That’s the question posed by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which discusses how companies often get seduced into supporting big government – or, in some cases, are active proponents of bigger government since they’ve learned how to milk the system. In the long run, of course, statism saps an economy’s vitality, which is bad for workers, investors, and consumers:
One lesson that Democrats learned from the failure of HillaryCare in 1994 is that they had to buy the silence, if not the outright support, of the business class. They’ve done this brilliantly by peddling the illusion that ObamaCare will “lower costs” for employers. But slowly as the legislative details become clear, it is dawning on executives of businesses large and small that reform is boiling down to a huge tax increase to finance a gigantic new entitlement. …With only a few exceptions, drug makers and health-care providers have shown that their priority is rent-seeking from government, which means that any last-minute push back will have to come from the other six-sevenths of the economy. The Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business have finally figured out they were being taken for a ride. And now even the Business Roundtable, the association of CEOs from the largest companies, is engaged in a furious internal debate about the way forward. The Roundtable has been vaguely supportive but restive. But last week Roundtable president John Castellani was informed in a contentious conference call that many of his members will quit if the organization isn’t more assertive against ObamaCare. …The larger issue for business is the productivity and competitiveness of the U.S. economy. Democrats are about to pass the largest entitlement expansion in more than four decades when federal spending is already at unprecedented levels. The “pay or play” tax on employers and the hike in payroll taxes on top earners in the House and Senate bills are merely teaser rates. The long-term pressures created on the federal fisc would require enormous tax hikes that would depress capital investment and economic growth, to say nothing of the Roundtable’s priority of reducing U.S. corporate tax rates that are among the world’s highest. The tendency among business groups is usually to conciliate and speak the language of consensus—especially with Democrats running all of Washington and able to do great harm to anyone who doesn’t cooperate. And no doubt the Roundtable is hearing from the CEOs of companies like Pfizer, Wal-Mart and General Electric that are deeply invested in more government control of the economy.