Early last week, it was reported that the White House and leadership in Congress reached a deal to exempt union-negotiated health plans for the next eight years from the health care "luxury tax" intended to help fund a new federally mandated health care program.
I personally believe that we need health care reform in the U.S., and certainly anticipate the levy of taxes on businesses to help fund the new programs. The idea that the U.S. government plans to exempt a major class of businesses from this tax is disturbing to me, particularly since union health plans are most concentrated in large businesses.
We all recognize that it is the small businesses that this country -- and the world -- is depending on to restart the economic engines and drive new growth. I grew up in western Pennsylvania in the '60s and '70s, and saw firsthand the consequences of decades of government protectionist practices in the steel industry -- which only insured that when the industry finally collapsed, it would collapse hard.
The digital media and marking industry is driven largely by small and mid-sized businesses. These companies innovate through people, not machines, so issues related to employee benefits are front and center to us. Penalizing us relative to companies that already have built-in market advantages is not good for anybody's economy for very long.
Health care is not the only issue out there with potentially significant consequences for our industry. Here are a few more that are percolating in Washington, D.C. these days:
Privacy - I've written quite a bit in the past on the potential for new privacy regulations or laws. It's still there and still looming. Keep close to the IAB and your other trade organizations to find out how you can help.
Net neutrality - Big battles are taking place relative to the ability of Internet Service Providers to discriminate in their delivery of the bits that go through their pipes -- i.e. giving some online content favorable treatment over other content. This is going to be big, really big, and the FCC and its chairman Jules Genakowski are leading the charge here.
Patent reform - Patent trolls are reshaping the patent landscape; their litigation of broad, vague software patents is amounting to a "tax" on innovation. Union Square's Brad Burnham has a great post on the topic: .
Visas - Innovation-driven companies need the best and brightest talent, no matter where they come from. If U.S. companies can no longer attract and retain the best talent from overseas -- and we're now losing at that game because of immigration barriers -- the best talent and the best innovation will concentrate elsewhere. There are efforts in D.C. to create "start-up" visas. It's a great idea.
What do you think about how the Health Care Bill might impact our industry? Or other public policy issues? Please tell us in the comments.