By Bob Cesca: We’ve all known a kid who upon losing a board game would freak out, hurl the game across the room and storm off while shouting something like, “This game sucks anyway!” The modern permutation of this unhinged sour grapes tantrum is to chuck a video game controller at the TV. (I sheepishly raise my hand: guilty as charged on the latter.)
It’s one thing to suffer a momentary lack of self-control after losing a simple game, especially if the game is stupid, stupid, stupid and doesn’t give you a chance to fire before enemies converge on your position seemingly out of nowhere I hate that game! Phew. Sorry. But it’s another thing entirely to engage in this kind of silly, irrational behavior as a business owner, politician or political pundit in reaction to the results of an election. It’s no surprise the Republicans are doing exactly that.
Last week, I wrote about the nonsensical secession movement. But it’s safe to say that it was spearheaded by a marginal, fringe, kneejerk group of mostly throw-back libertarian goofballs. The following examples of apoplexy, however, have come from people who reside squarely in the mainstream of the conservative right.
Let’s begin with fast food executives like Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter who threatened to raise the price of his crappy pizzas by 11-cents per pie while laying off workers as a means to side-stepping the forthcoming Affordable Care Act requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees provide all full time workers with health insurance or else pay a fine of $2,000 per employee. After crunching the numbers, however, Schnatter only needs to raise the price tag of each pizza by around 5-cents and use the proceeds to pay for health insurance for all of his full time workers. Done. Unless Papa John’s customers are radical misers, they’ll never notice the almost nonexistent price increase.
Elsewhere, a Denny’s franchise owner in New York threatened to add a five percent surcharge on each bill to pay for his new Obamacare expenses. The backlash was swift. Denny’s sales dropped all across the nation, even though John Metz, the franchise owner, only controlled a few dozen restaurants. So naturally the CEO of Denny’s had to step in and force-feed Metz some much-need Xanax.
Denny’s chief executive John Miller privately reached out to Metz to express his “disappointment” with the Florida franchisee’s controversial statements about Obamacare, which sparked a wave of backlash for the national restaurant chain over the past few days. Metz released a statement Monday night expressing “regret” over his statements.
“We recognize his right to speak on issues, but registered our disappointment that his comments have been interpreted as the company’s position,” Miller said in an email to The Huffington Post.
So that’s it. Hopefully Miller schooled Metz on the financial benefits of having a healthy workforce: fewer sick days, greater productivity, less turnover and higher-quality workers. In the case of Schnatter, the additional cost of health insurance will only reduce his profit margin by around $5-8 million annually if he doesn’t nothing to offset the cost. And yes — only. Last year, Schnatter’s pizza empire reported a profit of $87 million on gross sales of $1.218 billion, and if the trend holds, his profits for 2012 should be even higher.
Absent legitimate business concerns, what else do we call this behavior other than a tantrum?
Speaking of profits, if the president gets his way and taxes are returned to the Clinton-era levels for incomes above $250,000 for families and $200,000 for individuals, reports are coming in from various small business owners that they inexplicably intend to sabotage their revenue streams in order to keep incomes under the $250,000 threshold. For example:
Kristina Collins, a chiropractor in McLean, Va., said she and her husband planned to closely monitor the business income from their joint practice to avoid crossing the income threshold for higher taxes outlined by President Obama on earnings above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.
Ms. Collins said she felt torn by being near the cutoff line and disappointed that federal tax policy was providing a disincentive to keep expanding a business she founded in 1998.
“If we’re really close and it’s near the end-year, maybe we’ll just close down for a while and go on vacation,” she said.
It’s shocking that they’re successful business people, given their total ignorance of how taxes work. At the very least they ought to fire their accountant. But, once again, I don’t think this has anything to do with reality and everything to do with acting out like spoiled, petulant children.
Here’s how the tax code really works. If the Bush tax cuts expire on income higher than $250,000, the slightly higher tax rate will only apply to income over $250,000 — not the entire sum of $250,000. In other words, if the Collins family earns $251,000 next year, they will only pay a higher marginal tax rate on $1,000, not $251,000. And that doesn’t even take into consideration various deductions and tax credits that would cumulatively give the Collins family a lower effective tax rate (the process by which Mitt Romney or Warren Buffet pays a tax rate in the range of 15%).
So these people are deliberately restraining their revenue potential because they’re pissed about the election. In my video game metaphor, this is not unlike bashing yourself in the head with a controller instead of hurling it across the room.
Then there are the red state governors who are refusing to implement the health insurance exchanges required in the Affordable Care Act. Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Rick Scott and the other usual suspects have stonewalled the law. Bobby Jindal, who not only blasted his own party for being “stupid” but who also criticized the stimulus while accepting gigantic stimulus checks, has also joined the blockade against Obamacare.
These so-called states’ rights Republicans obviously don’t realize that the federal government will simply create an exchange itself for any state that refuses. In other words, here’s a case where the states have total control and these governors have all but relinquished that control to the federal government — literally allowing a government takeover.
I can’t even imagine the tarring and feathering that would’ve taken place if any Democratic politician had refused to implement Medicare Part-D or the USA PATRIOT Act or had refused to allow the deployment of national guard units to Iraq. The outrage would’ve been punitive and nearly universal. I mean, look at what happened to former-Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) in the 2002 midterms when he dared to oppose the Iraq War. Karl Rove and the Republicans accused this triple-amputee Vietnam War veteran of being sympathetic to Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Saxby Chambliss won the election and has currently joined the witch hunt against U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, even though he and George W. Bush presided over a six year span of time when there were 11 terrorist attacks on various U.S. consulates resulting in dozens of casualties.
And finally, an article about kneejerk, childish reactions to the election wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the latest gibberish from Dean Chambers, the “portly” founder of Unskewed Polls. Immediately after the election, Chambers blamed me for his homophobic rant against Nate Silver. Yes, really. He blamed me. You know, because Republicans are all about personal responsibility. Evidently, Chambers objected to an article in which I described him as “portly” in an attempt to visually and professionally contrast him with Silver. Chambers is the “Bizarro Nate Silver,” I wrote. So naturally Chambers lashed out against… Silver. Odd.
But that’s not the worst of it. Chambers launched a new site called “Barack O’Fraudo.” I’m not making that up. Barack O’Fraudo. First of all, what’s the deal with the name? Chambers seems to have combined the president’s first name with an Irish version of the word “fraud” and tossed in a random “o” at the end — the president’s actual last name ends with an “a.”
The mission, as I predicted weeks ago, is to unskew the results of the election by smoking out cases of voter fraud orchestrated by Obama campaign. Chambers is back to doing what he does best: drawing wild conclusions from numbers he doesn’t fully understand. He’s pinpointed cases of alleged fraud in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida, and has therefore stripped 80 electoral votes away from the president. But, strangely, he doesn’t give those electoral votes to Romney — yet.
Four years ago, when the president won the first time, fringy Republicans merely threatened to “Go Galt,” in reference to the John Galt character in Atlas Shrugged who accumulates a group of wealthy disciples to stop contributing to the economy, thus bringing it to its knees. This time around it seems as if this conservative whiny freak-out is a futile extension of that initial effort. It won’t work and, in the final analysis, it will only serve to further embarrass and discredit a conservative movement that’s already in serious trouble. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.