SEIU chief collectivizes entire Business lobby

What does it say about us as a nation when so many honest, hard-working families live in fear that they are one illness away from financial ruin? What does it say when small-business owners are forced to choose between hiring a new employee or facing yet another double-digit premium increase for health insurance?

It says that it's high time politicians put aside their differences and find a way to work out common-sense, bipartisan solutions to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, quality health care and a secure financial future.

This is the message we at the National Federation of Independent Businesses heard from Divided We Fail, a national initiative launched by three strange bedfellows: AARP, the 39-million member organization for people 50 years old and older; Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from the largest companies in the nation; and the Service Employees International Union, the largest union in North America. We liked what we heard, and we signed on as the fourth member of the coalition.

As the largest group representing America's job-creating, small-business engine, NFIB could not be content with the political stalemate over health-care reform. Eighty percent of our members have 10 or fewer employees, a population particularly hard-hit by rising health-care costs.

Divided We Fail speaks to us. The premise is simple and compelling: Everyone ought to have access to quality, affordable health care and a lifetime of financial security; everyone from every generation. It sounds easy enough, but these two basic goals have proved elusive so far.

Healthy, growing small businesses are vital to our economy. They generate half of America's GDP and create two-thirds of the net new jobs. So the business of small business is good. Yet, of the estimated 46 million Americans without health care, more than 27 million are small-business owners, employees or dependents of small businesses.

Health-care costs have been the No. 1 issue facing small-business owners since 1986, and those concerns are growing. While almost half -- 47 percent -- of small businesses are able to offer health insurance to their employees, they do so at a disproportionate cost. The nation's smallest firms pay on average 18 percent more in health insurance premiums than the largest firms do for the same benefits.

The time has come to address this problem in a real and lasting way. No discussion of health care should take place without small business at the table. We believe this coalition will spur our nation's political leaders to start working together to take on the threats to America's health care and our overall economic competitiveness.

As a member of the Divided We Fail coalition, we plan to raise the national debate to a new level to address what has become a national crisis for America's job creators. We want to bring these issues to center stage. In the greatest nation on Earth, we can do better. We can find solutions, even to two such stubborn problems.

We have tried working apart just about every way we possibly can, but we have gotten nowhere. It's time to try working together. Together, we are stronger, louder and much harder to ignore. Together, we can do anything.

- Tony Gagliardi is the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business/Colorado.


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