ONTD Political

For the past week, I have watched with amazement as one restaurant chain after another—the very people who peddle the high caloric foods laden with the fat and sugar that have contribute so mightily to the nation’s health problems and the resulting costs—announced their plans to cut back on employee work hours.

Why?

Because an employee who works less than 30 hours a week is not an employee at all for purposes of the Affordable Care Act. Thus, by cutting back work hours for dishwashers, servers, bussers, etc., these franchised chain restaurant operations can skirt the requirements of Obamacare by providing employees with less work.

Leading the way is Papa John’s pizza pusher-in-chief, John Schnatter, who has gone public in a big way decrying the damage Obamacare would do to his business.

So serious is the problem—Mr. Schnatter would have us believe—that he is being forced to cut back working hours for his workers to avoid the crushing costs of providing his beloved employees and their families with a healthcare plan or, alternatively, raise the price of his pizzas by $.14 a pie.

This is a national crisis. I mean, when it comes to buying a pizza, that $.14 is surely a deal breaker!

But let’s keep in mind the choice Schnatter is really offering us.

By avoiding the health care reform law through paying less to his employees as a result of cutting back their hours, Schnatter is only increasing the costs that you and I pick up when his employees—having no health insurance—show up at the emergency room for basic care because they have nowhere else to go. Thus, while Mr. Schnatter is deeply distressed by the notion of taking some responsibility for the health of the very employees who make his business work so that he can earn millions, he is perfectly happy to have you and I subsidize his profits by allowing us to pick up the cost of health care for his workers because he will not.

The result of Schnatter’s behavior—along with the other restaurant owners playing this game—is to leave it to me to subsidize Schnatter’s profits despite the fact that I am not a customer for his pizzas that find to be mediocre at best. I will be left to pay the bills for his employees’ health care needs and, as a result, contribute directly to his bottom line.

Not a bad deal for Mr. Schnatter. He gets to profit from someone like me despite my choice to not spend a dime in one of his restaurants. Nice work if you can get it but hardly what we would typically view as an example of free enterprise.

While this “three nickels a pie” charge would, apparently, be the final straw in driving you into the waiting arms of your neighborhood, non-franchised pizzeria (a pretty good idea if you ask me) it turns out that things might not be so dire for poor Mr. Schnatter after all.

In a brilliant article by Forbes’ own Caleb Melby —by the way, I have never been prouder of one of my Forbes colleagues—Caleb breaks down the real costs to Papa John’s, using hard, cold math to reveal a little truth. We learn, for starters, that the actual cost of the Affordable Care Act to Mr. Schnatter’s business runs much closer to 4 cents a pizza than it does to 14 cents. Could Mr. Schnatter be setting himself up to make a few extra pennies per pie using Obamacare as an excuse or is he simply exaggerating his plight to sell his political narrative?

Certainly, this is not the first time a new cost item has resulted in a small increase in the price of Mr. Schnatter’s product. However, I strongly suspect that it is the first time he has chosen to politicize a cost increase to make an ideological point. As a result, Caleb’s article serves to expose Schnatter for what he really is—an ideologue who would gladly put a metaphoric gun to the head of his employees, using them as pawns in the effort to sell his own political beliefs which, in the opinion of this writer, have no more substance nor taste than the pizzas he peddles. And if he can make a few extra bucks in the process? It’s all good then, right Mr. Schnatter?

And there is more.

According to Schnatter, the cost to his company of providing his employees with a healthcare benefit will run about $5 to $8 million each year—a cost that pales in comparison to what he’s spending on Papa John’s promotion whereby the company is giving away 2 million pizzas because quarterback Peyton Manning asked them to in a TV commercial. The price of that adventure is estimated to be about $24 to $32 million in revenues—four times the cost of providing his employees with the healthcare coverage they need.

I understand that Papa John’s has calculated that the give-away promotion will lead to increased sales and, accordingly, is an investment that is warranted for the long- term improvement of their profits. However, one cannot help but wonder if there would not have been some benefit in maybe giving away one million pizzas, leaving more than enough to treat Papa John employees like human beings without compromising profits.

Of course, it is not all about John Schnatter and his desire to boost his pizza sales among politically like-minded pizza eaters while saving a few bucks at the expense of his employees. We now have a new political star in the world of fast food franchise operators who seeks to “one-up” Schnatter in the effort to mix politics with the purveyance of high calorie food products.

Meet John Metz, the franchisor of 48 locations in the Hurricane Grill & Wings chain and owner/operator of RREMC Restaurants, a company that operates 40 Denny’s restaurants along with a number of Dairy Queen locations.

For Mr. Metz, simply cutting back on his employees’ work hours is just not good enough. Despite the fact that cutting employee work opportunities frees him from his obligation to provide health care benefits under the law, Mr. Metz has decided that, in addition to cutting work hours, he will be charging his customers a 5 percent surcharge beginning in 2014—a charge Metz claims is necessary to pay for the costs he will incur as a result of Obamacare.

How does that make sense? If Metz avoids the obligation to provide health care by cutting the hours of his employees, why is the 5 percent surcharge necessary? I get the pitch for one or the other—faulty as the argument may be —but how does one justify both?

No doubt, Mr. Metz has figured out that the extra 5 percent charge —one that will fall directly to his company’s bottom line—will be subtracted by the customer when calculating the tip to be given to the server. He knows full well that the standard 15 percent tip will, in Mr. Metz’s restaurants, soon become 10 percent.

Never mind that tips are the lifeblood of restaurant workers whose hourly rate of pay is often below the minimum wage. These are, after all, the people who voted for Obama, right? If they had only taken the directions provided by their employers and voted for Mitt Romney, could this not all have been avoided? Clearly, these people who earn too little to afford health insurance for their families but too much to qualify for Medicaid deserve to be punished for wanting basic healthcare for their families and casting their vote accordingly.

And remember, you and I will be left paying the bill for treating these people in ERs throughout America as Mr. Metz enjoys his 5 percent windfall.

The efforts to blackmail the people of the United States into doing the bidding of these businesses does not end with the cheap food emporiums and their mission of pushing fat calories to anyone foolish enough to eat this stuff.

We can now welcome the energy industry to the party.

Disturbed that the government may look to the oil and gas producers to pony up a bit more in taxes after generations of using taxpayer money granted them as subsidies—despite their billions upon billions in annual profits—these businesses are now threatening to take their jobs elsewhere should we dare to ask them to forgo some of that subsidy cash.

According to Kharey Cauthern of the American Petroleum Industry, “With new taxes, U.S. oil and gas investments are less attractive and foreign projects more attractive. That’s an invitation to push American investment and jobs overseas.”

To drive home their blackmail efforts, the industry has launched a television and print campaign telling us what is going to happen to our jobs if we remove their subsidies.

You know what? Enough already.

How does any American avoid the reality that these are the very people who claim to despise welfare unless that welfare is corporate welfare?

Restaurant owners who whine about paying the cost of their employees’ health care are leaving it to you and I to do the job for them with every monthly health insurance premium we pay, thereby subsidizing their bottom lines whether we buy their products or not. How is that not corporate welfare? Oil companies who threaten to take their jobs and go elsewhere if we dare to cut back on their research and development subsidies, all the while pointing the finger at single mothers who get government help.

I’m sorry, but this is nuts.

It is no secret that American patriotism was, for many people, long ago replaced by something these folks consider far more important—personal and shareholder profit.

I like profits. But I also like living in a country where our commitment to the betterment of our nation and the lives of our people takes precedence over the desire to give away a few million pizza pies.

If these companies are permitted to get away with this effort to hold hostage their employees—and the American public at large—in order to get their way because they lost an election…or if they can successfully threaten to pick up their ball and take it to a different field because we might just ask them to forgo some R&D subsidy money for the national betterment…America has a problem far more dramatic than paying an extra fifteen cents for a slab of carbohydrate drenched in sugar filled tomato sauce and then covered with artery clogging meat.

I can only hope that Americans will have the good sense to show these businesses what we think of their tactics and their notion of patriotism by choosing to support businesses who believe in a more basic yet evolved sense of values.

It doesn’t require massive efforts or campaigns involving staging boycotts or creating other types of mischief. It is far simpler than that.

The next time you are taking the family out for dinner, do a quick Google check to see if your destination is a place where they are punishing their workers to make a political points as they ask you to subsidize their profits by requiring you to pay higher health insurance premiums due to the costs of emergency rooms treating their employees because they have no coverage. If you find that your planned destination is such a business, maybe you can think of another, similarly priced restaurant that your family might enjoy.

These business have made their choice and their choice is to politicize their businesses.

Fine. Now, let’s make our choices.

Let’s see how Papa John’s profits hold up when the millions of Americans who re-elected Barack Obama makes a few choices of their own and support pizza restaurants who treat the employees that make the businesses work the way the law wants them to be treated.

Source: Forbes

Do we not have an Obamacare/Affordable Care Act tag? Seems necessary at this point.
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