I've watched nearly all the debates and countless hours of Meet The Press, The Situation Room, Hardball and Washington Week. And there are still several nagging issues my two Democratic candidates fail to answer to my satisfaction: health care and increased taxes on small businesses. As an independent magazine publisher and owner that both employs and targets mostly 20-somethings, my perspective on the health care debate is specifically informed by the proximity to these Gen-Y citizens. Our company subsidizes employee healthcare and has done so for a decade or more now. But the recent debate between Obama and Clinton -- specifically the Obama stance that mandatory coverage is not needed -- really fails to meet reality head on. Obama claims that anybody who could afford health insurance would surely purchase it. This has not been my experience and I'm unsure if he really believes this or is stuck in a misstatement of his own creation.
Over the years, I can count dozens of 20-something friends, employers and acquaintances that routinely skip out on insurance. Seen as a remote need and a mundane life expense, these healthy young individuals would rather fund something else in their lifestyle and who'd blame them? Who really thinks they're going to end up in a hospital at 25? Even the employees I insure -- especially the guys -- seem to rarely even visit the hospital for check-ups or preventative care. And many -- easily a relevant portion of the millions of uninsured -- feel that the risk of getting caught without insurance in an emergency room is worth the several hundred dollar per month in savings. You don't have to look any further than to the millions of un- and under-insured motorists on the roads. It's obviously partly an issue of costs, but one can't deny the simple issue of personal risk management. The only problem is that this ends up costing everybody else when the proverbial chickens come home to roost and something goes wrong. You and I pick up the tab in the form of taxes and medical costs.
My only guess as to why Hillary Clinton hasn't done a better job of poking a hole in Obama's borderline erroneous claim that virtually all of the uninsured are so due to financial hardship, is that it would come across as just one more mean-spirited tag her haters could use against her: "Hillary doesn't care about the poor huddled uninsured." But some have recently argued that Obama's plan to allow anybody to "opt out" of insurance (seemingly without any real penalty, though he floated the totally unrealistic concept of back-premiums during a recent debate) will make his plan massively more expensive in the long run. And more disturbingly, it's been said that his plan will stall or have to be re-done to a mandated system (vis a vis Clinton) in order to get passed and make fiscal sense. To me, universal health care, like auto, can only mean mandatory coverage.
But I'm not letting Clinton off either. She, along with Obama, still don't get that who they describe as wealthy people in this country -- myself, it seems -- are largely entrepreneurs, small business owners and sole proprietors. The age-old Democratic war drums that play to the hearts of the middle class unfortunately castigate the most vital sector of the American economy. By not even addressing the effects of a tax increase on those making over $250K annually -- which, as a business owner of an S-Corporation, isn't a huge amount of pre-tax income when you consider that this is your salary, and profit margin -- Democrats dismiss me and the millions of others who'd like to be proud party loyalists. Against my financial interests, though I continue to vote along party lines if only to sleep better at night. Democrats are fortunate this year to have such an electrifying field, but in any other year, they'd probably be poised to lose (again) since the migration of business owners from the party (assuming they had them in the first place) has been unfortunate. It's easy if you're Warren Buffet, to say that you don't need a tax break. Try staying afloat in the predatory and unsupportive business environment of California. It isn't easy and I can thank my democratic leadership for largely allowing these negative conditions to grow.
I'm undecided as to my vote today, even though I remain proud and supportive of both Democratic candidates. I just hope they'll find a more authentic and realistic voice on these two subjects sometime before the general election. They'll need to do this for the party, for me, and for the country.