May 22, 2012
By John Stoehr
Joining 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business challenged the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in March. It claimed the “individual mandate” is unconstitutional and would bankrupt small businesses with unnecessary costs.
For one thing, many of its 340,000 members, most of whom employ 20 or fewer workers, have already benefited from the law. According to a March report in the Wall Street Journal, members have seen costs go down thanks to tax credits that were built into the law. Small firms in industries like advertising have also been able to compete with large national companies for talented employees. As one member told the WSJ: “[The NFIB is] doing a very big disservice to their members” by opposing the healthcare law.
Moreover, small businesses generally favor some kind of regulation, because such standards often make them more competitive with big companies. The NFIB is opposed to regulation on principle, but it also claims, as many Republicans do, that the threat of regulation on entrepreneurs and job creators – they have a habit of calling it “regulatory uncertainty” – has kept businesses from hiring and thus from stimulating the economy. But observers across the political spectrumsay this is a canard. Regulation isn’t preventing businesses from hiring. Poor sales are.
Given the partisan affiliations and positions, it’s unsurprising that other groups who claim to speak for small business, such as Family Values at Work, cast a gimlet-eye at the NFIB. So do small-business owners and small-business advocacy groups. Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, called the NFIB a “small-business pretender” and “lapdog” of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In April, J. Kelly Conklin, a New Jersey cabinetmaker, wrote in the Hill: “Whether we’re talking about health care or taxes (or both at the same time), NFIB always seems to side with the big fellas – big insurance, big banking, big business – not little guys like me. Why? I don’t know.”
What’s more certain is that calling yourself a small-business group while serving the interests of big business has political advantages.
And it explains why the NFIB, in speaking for small business, hopes to be seen as speaking for the American people – even though, if the Supreme Court overturns the healthcare law, it’s the American people and their trusted small business who may suffer most.