By Dan Danner
There are few moments when American small-business owners regret taking the leap to start their own enterprises, but April’s tax-filing period ranks high among them. These entrepreneurs understand the need to pay taxes and they respect the rule of law. What frustrates and frightens them are the never-ending federal threats that could wipe out everything they’ve worked for.
Over the course of three days – March 26, 27, 28 – the constitutionality of President Obama’s radical health reform law will be debated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Forced into a historic high court review by the National Federation of Independent Business and 26 states, the law is one of the greatest government threats ever to face small-business owners.
Never in the nation’s history has the U.S. government attempted to impose such a sweeping demand on the population. This law, if not rightly ruled unconstitutional, will require nearly all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014. Those who don’t will be hit with a tax camouflaged as a penalty of up to $3,000. Those who do will face more expensive health premiums. Either way, it’s government “gotcha.”
Small-business owners suspect this is not about providing health care to those without it Instead, it is yet another Washington grasp widening its control over the rights and freedoms Americans enjoy. As the only national organization with the guts to stand up for small business, NFIB courageously drew a line in the dirt saying: This mandate grossly violates the Constitution of the United States. If not struck down, the government can force Americans to purchase anything.
Small-business owners agree that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution hands Congress the authority to regulate the sale of goods and services. But they challenged the president’s belief that he can compel any citizen to enter a marketplace they choose to avoid, whether buying health insurance or purchasing Chevy Volts.
The government often makes up the rules as it goes along. Both Congress and the president, promising not to raise taxes, tried to hide the truth by labeling the mandate punishment a penalty. But upon realizing it would be written in the tax code and payments submitted to the IRS, they changed their tune. Small-business owners weren’t easily fooled. They knew all along that taxes are levied to fund the government; penalties are punishments for violating the law.
Our membership has not argued against the importance of healthcare reform. But this 2,700-page, thinly-disguised government over-reach, while pretending to improve individuals’ personal health, cannot succeed in doing so. Worse, it will also inflict serious economic harm on small businesses, further sickening the nation’s free enterprise system.
If justice is truly done by the Supreme Court, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be repealed, small business will be spared a serious government threat and the Constitution will survive.
That’ll be one historic spring small-business owners will never regret.
Dan Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents 350,000 small-business owners in Washington, D.C. and every state capital. www.nfib.com/DanDanner