Health-care reform will not succeed if it exacerbates existing problems or extends the country's economic problems, according to Andrew Langer, executive director of the Institute for Liberty.
Langer brought IFL's Keep Small Business Healthy initiative to Little Rock on Thursday in an effort to apply subtle pressure on Arkansas' two moderate Democrats in the U.S. Senate, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. Lincoln is up for re-election in 2010. The debate over health-care reform rages on in Washington, D.C., and Langer is bringing the initiative to reform "swing" states.
IFL is an advocacy group for small business and entrepreneurs based in Washington, D.C. opposed to the current plans being pushed by Democrats. Langer is the former head of regulatory practice for the National Federation of Independent Business, has co-chaired an international property-rights group and served as a consultant for the most-recent Bush Administration. Through IRL, he has been a mover behind the national Tea Party movement.
The Keep Small Business Healthy initiative entails a series of town-hall style breakfast meetings with local small-business owners about issues they face regarding health-care reform. The initiative kicked off in Baton Rouga, La. on Wednesday, and in the next week will visit Missouri, Nebraska, Virginia and possibly Delaware.
Langer told Arkansas Business after the Little Rock meeting that the issue of health-care reform has energized constituents to a degree not seen in decades.
"The time is right to motivate folks to get in touch with their [legislative] members on this issue," he said. "Six months ago, I would've told you that by now, a massive reform package would've been passed through Congress. But through the actions of organizations like ours and others asking for a bright light to be shown on this, I truly believe we can prevent Congress from doing something bad."
Langer warned that Democrats would be foolish to approach this issue from a heavy-handed political angle, lest they suffer the same fate as the Republican-controlled Congress in 2006. He hopes the "bright light" currently focused on health-care reform will prevent leaders in Congress from secretly writing a bill and forcing a vote without proper exposure.
"The American public has served notice in consecutive election cycles," he said. "They want meaningful change."
Langer said the Democrats' current majority-compromise position is unacceptable, pointing out there isn't even an actual bill to examine or undergo any budget scoring.
"A half-measured compromise still is wholly destructive to the marketplace," he said. "What they are proposing will break the system, and that's just looking at basic economics. Which underscores why it's so critical to get involved."
Langer said American small businesses provide two-thirds of all new jobs, and they will suffer if the current proposals are crafted into one bill and passed.
"When small businesses hire, the economy starts moving," he said. "When they don't, the economy stalls. Ill-conceived health-care reforms will penalize employers. During these challenging economic times, small businesses and the families that depend on them can't afford to pay for exorbitant government mandates."
Langer believes reform legislation will be passed before Congress breaks for Christmas.