Monday, November 10, 2014

American Corporations and Health Reform

Corporations cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed, or excommunicated for they have no souls.

Sir Edward Coke (1562-1634), Case of Sutton’s Hospital

Corporations are the bane of liberals, for they say corporations have no soul, no regard for humanity.

I found this sentiment clearly expressed in a book I am reading, The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World (Mark Hertsgaard, Farrar, Strauss, Gerous, 2002). The author, a published itinerant journalist has this to say about President Ronald Reagan , “Reagan’s larger achievement was ideological. His decisions rested on the very idea that government should not intervene in the economy to assixt the poor and the disadvantaged, regulate corporate conduct, or otherwise pursue a vision of the public interest tha diverged from unrestrained free enterprise.”

Hertsgaard did not mention that Reagan oversaw a record boom in the U.S. economy, that he was reelected twice by substantial margins, that he had consistently high approval ratings, or that historians frequently put in the top five of great American Presidents.

This negative ideological attitude towards corporations exist today. This morning on TV and recently in OP-Eds, I see and read about lack of diversity in corporate board rooms and corporate suites, about inequality between corporate CEOs and their workers, and about evil corporate leaders, like the Koch brothers, contributing secret, or “dark” money into the coffers of conservative politicians.

There’s another side, of course. One of the Koch’s brothers is the single largest contributor to the Arts in New York City , Koch Industries employs 60,000 Americans and provides them with generous health benefits, and American corporations offer health coverage to 160 million Americans

There are other sides as well. Corporations could not exist without profits or shareholders who demand those profits. If big things need to be done, like provide health coverage to the 12 million Americans who remain uninsured, the government cannot do it alone. It cannot competently develop the necessary websites, it cannot do administer the VA health system, and it cannot run Medicare and Medicaid without outsourcing the administration of these giant programs to private health plans with the expertise to do the job.

Finally, the public, whether progressives like it or not, as Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management observed “Every single social task of major impact…is increasingly entrusted to corporation which are organized for perpetuity and are managed by professions whether they are called ‘manges,’ ‘adminitrators,’ or ‘executives.’”

If big things need to be done, people tend to trust corporations or big institutions – like United Health Care, Wellpoint, AARP, or large medical groups – Kaiser, the Cleveland Clinic, or Giesinger- integrated ospital systems. medical device companies, pharmaceutical firms, research companies , with the tools with the tools to get health care jobs done.

Government may resent corporations, they may burden them with the highest corporate taxes in the world, and they may interfere and intervene with their activities with countless regulations, but they cannot live without them, their skill sets, their innovations, the millions of American jobs they create, or the prosperity and economic growth they generate for America.

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