Pierpont’s Stanley: Obamacare’s Bite Worries Business Owners

December 9, 2014

Business owners who were cheered by Rebublican gains in last month’s mid-term elections are still worried about regulation as Obamacare’s mandates loom in 2015.

These concerns were seen in the latest survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, a trade group with 350,000 members. While its monthly poll showed that small-company optimism was the highest in seven years, 23 percent of respondents cited taxes and 22 percent said regulations were their most important problems.

“Obamacare employer mandates are due to kick in next year,” Stephen Stanley, the chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities who used to work at the Federal Reserve, said in a report obtained by Newsmax Finance. “Now that Congress promises to be more hostile to its agenda, the administration is gearing up for an aggressive campaign of regulatory edicts, most of which will undoubtedly prove unpopular to the small-business community.”

Beginning next year, businesses with more than 100 full-time employees are required to provide health insurance for 70 percent of their workers or pay a penalty of $2,000 a person. The following year, companies with more than 50 workers need to provide coverage, according to rules established under the Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare.”

Aside from worries about the government, small businesses were upbeat about the economy, according to NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index. The measure gained 2 points to 98.1 in November, the highest reading since February 2007.

The NFIB pointed out that the improvement came from “soft” indicators in the survey, such as expectations for business conditions and sales volumes. The “hard” indicators, including job creation plans, capital outlays, inventory investment and job openings, were a drag on the outlook.

Amherst Pierpont’s Stanley said the optimistic reading can be attributed to the November election results, with Republicans regaining control of the U.S. Senate. Optimism also jumped when small-business candidates won House seats in November 2010, but the glow faded.

“It remains to be seen whether November’s improvement is sustainable,” Stanley said. “This fiscal/regulatory headwind is very real and while it has abated somewhat this year, remains mighty stiff.”

One of Obamacare’s chief architects, economist Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on Tuesday apologized for remarks that “the stupidity of the American voter” helped to get the healthcare law approved.

Speaking before a congressional committee, Gruber said he didn’t think Obamacare was passed in a deceptive manner, according to a report by Reuters.

“I behaved badly, and I will have to live with that, but my own inexcusable arrogance is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act,” Gruber said.