"Every cloud has a silver lining," they say. So does Obamacare.
The Tea Party Republicans who fought so hard to defeat this deeply flawed legislation really ought to save its one key benefit. Doing so will let them claim credit for an economic boom that balances the budget, pays off the debt and makes every American healthy, wealthy and wise.
Obamacare will no doubt kill many jobs. Nevertheless, one little part of it could replace every one of those jobs by unleashing a new generation of business geniuses.
Job creators like Henry Ford, Ray Kroc, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett still exist. We just need to remove the obstacles that hold them back. Healthcare is a big one.
Where do jobs come from? They come from intelligent, visionary people who identify opportunities, invent ways to fill them and hire others to help. We call these people "entrepreneurs."
We have a limited supply of entrepreneurs because starting a business is always risky. Government policies that discourage entrepreneurs also discourage future growth. That's what our present healthcare system does.
Imagine a man I'll call Joe. He is an educated, middle-aged engineer. He sits in a cubicle at Monster Industries drawing widgets all day.
Joe has an idea for a powerful new Super Widget. His boss agrees it looks interesting, but Monster has other priorities.
Joe doesn't give up easily. He knows he can launch a Super Widget business that will make him rich and create hundreds of new, high-paying jobs. It's the American dream!
So, Joe makes the leap . . . back to his cubicle.
You see, Joe has a problem. His wife, Jane, had breast cancer a few years ago. Thankfully, her doctor caught it early. Jane is a cancer survivor — which makes her "uninsurable" on the private market.
Joe has another problem. His adult son, Frank, is mentally ill and needs constant attention. People like Frank once lived in institutions. Now, under managed care, psychiatrists medicate them and send them back out to the streets. Most end up homeless or imprisoned.
Frank is one of the lucky ones because Joe and Jane are determined to keep him safe. Thanks to the Monster Industries health plan, they have the resources to do it.
This puts Joe in a quandary. He can't start his Super Widget business unless he leaves Monster Industries. If he does, Jane's cancer history will keep her from getting health insurance. Frank can get Medicaid because he is disabled, but their state's very limited mental health services are already overwhelmed.
If Joe quits his Monster Industries job, he risks not only his own career, but also the life and health of the two most important people in his life. He thinks hard, stifles his dream and goes back to the cubicle.
The Super Widget — the invention that could have changed the world — goes nowhere.
How many breakthrough businesses never get off the ground because the would-be founders share Joe's dilemma? I think it is thousands, maybe millions. We all know men (and women) who stay in dead-end jobs they hate purely because they have no other way to insure their families.
The U.S. healthcare system handcuffs an enormous reserve of entrepreneurial talent. I'm convinced removing those cuffs will release a wave of innovation and create millions of new jobs.
Obamacare, for all its flaws, solves this particular problem by severing the link between employment and insurability. Starting in 2014, people like Joe will have a way to insure their families without regard to pre-existing conditions.
If the Tea Party successfully stops Obamacare, Joe and others like him will stay handcuffed. The U.S. economy will keep losing ground to foreign competitors.
This is a serious problem. Retired Americans have Medicare, while many working-age Americans have . . . nothing. We have chained the future to its desk.
Stopping Obamacare is a worthy goal, but it is not enough. If we really want to fight for our children and grandchildren, we need to offer a serious alternative.
Release Joe's handcuffs. He's ready to go to work.
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