Voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives and social enterprises are essential, but are not game changers by themselves. In addition, we need laws and regulations that guide our economy toward sound, long-term decision-making, with full recognition of social and environmental externalities. As business leaders, we can and must support policy change to help make the economy more sustainable. Here are three important policies to consider supporting – and specific actions you can take:
Governors and state officials opposing the expansion cite cost as their primary reason. But there are small business cost factors associated with not expanding Medicaid that are important to consider.
What’s at stake
Small businesses pay about 18 percent more than larger companies for comparable health insurance policies. Medicaid expansion offers several important ways to reduce costs for small businesses.
First, there is a significant cost to a small business when workers are not on the job because they are sick or have to care for another who is ill. Expanding Medicaid to cover some low income workers will economically benefit their small business employers – even those that don’t offer insurance.
Second, small businesses that want to offer health insurance to employees will find it more affordable and easier if some of their workers are covered under a Medicaid expansion. Fewer workers to cover means lower premium cost, but reduced workers are eligible for the private group health insurance, making it easier for employers to meet required participation levels.
The third benefit of a Medicaid expansion involves the new requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees either offer health insurance or pay a penalty. Workers who qualify for Medicaid under the expansion are not counted, letting many businesses that are near the 50 employees ceiling put off offering plans for a few more years.
What you can do
Recently, Nancy Pelosi and others in Congress have said that reforming this system is a priority. Among the approaches is the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, a near-term solution addressing the lack of transparency in campaign contributions since Citizens United.
What’s at stake
When big donors sway elections they dominate the policy agenda. Giant old-line corporations and their lobby organizations can put in place elected officials who support their policies. And the impact of unaccounted funds doesn’t end when the election is over. It continues by influencing how legislators act (or don’t act) on specific policies.
If you think this might jeopardize policies that would help triple-bottom line and other innovative businesses, you have company. In a survey conducted by ASBC, 66 percent of small business owners said they viewed the Citizens United decision as bad for small business; only 9 percent said it was good for them.
The 2012 election cycle was the most expensive in history, with an estimated $6 billion being spent on all federal races combined. Much of the money that is flooding the system comes from organizations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($36 million in reported expenditures, plus an unknown amount spent on issue advocacy), which works to influence Congress and the Executive Branch on behalf of its largest members. They can implicitly threaten elected officials with massive financial support of an opponent to keep issues of narrow interest out of the public debate.
What can you do
What’s at stake
Most economists agree that the drastic cuts in the sequester are a real threat to the recovering economy. To avoid this hit, Congress and the President are considering a number of measures to bring in new revenue to pay for essential government investment and services.
One set of corporate tax reforms would end tax loopholes that allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes with offshore tax havens. These fixes would begin to address basic fairness in the tax code that favors multinational corporations over small- and medium-sized businesses that invest and create jobs in the U.S.
If we are to invest in an economy that sustains businesses, families and communities, we need all our nation's businesses to pay their fair share. Multinational corporations should not be rewarded for disguising U.S. profits as foreign earnings through clever accounting maneuvers; they should not be rewarded for shifting jobs and investment offshore.
What you can do
The <a href="http://asbcouncil.org">American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC)</a> is a network of companies and business associations. Its column, Policy Points, identifies public policies where a business voice, grounded in principles of innovation, fairness and environmental stewardship, can make an essential difference in the advocacy process. The goal is to arm readers with information and specific actions to take. As business leaders, we can and must support policy change to help make the economy more green and sustainable. The column editor is Richard Eidlin, ASBC's Vice President - Public Policy and Business Engagement.