by Benjamin J. Kirby
I recently had a visit with my doctor. She informed me that I need to lose about fifteen pounds over the course of the next year.
Don't worry. The Facebook support group is being created right now. They're working on prime time telethon special with Sally Struthers. Resources are immediately being diverted from those "gift-getting" moochers -- you know, women, Hispanics, the entire African American community; basically, about 47% of America -- and being redirected towards my pizza withdrawal support group.
In seriousness, one of the things I most enjoy about my visit to the doctor is the reminder of just how lucky I really am (minor liver issues and all). I have noted my luck here before:
I am a lucky man. The only time I've spent the night in the hospital is when Emeline was born, and, I guess when I was born. I am lucky, and I know it. I went to the emergency room when I flipped my go-cart and scraped all the skin off my knee. I was probably twelve or thirteen. I went to the emergency room in college when, during the course of a lively -- and yes, drunken -- Friday night game of kill-the-man, I gashed open my eyelid on either my friend Dave's boot heel, or a patch of ice that was in what turned out to be a cow pasture (different, longer, bettter story for another time). I've taken people to the hospital before, and when I do, I'm always thankful for how healthy I turned out to be.
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President Obama won re-election this month, and he did it fairly handily. Senate Democrats made modest gains, and several tea party lunatics lost their House races.
There has been a lot of speculation about what this means for President Obama and the Democratic Party. A lot of folks are calling it a mandate. A lot of folks stop short of calling it a mandate, but acknowledge that the victory signals strong support for the President and his message.
I think it says as much about who lost on Election Day as about who won.
And the big losers on Election Day were reactionary Republicans hell-bent on defeating Obama for power's sake alone.
This, obviously, was a crappy strategy.
As the GOP nominee for President, Mitt Romney was an awful choice for a whole host of reason. But the big reason was that he is essentially the godfather of modern health reform. Everyone acknowledges that the Affordable Care Act was largely based on the system he, as a Republican governor, passed through a Democratic Legislature in Massachusetts.
This took the teeth out of what should have been one of the core conservative arguments against President Obama's re-election.
But just because those teeth weren't there in the candidacy of Mitt Romney doesn't mean the bitterness about greatly expanded health coverage for Americans didn't fester in the collective conservative mind.
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The festering bitterness is now bubbling to the crusty surface, like hot, watery tomato sauce up through a greasy layer of molten cheese.
"Papa" John Schnatter, the CEO of the Papa Johns pizza chain has been out front on this. Specifically because of "Obamacare," Papa John has threatened to raise the price of his pizza, and cut employee hours to avoid having them covered by the new law.
Compassionate conservatism at its finest, America.
And Schnatter is hardly the only restaurateur to threaten a sort of Obamacare backlash.
While some business owners threaten to cut workers' hours to avoid paying for their health care, a West Palm Beach, Fla., restaurant owner is going even further. John Metz said he will add a 5 percent surcharge to customers' bills to offset what he said are the increased costs of Obamacare, along with reducing his employees' hours.
Over the weekend and on Monday, Applebee's employees and customers expressed their anger over comments made on the Fox Business Network last week by Apple-Metro CEO Zane Tankel, who owns 40 Applebee's franchises in the New York metropolitan area. Tankel said he would not hire any more workers and was considering cutting the hours of current employees because of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
And folks in the food-service industry are hardly the only ones screwing the little guy over bitterness at the passage and subsequent discovery of the Constitutionality of Obamacare. A coal company laid off more than160 employees after President Obama was re-elected.
For the workers -- and their families -- impacted by these needless layoffs, this is truly devastating. It's awful. It is awful for the waiters and waitresses -- and busboys and cooks -- at places like Applebee's and Denny's and Hurricane Grill & Wings. It is awful for the people who make and deliver Papa John's pizza.
From a human perspective, it is senseless and horrible and wrong.
From a political perspective, this is exactly why the Republican Party is ripe to split in two.
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I don't know who in the hell Papa John Schnatter and these other guys think they're hurting. They have to know their actions are harming their own employees. They almost have to know they are collectively bordering on a twisted caricature of evil, moustache-twirling Snidely Whiplashes hell bent on bringing down the Dudley Do-Right of Obamacare at any cost.
Schantter (and the rest of this sorry bunch) face two problems. One is simple math.
Last year, Papa John’s International captured $1.218 billion in revenue. Total operating expenses were $1.131 billion. So if Schnatter’s math is accurate (Obamacare will cost his company $5-8 million more annually), then new regulation translates into a .4% to .7% (yes, fractions of a percent) expense increase. It’s difficult to set that ratio against the proposed pie increase, given size and topping differentials, but many of their large specialty pizzas run for $16. Remarkably, a 10-14 cent increase on a $16 pizza falls in a comparable range: .6% to.9%. But the cost transference becomes less equitable if you’re looking at medium pizzas, which run closer to $12, meaning a .8% to 1.15% price increase.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that Papa John’s sells exactly half medium/half large specialty pizzas. Averaging the ranges for both sizes, then averaging that product yields a .86% price increase — well outside the range of what Schnatter says Obamacare will cost him.
So how much would prices go up, under these 50/50 conditions, if they were to fairly reflect the increased cost of doing business onset by Obamacare? Roughly 3.4 to 4.6 cents a pie.
Would I pay anywhere between three and five cents more for a Papa John's pizza? No, because first, as you recall, I'm supposed to be losing a little weight, here, and pizza is a generally bad idea. Second, Papa John's pizza sucks. And I know good pizza.
But let's get real.
This isn't about passing on the cost, which the the phrasing each of these clowns have used with respect to implementing Obamacare. This is not about John Schnatter -- who earns nearly three million dollars a year -- and the impact on his billion dollar-a-year business.
This isn't about four cents per pie (Schnatter himself has estimated eleven to fourteen cents per pie; either way, it's a cost easily afforded by the Papa John's corporation).
This is about politics.
And it is about a mindset -- a sort of political frame, really -- underscored by Mitt Romney this week when he said on a conference call with dejected supporters, because President Obama gave "targeted groups a big gift."
Romney said his campaign, in contrast, had been about "big issues for the whole country." He said he faced problems as a candidate because he was "getting beat up" by the Obama campaign and that the debates allowed him to come back.
In the call, Romney didn't acknowledge any major missteps, such as his "47 percent" remarks widely viewed as denigrating nearly half of Americans, his lack of support for the auto bailout, his call for illegal immigrants to "self-deport," or his change in position on abortion, gun control and other issues. He also didn't address the success or failure of the campaign's strategy of focusing on the economy in the face of some improvement in employment and economic growth during the months leading up to Election Day.
Sure, health insurance is a "big gift." Right.
To me, though, the key there is what was not said: no acknowledgement of any missteps. This means that Romney really sort of believed his own hype -- finally bought the message he was selling to the far-right, Schnatter-esque base.
One of my big take-aways from the election, and in my regular back-and-forths with Matt, was that much of the Republican base believed the hype about "skewed polls" and a "rising" candidate who was tapping into an electorate rebelling against things like "government-mandated health care".
None of it was true.
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And to be fair to a whole host of Republicans, many of them are telling Mitt Romney to, well, shut the hell up.
He should. He probably will.
But that doesn't mean guys like John Schnatter and these other jackasses will. In fact, they probably won't. In fact, I'm sure they won't.
Indeed, I suspect these wealthy businessmen will be the new voice of Republican extremism, leading a kamikaze political fight which they have no way to win. As the Romney campaign was enclosed in a demographic box from which it would never be able to extricate itself (47% comments notwithstanding), these business "leaders" are attacking -- and ultimately alienating -- more Americans than likely buy their products.
More than 14 million seniors are already enjoying the benefits of Obamacare. I'm no business expert, but I do know something about politics. Angering seniors is a sure-fire loser. Every time.
And if you're in the pizza business, I wouldn't think you'd want to make young people mad, either.
Under the Affordable Care Act, if your plan covers children, you can now add or keep your children on your health insurance policy until they turn 26 years old.
As of June of this year, there were more than 3 million young people who were covered thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
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Our politics are at a funny place and time, more so for Republicans. Obama may not have received a mandate (that's still being debated), but the drown-government-in-the-bathtub, satisfy-the-rich message of the modern, activist, tea-party-driven GOP was wholly and soundly rejected by a mandate. It was a losing message.
I've spent enough time in politics now to not be too naive, though. Guys like John Schnatter and his bilionairre buddies don't listen very well. They'll be back with more threats, more anger, more division to peddle.
I just think they'll do it from a different party. Too many leading Republicans are working too hard to think ahead -- how to reclaim the message on sensible immigration? How to reclaim the message on sensible economic policy? Climate change? Energy? Jobs? International affairs?
The Republican Party has little choice but to answer those tough questions -- and more -- in a sensibly progressive way. Or they will simply cease to be a relevant party for a generation.