By Senator Marco Rubio
Since the Obamacare debate began in 2009, I have met thousands of real people impacted by this policy. One in particular has always stood out to me: restaurant owner Ben Pumo from Land O' Lakes.
When Mitt Romney visited Florida on my behalf in the fall of 2010, we stood in Pumo's kitchen at Benedetto's Ristorante Italiano and listened to him explain how policies like Obamacare would impact his business and employees he had come to see as family.
Gov. Romney and I heard a widely held concern around the country: Obamacare would impose new costs on his business, it would be a blow to his freedom to hire workers as he pleased without triggering new taxes, and he feared the worst was yet to come as Obamacare had empowered Washington bureaucrats to write new and unpredictable regulations.
With the recent decision on Obamacare, we were reminded of why this news matters far beyond the Supreme Court's steps. It matters in kitchens like the one in Ben Pumo's restaurant and for individuals and business owners across the country.
Obamacare is not the president's signature achievement. It's the signature example of the leadership failures and broken promises that have defined Obama's presidency.
When the president assumed office, he faced the worst economy in generations. After throwing an $800 billion stimulus at the problem, he proposed a health-care overhaul with a mandate to force people to buy health insurance. Or else.
He assured the American people that the individual mandate wasn't a tax. But when Obamacare was challenged in court for violating the Constitution, he changed his tune, arguing that it was permissible under Congress' taxing power. The court agreed and upheld Obamacare.
The bait and switch proved to be a brilliant legal strategy, but a disastrous economic policy. For millions of Americans, including job creators, Obama's political win is now an IRS problem for them in the real world.
Obamacare is bad policy that adds around $800 billion of taxes on the American people. It does not discriminate between rich and poor. It hurts everyone.
It is a job-killer that will drive up insurance premiums and jeopardize the ability of millions of Americans to keep the insurance coverage of their choice. For individuals not complying with Obamacare, it means the IRS will come calling if they fail to pay the Obamacare tax.
For job creators -- and unemployed workers relying on them to work again -- Obamacare is a new regulatory maze to figure out. For instance, once a business reaches 50 full-time employees, the Obamacare tax will kick in to the tune of $2,000 for each full-time employee in excess of 30 full-time employees unless the business meets a mandate to provide health coverage for them. There are no penalties if part-time employees are not offered coverage.
Thus, rather than freely being able to hire employees without fear of an IRS problem, employers will be encouraged to circumvent the Obamacare tax by hiring people on a part-time basis so they don't count for this tax. Or maybe an entrepreneur has 49 employees and could use several more to help meet increased demand. Obamacare creates a perverse incentive to hold back and just make existing employees work more so the 50-employee threshold tax isn't triggered.
These concerns are less pressing for larger enterprises, which have effectively made the case that this law is so bad for business that they need relief from it. With a straight face, the administration has actually agreed, as it has handed out 1,231 waivers. Once again we see how, while big businesses don't like big government, they have the means to live with it in a way that small businesses can't.
I hoped the Supreme Court would see the fatal constitutional flaws of this policy and strike it down. It did not, but its ruling did note one very important fact: The future of the program is "entrusted to our nation's elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them."
The ultimate fate of Obamacare is thus not in the hands of politicians, the courts, or this president. The voters will decide the final outcome of this fight on Nov. 6.
President Obama will keep Obamacare. Gov. Romney will repeal it and replace it with market-based reforms that empower individuals to get health insurance without having the IRS chasing them down if they don't. Never has a choice been more clear. Never have the differences in two candidates been so stark.