In 2008, Barack Obama achieved his dream of becoming the U.S.’ first black president with the campaign promise “Change We Can Believe In”.
In addition to his electoral mandate, he was given the gift of a huge Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and a ‘super’ majority of 60 Democrats in the Senate (achieved when a Republican senator, Arlen Spector, changed his party from Republican to Democrat.) President Obama was clearly in a position to create revolutionary change in America.
But Mr. Obama had to deal with several urgent issues first ? the economic crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the mounting tensions in the Middle Ease caused by Iran’s drive to create its own nuclear arsenal. Those were very critical priorities,
each one more than enough to deserve the President’s full attention. Yet Mr. Obama was determined to take on one of the most complex and controversial projects of them all ? revolutionary health care reform.
The chief architect and sponsor for health care reform for decades was Senator Edward Kennedy. He died in August, 2009, but it was reported that one of his dying wishes was for Mr. Obama and Congress to impose massive health care reform, and its trillions of dollars of cost, on an economy that was suffering from massive deficits and high unemployment.
Going into January, 2010, it looked very likely that Mr. Obama would succeed. The only obstacle in his path was the special election to replace Senator Kennedy in Massachusetts scheduled for January 19, 2010. This contest pitted a former
Democratic governor, Martha Coakley, against a relative Republican newcomer, Scott Brown.
Democrats had held this seat since Ted Kennedy was first elected in 1962. Mr. Brown was given virtually no chance of victory yet when the election was over,
he prevailed with 52% of the vote.
With this defeat, many experts feel that revolutionary health care reform along with its massive costs, will fail. That prompted a huge sigh of relief from most
taxpayers and businesses since the reform proposed would’ve created larger
Federal deficits and more uncertainty for the economy. Its defeat might also cause Mr. Obama to concentrate more closely on policies that stimulate the creation of new jobs and their positive impact on tax revenues.
Most importantly, in the area of labor relations, the defeat of health care reform should have a chilling effect on Mr. Obama’s desire to help unions organize more workers in the U.S. Without the ‘super’ majority of 60 Democratic votes in the Senate (a ‘super’ majority could stop efforts by Republicans to postpone votes
on key bills, many times killing the bills because of the delays), Democrats will have an almost impossible task of succeeding with their Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would eliminate secret ballots for union elections and make it easier for unions to organize.
Without the EFCA, the percentage of union membership in the private sector will continue to decline. Membership in the UAW has been significantly reduced because of the financial problems of the auto companies, and private sector union representation fell to its lowest level since 1900 ? 7.2%!
So the defeat of the health care reform act could clear the way for U.S. private sector unions to continue to fade away. As J Justin Wilson, managing director of the Center for Union Facts, said “Labor union membership is an outdated concept for most working Americans. It is a relic of Depression-era labor-management relations.”
In December, 2009, no one could have seen the huge impact one small senate election would have on the future of Mr. Obama’s agenda or the future of unions in the U.S. Now that the political landscape has changed, many people in the business
Community are saying that this is NO change we can believe in.