Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Saturday, November 22, 2008
  Healthcare or Oblivion?
With GM's survival in the balance, I'd like to revisit something I wrote over a year ago. It's more relevant now than ever:
I am not the first and I won't be the last to say it, but why are the major automakers not calling a for national health care plan?

In 2003 Billy Ford, then CEO of Ford (and a former schoolmate of my brother), suggested that the Big 3 should start pushing for a non-employer based health care system simply because it was a major factor in making American automakers uncompetitive on the wage/labor front. Since 2003? [crickets chirping]

Alan Mullally is now CEO at Ford and based upon my brief time as the Chef at the Boeing's commercial airline group with Mullally a few floors above me entertaining dignitaries over my lunches, I can say that I have never met a more workers-are-cattle kind of guy. I do not expect him to repeat Billy's call. Alan will not admit that Ayn Rand was wrong. He might get kicked out of the club.

Currently GM is trying to cram a union-wide variation of the Heritage Foundation's plan of individual health savings accounts down the UAW's throat so that GM can break it promises to its retirees with a little less bad PR.

But what else can you expect when Hillary Clinton puts forward a health care plan (a lousy one) that is very similar to the one that Mitt Romney signed here in Massachusetts (fatally flawed, IMHO), yet Romney jumps on his soapbox and declares Clinton's plan to be "socialist." The ironies abound.

In the world of Harvard MBA's, Republicans and Dittoheads, health care is not about people or medicine. No, to them healthcare is a symbolic battle that is fought for different but related reasons. Ultimately for these folks to acknowledge that other countries do it better would be to admit that their basic paradigms of self-sufficiency and free-markets are rife with inherent shortcomings. This issue must remain black-and-white for the opponents of national health care. There can be no compromise because the second they crack the door they know that mobs of those supposedly less deserving types will demand real change.

As long as Rick Wagoner, Billy Ford, Alan Mullally and all their kindred souls don't have to worry about affordable access to medical care, then it seems unlikely that they will do anything about the average American's plight. And therein lies the quandary. If corporate America could acknowledge that the simple precept of healthcare for all would benefit share prices, then it would take less than a year to make it happen. Yet jumping that mental hurdle is something they simply cannot do.

This is a rare opportunity for big business and social justice types to see eye to eye on a major issue that will impact every single American. Can they do it? Does any major CEO have the courage to be the first? Could the now Executive Chairman of the Board at Ford, Billy Ford, resurrect his call for national health care and take his place beside his great-grandfather's $5 day?

I have my doubts.
And now matters have come to a head - with the survival of their companies at stake and their own livliehoods, fortunes and reputations cratering, Wagoner, Mullaly and now Bob Nardelli, might be ready to say that Healthcare for All is, indeed, good for business.
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