Republicans want us to think millionaire Zane Tankel, the CEO of Applebee’s New York Franchise and owner of forty Applebee’s restaurants, is a “job creator.” But after Tankel went on the Fox Business network last week, we know him for who he really is: a Scrooge who can’t be bothered to give his employees health insurance.
Since voters last Tuesday rejected House Republicans attempts to repeal Obamacare, it is now – to quote Speaker of the House John Boehner - “law of the land.” That means beginning in 2014 corporations across America that employ more than 50 people will have a new civic responsibility under the law to provide health insurance for their workers. This is the employer-mandate at work.
Health insurance is not a luxury in America. Obamacare isn’t forcing employers to give their workers a new big screen TV or monthly spa treatments. The law simply recognizes that 45,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have health insurance and that large employers – those that employ 50 or more people – are best equipped to be the source of life-saving medical care for millions of working Americans. It’s an idea first proposed by that “socialist” who wanted to take over America’s healthcare system back in 1971…Richard Nixon.
In fact, providing health insurance to employees is a good business decision. It not only attracts more qualified workers, but also leads to higher job retention rates and higher employee satisfaction.
But don’t tell Zane Tankel that – he’s outraged. Since he employs more than 50 people, he will now be required to provide health insurance to his workers, which many of his competitors and small businesses already do. If Tankel wants to keep screwing his employees, then he’ll have to pay a $2,000 free-loader fine for every worker who’ll now have to rely on government programs like Medicaid to get the care they need.
Appearing on Fox Business, Tankel said, “We’ve calculated it will be some millions of dollars across our system…that also rolls back expansion, it rolls back hiring more people, and in best-case scenario we only shrink the labor force minimally.”
Poor Zane Tankel says that if he’s forced to give his employees health insurance, then he’s going to have to fire some of them first. A hundred years ago, he’d likely have said the same thing about bathroom breaks for his employees, having 12-year-olds run his fryers, or letting food inspectors into his restaurants.
The vast majority of Americans have clearly conclude that if a business owner can’t run his business in the best interests of the community and its workers, which includes providing health insurance, then he or she doesn’t deserve to run a business.
There used to be a business ethic in America that put the community ahead of profit. It goes back to when Henry Ford wanted to pay his workers enough so that they, too, could afford the Model T’s they were producing. It’s a business ethic that was enforced by law when state governments could – and often did – revoke the corporate charters of businesses that were operating against the best interests of the community.
But that ethic has been replaced by Wall Street’s “greed is good” ethic, which finds its roots in Victorian England and stories like “A Christmas Carol,” where working people are condemned to Bob Cratchit poverty, forced to toil long hours under modern-day Ebenezer Scrooges, with crappy pay and no benefits.
Charles Dickens – whose father once went to debtor’s prison – would have blown his lunch at the idea of Ebenezer Scrooge being honored with a title like “job creator.” And now Fox is treating Zane Tankel as if he, and not his customers, is a “job creator”?
Tankel claims the math just doesn’t add up to be able to provide health insurance to his employees, without firing some of them first. “There’s three ways it has to come back,” Tankel said about the money needed to pay for health insurance. “[M]ore efficiencies, reduce overhead, or raise prices. Let’s look at each…we can’t raise prices…hopefully we’ve got all our efficiencies…so then, it’s cut back on overhead.” As in, let’s either fire people or pay them even less.
Tankel doesn’t want to admit he actually has more than three ways to pay for health insurance. He can cut his own salary. He can also reduce the dividends he pays to his stockholders. The math is there, but Tankel would have to reconsider his own greed. And since Scrooge wouldn’t do those things, neither will Tankel.
Tankel is also stupidly acting as if he’s the only one who’ll be affected by Obamacare. All big businesses will have to cover their employees’ health insurance now, so whatever business hit Applebee’s takes will also be felt by his competitors. He is at no disadvantage whatsoever.
But on outlets like Fox Business, the victims of this insane right-wing thinking aren’t the 45,000 Americans who die every year because they don’t have health insurance. Instead, the victims are millionaires like Zane Tankel who will have to sacrifice some of their bottom line to keep their employees healthy. As one of the Fox Business talking heads asks Tankel, “Is this the most challenging time you’ve ever seen because of the regulations?”
To which Tankel agreed.
Unlike what you hear on the Conservative media outlets, President Obama hasn’t deployed his brown shirts to confiscate private property and redistribute Zane Tankel’s wealth. He hasn’t choked out the private sector with big government regulations.
In fact, corporate profits under President Obama are astronomically high. The average annual real corporate profit growth rate since President Obama took office is 77.9% - making him the best President for corporate profits since 1900. In second place is Warren Harding who ran on a campaign platform in 1920 of “less government in business, more business in government,” and corporate profits only surged 17.7% during his term.
President Obama has been corporate America’s best friend. And after swimming in astronomically high profits, corporations are now being asked to reinvest some of that wealth back into their employees by providing them health insurance. It’s the very least they can do.
And, seriously, do you really want to eat at a restaurant filled with sick employees?
So-called “job creators” like Zane Tankel have to understand that the letters C-E-O in front of their names do not give them the right to abuse workers, or exploit them as political pawns. Those letters indicate that they do business in our communities because “we the people” gave them permission to do so, and we can revoke that permission any time, if we so choose.
Corporations, as President Grover Cleveland famously said in 1888, should be the “carefully restrained creatures of law and the servants of the people.”
Zane – take a course in American history. And pay special attention to that part about the rights of workers. We ended slavery and indentured servitude in this country, and we’ve decided that working people are entitled to be treated decently in the workplace. Even if it means that Papa John’s founder John Schnatter may not be able to add another guesthouse onto his castle.