The Kennedy Legacy vs. Glenn Beck's Lies About Reform "Murdering" Small Businesses

Last week, Glenn Beck supplemented his racist pandering by picking up the hoary right-wing talking point that both health care and labor reform would "murder" small businesses. Defending small businesses, in fact, is the last refuge of big businesses and their right-wing allies just defending their profit margins and the status quo. Yet Beck proclaimed (as noted in a right-wing blog):

"Small businesses in America...are dying -- and the government has their blood on its hands," Glenn Beck said Monday on his Fox News program which took the form of a town hall-style meeting. He added: The Obama administration and Congress is [sic] forcing socialized medicine down our throats. They're forcing unions to take over your successful businesses and hijacking the contracts of workers under the interestingly worded "Employee Free Choice Act." They're raising your capital gains taxes and, when that frightening cap-and-trade bill passes, energy prices are going to skyrocket so much that there is no way your small business is going to be able to afford to pay the utility bills.

Even as progressives look to honor the legacy of Senator Edward Kennedy by pushing harder for new health care and labor reforms (both of which he co-sponsored), conservatives are seeking to frighten small businesses with scare stories about the costs of reform. In response, new and updated reports by the pro-labor American Rights at Work group and a stepped-up organizing drive by the small business-based Main Street Alliance for health reform are challenging the smears and misinformation targeting this progressive legislation.

(In contrast to Glenn Beck's rants, you can hear straight talk about the politics of health care reform and the public option from Roger Hickey, the co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, this Thursday at 5:30 p.m on the Blog Talk Web radio show I co-host, "The D'Antoni and Levine Show.")

Whether it involves organizing rights or health care reform, or, historically, Medicare and the minimum wage, the alarmist cries from the right are always the same: this [FILL IN REFORM PROPOSAL HERE] will bankrupt small businesses, destroy the private sector and cost millions of jobs. (Indeed, It's those sorts of bogus claims Sen. Edward Kennedy fought to overcome in nearly 50 years in the U.S. Senate as he championed workplace, anti-discrimination and health legislation favoring the poor and the middle-class.)

Yet as the AFL-CIO Now blog summarized some of the new reports on the economic impact of unions:

According to the report:

"The legislation will give back to small businesses the freedom to compete based on innovation and quality, instead of who can afford the most expensive anti-union consultants. In this economic crisis, the nation has a duty to enable entrepreneurs and start-up companies to focus on building sustainable, long-term success, instead of being forced to compete against irresponsible businesses in an unwinnable, low-wage race to the bottom."

The report, "The Employee Free Choice Act: Good for Small Business," looks at the reality behind the spin generated by opponents of the legislation, and points out that union-dense states have lower rates of small business failure. These facts are a valuable counter to rampant groundless rhetoric about the Employee Free Choice Act.

In addition, the ability of workers to freely form unions and bargain can provide small business owners and their employees with advantages like access to training and the ability to buy into health care pools to help lower the often-crippling costs of health care.

Most important, the advantages unions bring to workers in wages, benefits and economic security help boost workers' ability to buy goods and services in their community.

The executive director of American Rights at Work, Kimberly Freeman, also underscored the positive impact of unions on communities this week in unveiling a new report on economic revitalization efforts spearheaded by unions. She noted, "Unions are partnering with businesses in their communities to prevent job losses and preserve manufacturing jobs in this tough economy. Investing in worker pension funds, unions are financing private ventures to enhance Gulf Coast revitalization and rebuild area communities."

The report, for instance, also highlighted a recession-fighting partnership in Wisconsin:

Innovative Programs to Keep Jobs and Revitalize Regional Economies

A partnership between the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO and the regional business community produced the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP), which helps prevent plant closures, provides job training to current workers, and trains and places low-income, disadvantaged members of the community into jobs in a variety of sectors. In one year, the WRTP helped save four plant closures, preserving more than 1,000 jobs. Each year, the organization places roughly 500 residents, largely workers of color, into jobs with starting wages averaging nearly $15 per hour.

Even so, the Employee Free Choice Act, which levels the playing field for union organizing, still remains a right-wing and Big Business target during the Congerssional recess. That's continuing even as presumptive incoming AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka has indicated that labor will be focusing on helping to pass health care reform ahead of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Yet contrary to conservative myth-making, it's not just workers who would benefit from the right to get accessible, affordable health-care , but small businesses too. That's why the Mains Street Alliance announced this week:

MSA Launches "Stand with Small Business" Week of Action: Today, MSA launched its "Stand with Small Business" Week of Action for Health Reform.

Our coalitions in 14 states are organizing events and activities over the next week to call on Members of Congress to stand with small business owners, not the insurance companies, and vote for health reform that stops insurers from denying care, builds new bargaining power for small businesses, and gives us new choices with a public health insurance plan.

To promote those goals, they're also featuring each day during the Congressional recess the story of a small business owner harmed by the current insurance system and have also launched a series of TV ads. On Wednesday, the group featured the story of Angel Romero Kiester, the owner of the Cravings Cafe in Lyons, Nebraska. Her story:

My husband and I are small business owners. Like many people wanting the best possible life for their families, we decided to start our own business. So we opened Cravings Cafe in Lyons. It may be a little cafe in a small rural heartland town, but we are living a big dream.

That big dream comes with some big challenges though - and the biggest challenge right now is health care. We can't afford health coverage for our employees. That's hard because our employees are family, and we want them to be covered and have that security. It's also hard because it's difficult for me to find and keep good employees without health benefits...

Right now, I can't even get health coverage for myself. I tried to get coverage on my own but was denied - I was born with scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and some insurance companies consider this a pre-existing condition. It just doesn't seem right that small business owners like me, and our employees, are left with no options for quality, affordable health care.

We need real choices. That's why I support giving small businesses the choice of a public health insurance plan. This would give us a good, affordable option and a way to offer coverage, improve employee recruitment and retention, and help my business grow...

The new ads, being aired on TV in key swing states, highlight the need to help small businesses grow and prosper by making health insurance affordable, including using a public option to keep health insurance companies "honest."

For instance, in Maine, where two moderate Republican Senators votes are up for grabs on health insurance reform, small business owners made their appeal directly:

Ads like these might not grab the ratings of a Glenn Beck, but they're telling real-life stories at risk of being drowned out by right-wing Town Hall mobs and scare tactics, even as progressives are now increasing their organizing efforts and challenging bully-boy tactics. One example: this week's Town Hall in Virginia hosted by Rep. Jim Moran that saw anti-abortion zealot Randall Terry get ejected by officials after being clearly out-numbered by pro-reform progressives (hat tip to Brad Blog, with the best video of the incident):