Thoughts of a Democrat in Hamilton County

Editor:

Thank you for your “From the Backshop” column in Current (Oct. 2). It’s important to have your perspective, which likely represents the majority opinion of the readers in our communities, except maybe others, such as myself. Therefore, for balance, I would like to provide another perspective in response to your questions as a left-leaning independent in the midst of “Republican country.”

  • On the subject of the General Motors “bailout”, I would suggest that the president was thinking of everyone when he “saved union jobs and crushed bond holders.” (Reminder, the money for this initiative was in the Troubled Asset Relief Fund, initially approved under the Bush administration.)  First, by averting liquidations that would have caused catastrophic consequences across the U.S. auto industry and its suppliers at the height of the recession, he saved thousands of jobs, to say nothing of the cities and towns in states like Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, and the local businesses that would have also been impacted. While many of these GM jobs may have been union worker positions, these are still real people, with real families, and real hopes and dreams just like the rest of us.  And “everyone else”…just imagine the impact across the country if the U.S. auto industry had been allowed to fail.  The loss in confidence, worsening of the trade deficit, financial markets in disarray, credit tighter than it already was…yes, everyone benefited, except maybe as you note, the bond holders, a relatively small group in the grand scheme, who by making an investment in GM assumed some risk, and potential for a loss.  Would they have avoided this loss if GM had been allowed to fail? Unlikely.
  • On the subject of ObamaCare waivers, as you accurately state, the waivers covered 1,231 businesses and 4 million people, or about 3 percent of the working population, which have been exempted from the law’s restrictions on annual benefit caps. So your readers are clear, the law requires health plans to gradually raise their benefit limits, and all annual limits will become illegal in 2014. That’s good for us, especially if we have a family member with a debilitating disease. Companies that received waivers can keep their benefit caps intact until 2014. Health and Human Services who grants the waivers has now stopped accepting applications for waivers.  This suggests 97% of those that have company plans are included in this benefit, and of the small number of companies that received exemptions, those exemptions expire in 2014, with union members only a portion of this total.  (Seems you have an “issue” with union workers?)  So, I would suggest that 97% qualifies as “everyone” especially since the remaining 3% will be included in the near future.
  • Lastly, on the subject of the Solyndra investment, was the president thinking of all entrepreneurs when “he” made that commitment (the commitment was made by others in the federal government, as I recall)?  I would argue he was thinking of all entrepreneurs that are interested in high-risk, high-reward basic research, where the federal government invests approximately $150 billion (yes, billion) every year.  … Private industry invests approximately $250 billion annually, but a sizable portion of that amount is in R&D focused on lower risk initiatives (think new detergent formulations, for example)(Science Progress Report, Feb 16, 2011).  Without the federal government investing in these high risk areas, there may be little investment at all, since private companies have to mitigate risk according to their shareholder demands.  Sure, the Solyndra investment (0.3% of the total) turned out to be a bad investment, but failure is not uncommon when the risk is high.  Even Bill Gates suggests the federal government should invest MORE in high risk ventures such as advanced energy research.  So, for breakthroughs, most entrepreneurs likely value and appreciate the federal government’s support.  Just remember this when a family member or friend develops a disease that requires an innovative new therapy to treat it effectively, and thank the federal government for some level of support in the basic research that made that drug possible.

There seems to be a pattern by conservative media when discussing President Obama’s record (and him personally) that it’s fair to leave out important information when providing a point of view.  I’ll leave it to the readers armed with more background and added perspective to assess if the president was considering “everyone” in these particular concerns.

Michael Ransom

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