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Car manufacturers — your new health benificiary

The Big Three American automobile manufacturers — Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler — contribute millions of dollars to the campaigns of both Democrats and Republicans. These car companies have hundreds of lobbyists pounding the pavement in Washington D.C.. With all that money involved, if auto manufacturers have something to say, politicians always save a seat at the table.

So, while reading the March issue of Automobile Magazine, I was surprised to read that the Big Three are tentatively supporting a national health-care system.

Automobile’s columnist Jamie Kitman writes that Ford CEO William Clay Ford, Jr., (how’s that for a family business) “recently … began talking as if he were about to advocate a national health care system.”

I had to read this a few times for it to sink in. I checked again and again to make sure I didn’t misread it. Were these oligarchic corporations supporting something for Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class America? After polluting the environment, laying-off employees, wasting natural resources and threatening to break up unions, have auto companies turned a new leaf? Had they suddenly gotten a conscience?

Kitman goes on to say that the Big Three “were fully behind Bill and Hillary Clinton’s national health-care plan,” which got slaughtered in Congress a decade ago. Apparently, they’ve been on the national health-care kick for some time now.

Why then would the Big Three support a nationalized health care system? A health care system for all would help over 40 million Americans without health insurance, but no, that’s not the reason. It would also provide a safety net for person who loses his or her job (and hence his or her benefits); but that’s wishful thinking as well.

No, the reason these corporations are lobbying for nationalized health care is the same reason they support anything: the bottom line.

Kitman writes that, from a shareholder’s point of view, having the federal government take care of its citizens’ health makes sense for the company. It makes “sense to pass responsibility for our workers’ medical bills from the corporation to the federal government.”

“If Toyota and Volkswagen’s workers get their medical care from their respective governments, why shouldn’t Ford’s, GM’s or DaimlerChrysler’s American workforce.”

Well, three cheers for that.

Because our country is the only industrialized nation with not even a semblance of nationalized health care, the Big Three are at an inherent competitive disadvantage with respect to foreign car companies.

With all the talk of “outsourcing,” or sending jobs overseas, nationalized health care is a money saving idea that would help not only corporations but also their employees and consumers.

As leaders in this country search for new ways to stem the tide of jobs heading overseas, Americans should definitely look to lower the costs for employers, big and small.

Companies don’t save that much money sending a job overseas. If you include the costs of constructing new buildings, training new employees, the increasing incomes of person overseas and the weak dollar, the cost of sending a job overseas is surprisingly close to keeping it here in the States. But a big factor in outsourcing is escalating health care costs.

Instead of trying to even the playing field by levying stiff tariffs on foreign companies and tax breaks for American companies (things other countries don’t do nearly as much as we do), why doesn’t our country do what works for most all others? Even if it means paying a little more in taxes.

The Big Three know that the hundreds of millions more they’d have to pay in taxes would be dwarfed by the billions they’d save not paying for their workers’ health expenses. Now if only Americans would realize the little bit more they’d pay in taxes would in turn save them from paying for health care out of pocket.

Andrew Pina is a post graduate majoring in humanities and a contributing editor at The Oracle.