Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Who Is the Small Business Majority?

From the New York

The Small Business Majority released a series of state polls today and yesterday that make an astonishing claim: small business owners, by wide majorities, support a mandate that would require that businesses either provide health insurance for their employees or pay a tax to fund government-supported insurance for them. In Iowa, 65 percent support the pay-or-play proposal; in Nebraska, 59 percent favor it. Across 16 states, support for the employer mandate ranges from 59 percent to 72 percent

As far as the Agenda knows, the Small Business Majority research is the only research that has found that small businesses buy in to pay-or-play. All of the other small business advocates claim the opposite, and by greater margins — even the National Small Business Association, whose moderate leanings seem practically radical, at least compared to those of its larger rivals, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The novelty of such a claim raises a whole bunch of questions. We’ll return to the polls themselves another day. But first, let’s take a look at Small Business Majority. The group has gotten a lot of press this spring, first as one of two small business invitees to the White House health care summit in March. Then, last month, it released a study by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber that claimed health care reform proposals that include an employer mandate would save small businesses $855 billion over ten years. Suddenly, the organization is a player. But just what is Small Business Majority, and whom does it really represent?

The group has been around since 2004, founded by a tech entrepreneur named John Arensmeyer. “We really felt there needed to be a more sort of measured, pragmatic voice that was not ideological in the public policy discussions around small business issues,” he says. Chief among its positions is that bearing the cost for effective health care reform is a “shared responsibility” — shared among government, individuals, and employers.

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