Mr. COATS. Mr. President, back home in Indiana last week, I heard from many Hoosiers who are concerned about the impact of ObamaCare. I went back to listen to the people, and almost invariably, no matter what subject was on the table, the impact of ObamaCare was what was brought up first and discussed the most.
I particularly focused on those businesses which are in a position to expand and hire but are simply not doing so, and the question is, Why? The answer was that they are deeply concerned about the implementation of the so-called Affordable Care Act, basically saying that it is an unaffordable care act.
They also said they were confused about what it means and what it doesn't mean. These regulations are continuing to come out, but many of them are delayed, so there is a huge cloud of uncertainty over their future. As a consequence, Hoosier employers have to make decisions about hiring or not hiring, about expanding or not expanding, about buying new equipment or not buying new equipment, about building new factories or not building new factories.
In Indiana, we have positioned ourselves to be a very business-friendly State. In fact, a major survey came out a couple of days ago that said Indiana is among the top five States in the Nation in terms of being business-friendly. As a result, we have a lot of inquiries from businesses in other States, and essentially what they are saying is that they would like to come to our State.
We have a lot of people in our State who are operating businesses and would like to hire more employees, but they are frozen because of this health care bill, and all of the regulations, penalties, taxes, and uncertainty that surround what is going to play out is leaving them in limbo.
We are treading water. We can't make decisions. The word of the year is ``uncertainty''--uncertainty about what Washington is going to do, uncertainty about the impact of what Washington has already decided to do. The No. 1 topic that beats all the rest is the impact of the Affordable Care Act--the ObamaCare act--which is now starting to impact various businesses across the State.
These concerns have been expressed both by business owners and by employees working in a wide range of occupations. Their concern has been confirmed by data released by the Labor Department last week. The recent report revealed retailers appear to be cutting working hours at a rate unheard of over the last 30 years.
We saw some positive news come out of the jobs report last week. Unemployment is coming down slightly. Of course, it doesn't begin to address the issue or consider those who have literally dropped out of the workplace or have literally given up trying to find a job because they simply aren't there. But now we face another problem. More and more Americans are being pushed into part-time work, which isn't enough to provide for a family. Last month, nearly 280,000 Americans involuntarily entered part-time employment. Weekly take-home pay continues to decline and, of course, the number of hours employees are working continues to shrink.
Why is this change occurring? Investor's Business Daily reported that ``all evidence points to the coming launch of ObamaCare as the reason for this decline in the average retail workweek.''
Beginning next year, as we know, job creators will face fines of $2,000 and, in some instances, up to $3,000 for every full-time worker who receives subsidized coverage in the exchanges created by ObamaCare if qualifying coverage isn't available in the employee's workplace, or if that employer is no longer able to afford the cost of government-mandated health plans. These are small businesses. We are not talking about Fortune 500 companies. We are not talking about those firms that can hire a back room full of lawyers and accountants to figure out how this health care plan is going to impact them and what it is going to cost. We are talking about the service industry, we are talking about the retail shops--those that employ anywhere from 30 to 40 to 60 to 70 to 90 or whatever. A lot of them are trying to stay under the 50 level--the exclusion for small businesses--50 and under. So a lot of them are stuck at 45, 48, and they are not going to hire to go above that and they are looking for ways to move employees to part-time employment so they are not burdened with these fines.
Many Hoosier employers have told me they would like to expand and hire more full-time workers, but they simply cannot afford to do so given the fines, taxes, and regulations that will hit when the ObamaCare act is implemented starting in 2014.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said 71 percent of small businesses say this health care plan makes it harder to hire more employees. I heard from a small business owner in Indiana who runs an employment management service. He told me small businesses such as his have decided to use a combination of cuts to keep many of their employees under 30 hours a week to avoid penalties, while pushing full-time workers well over 45 hours a week. Well, that is fine for the full-time workers who are getting some overtime pay, but it is denying job opportunities for new hires because employers are put in this position by the mandates of the health care act. It is not just limited to the private sector. I recently heard from a State representative in Indiana who is concerned about how this law is going to affect school districts in his area. He says some schools are being forced to move nonteacher personnel to part-time status, affecting food service providers, teacher's aides, bus drivers, substitute teachers, maintenance personnel, as well as nonteacher coaches. People from all walks of life have a dark cloud of uncertainty over their future plans to run a business, to hire employees, and to do what is necessary to expand their business, and that is so desperately needed, given we are now entering the fifth year of underemployment in this country. So that incentive to employ part-time workers means fewer hours, lower wages, less economic growth, less production, and it means middle-class Americans will continue to pay the price of Washington's ineptness.
One of our colleagues here said it best about the implementation of the health care law: ``I just see a huge train wreck coming down.'' I think it is becoming clear that we all see a huge train wreck coming down. If both sides of the aisle here understand this is a train wreck, then let's do something about it now before it hits. Let's stop the train from crashing before its full impact on the economy takes effect.
Americans want health care reform that is an improvement but not a burden. We need to replace ObamaCare with commonsense health care reforms that will lower costs without penalizing American workers and job creators. If we don't act--if we don't stop this train wreck from happening--we will continue to see a struggling economy with anemic growth and the American people will continue to pay the high price.
I yield the floor.