current U.S. economy, explains Mrs. Clinton, citing the official federal figures: "Small businesses are now the engine of job creation in America. According to the Federal Reserve, since 1990, companies with fewer than 20 employees were responsible for 80 percent of the additional new jobs in America -- jobs that often cannot be outsourced."

Bottom line, there's this headline in BizJournals on an article on the presidential campaign by Kent Hoover, Washington bureau chief for American City Business Journals -- a judgment of Hillary that would have been hard to find in the business press in 1993: "Which presidential candidate is best for business: Hillary Clinton."

Gov. Ed Rendell agrees. Early in the presidential race, he described Hillary as "the most business-friendly" of the Democrat candidates.

"I know business wouldn't believe that, but Hillary has a great head on her shoulders," Rendell said. "She understands that for the economy to do well, business has to do well."

That's a pretty easy concept -- "for the economy to do well, business has to do well." Still, Castro never understood it, so he's got an island with a 50-year shortage of fish.

Michelle Obama seems to have the same lack of basic understanding about business and economics, preaching against "money-making industry" and urging people not to work for corporations. Someone should tell her that life expectancy before capitalism, before corporations and "money-making industry" was 30 to 35 years, the same as it was a hundred centuries earlier.

Rendell's not much better. We're 38th in job growth among the 50 states, 2002-2007, and his idea of economic development is spending $5 million to rid the local VFWs and neighborhood taverns of poker machines so that -- in Pittsburgh, for instance -- more of us will end up at the North Side casino, transferring a sizeable pile of our local money each night to Detroit.

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