Too often, politicians forget how their decisions impact real people. They dig in to protect their political agenda at all costs, even if it hurts the very people they were elected to serve. And when that happens, no one gets hurt as much as working class Americans.
Business interests and labor unions can afford to hire lobbyists to look out for them. But most workers and small business owners are counting on the men and women they elected to be their eyes, ears and voices.
If we are to truly speak for them, we should take their opinions into account when deciding whether to move forward on the most important issues before us: the implementation of ObamaCare.
In 2010, Congress passed ObamaCare on a divisive, partisan vote. Its supporters claimed it would solve our health care problems. But with each passing day, we see mounting evidence of how ObamaCare creates more problems than it solves, particularly for small business owners and the people who work for them.
For example, when I visited Land O' Lakes, Florida in 2010, I met restaurant owner Ben Pumo. I stood in his kitchen at Benedetto's Ristorante Italiano and listened to him explain how ObamaCare would impact his business and employees he had come to see "as part of his family."
He explained how it would impose new costs on his business, how it would be a blow to his freedom to hire workers as he pleased without triggering new taxes, and how he feared the worst was still yet to come.
Today, Benedetto’s employs fewer than their earlier peak of 56 employees before the Great Recession. Like every business owner in America, he’s working hard every single day to get back to where he once was – and then surpass that. But people like Mr. Pumo, who are trying to grow their businesses, are discouraged by ObamaCare.
Once a business reaches 50 full-time employees, the ObamaCare tax will kick in. At that point, businesses will have to pay for their employees’ health coverage or they will have to pay a $2,000 tax penalty for each full-time employee after the first thirty. But because there are no penalties if part-time employees are not offered coverage, ObamaCare basically encourages small businesses to hire people part-time instead of full-time. That is one reason why last month, 322,000 Americans were forced into part-time work.
If you are a small business with about 47, 48 or 49 employees and you want to hire more people, ObamaCare encourages you to hold back on hiring new workers or cut the hours of existing ones so that you don’t reach 50 employees. That is why 75% of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours.
I live just a few blocks away from the real world impact of ObamaCare. Miami’s famed “Calle Ocho” is lined with small grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, beauty salons and small auto shops, among many other small businesses. Most of them are run by immigrants chasing the American dream.
Many of them are too small to trigger the employer mandate, but their owners and their workers still have to deal with the individual mandate, which forces people to buy insurance on expensive state level exchanges.
Because of ObamaCare, many of them will now have a new expense and it could be enough to put them out of business or force a downsizing. Instead of forcing people into expensive exchanges, we should adopt market-based reforms that will provide Americans with more health care options at more affordable rates.
We still have time to do something about this.
This September, Congress will have to pass another short term spending bill to fund the federal government. We should pass one that keeps the government open, but doesn't waste any more money on ObamaCare.
The president and his allies – and even some Republicans – will accuse us of threatening to shut down the government. In fact, it is President Obama who insists on shutting down the government unless it funds his failed ObamaCare experiment.
He will say that we are refighting old battles and that it is time to move on. ObamaCare might be old news in Washington, but for millions of middle class Americans, it is just beginning.
Instead of giving more speeches, I wish the president would listen more. He should listen to the people who took every penny they had saved and started their own businesses. They will tell him that ObamaCare could force them to lay people off and maybe even close their doors.
He should listen to the young couple that already has insurance and are happy with it and their doctor. They will tell him that ObamaCare just cost them that insurance they were happy with and the doctor that they loved.
He should listen to full time workers who barely get by working 40 hours a week. They will tell him that ObamaCare just forced them to work part-time.
It is time to admit that ObamaCare isn't going to work, decide not to waste a single cent more on it, and replace it with market-based reforms that will give people more health insurance choices and options.
It's still not too late. This September may be our last best chance to do anything about this disastrous law.
Republican Marco Rubio represents Florida in the U.S. Senate. He is a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Foreign Relations. He was a candidate for president in 2016.