President Obama loves to talk about entrepreneurs. In fact, he’s mentioned entrepreneurs in every one of his six State of the Union addresses. The president lauds entrepreneurs as the foundation and the engine of the American economy. He frequently singles out for praise companies like Google and Apple for their pioneering innovation and for the socially conscious values that lead these corporations to provide their employees with good pay and benefits.
Not many Americans would disagree with his repeated sentiment. But there’s a crucial chasm between what the president loves to say he loves and how it works out in his administration’s policies. The increased liberty burdens and conscience costs the administration has imposed on family business owners have made America less freedom-friendly for entrepreneurs than at any other time in our nation’s history.
David Green started making picture frames in his garage in 1970. That garage business is now Hobby Lobby, a 550-store arts and crafts retailer. Green probably never dreamed he’d emerge from his garage and land on Forbes’ and Fortune’s lists of America’s largest private companies. But his entrepreneurial spirit, hard work, and creativity got him there.
Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania is less well-known than Hobby Lobby but successful in its own right. Founded by the Hahn family in the early 1960s, Conestoga provides good jobs and excellent benefits to more than 900 of their neighbors.
Consistent with the president’s habit of singling out Google, Apple, and others for the values which define and direct those corporate cultures, the administration has singled out Conestoga Wood Specialties, Hobby Lobby, and family businesses like them on the basis of their values.
But the administration hasn’t singled them out for a State-of-the-Union shout-out. Rather, the administration has singled them out for a freedom shut-down now turned Supreme Court showdown.
The administration has mandated family businesses like the Hahns and the Greens to include free abortion drugs in their health plans even though both families are faithful Christians who will not participate in taking human life at any stage of development. Failure to offer “free” abortion drugs to employees carries penalties that would put both out of business. The Hahn family’s $35 million yearly penalty leaves them with a grim choice: violate the family’s beliefs or lose the family business.
The administration is picking and choosing who gets freedom and who doesn’t by singling out family business owners with a faith-grounded objection to the mandate while exempting other companies employing nearly 100 million Americans for no discernible reasons at all.
The president said to Amazon employees last summer, “We’ve never just defined having a job as having a paycheck here in America…. It’s proof that you’re doing the right things and meeting your responsibilities and contributing to the fabric of your community and helping to build the country…knowing that what you’re doing is important, that it counts.”
The Hahns and Greens embody this true statement. What drives both families is exactly that thing the mandate seeks to kill. These entrepreneurs live their lives, make their livings, create, innovate, grow the economy, provide thousands of jobs, and serve their communities out of a duty that goes far beyond the bottom line. Their duty to God in all areas of life is why these humble families have gone to the Supreme Court.
But to the administration, some corporate values are exalted while some must be extinguished. When the government bullies entrepreneurs into violating their consciences, it tears at their innovative spirit and ultimately removes these vital players from the market. There is no surer way to keep a flailing economy flailing than to attack what motivates the entrepreneur.
In his most recent State of the Union address, Mr. Obama said, “It’s the spirit of citizenship—the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.”
We couldn’t agree more, Mr. President. At the very least, these two hard-working, entrepreneurial American families belong to the “one American family.” And their family birthright is the freedom to pursue their dreams without being forced to abandon the faith and values upon which they built their businesses to bless many.
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