Left-wing agenda at corporations?

Posted: Oct 19, 2004 12:00 AM

Far too little attention is given to the fact that, although big corporations are supposedly the nation's institutions that preserve and promote freedom and capitalism, the reality often is just the opposite.

Today, for instance, the nation faces major crises in our health care and Social Security systems. Yet one would be hard-pressed to find a single corporation that is helping to advance market-based reforms, put forth under the current administration, such as medical savings accounts or personal Social Security accounts.

What's worse, big corporations are not only usually out to lunch regarding public policy reforms that reduce government and advance individual freedom and choice, they regularly promote a left-wing agenda that increases the scope of government and undermines freedom and traditional values. This agenda is often promoted under the guise of helping minorities. But the result is really the opposite.

A good example of this can be seen in a recent column that appeared in the Wall Street Journal by Howard Paster, executive vice president of the WPP Group, one of the nation's largest advertising and public relations conglomerates. He argues that the recent defeat by the House of Representatives of the Federal Marriage Amendment was a positive development for moral reasons and for business reasons. The moral dimension is supposedly the need for an open and diverse business work environment. The business dimension reflects the need for corporate human resources programs to serve, in an economically efficient way, the diverse needs of their employees.

According to Paster, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer health insurance to gay domestic partners. However, unlike the situation with married heterosexual couples where these benefits are received from their corporate employer tax free, the benefits must be treated as taxable income for domestic partners. As result, corporations have an extra administrative burden to maintain one set of books for married heterosexual couples and a separate set for gay partners.

If Paster really wanted to make the health care market and the workplace more efficient, moral, and free, he would write articles urging complete elimination of the IRS provision allowing companies to provide employees untaxed health care benefits. Instead, allow individuals to have their own private tax deductible health care savings accounts.

Such a reform would place health care purchase decisions where they belong _ in the hands of individual consumers. With regard to cost efficiency for big companies, it would allow companies to simply pay employees their salary and eliminate the need to maintain elaborate departments to administer health care benefits. And because consumers themselves would be making health care purchase decisions, rather than doing it through a third party, health care markets would become more disciplined and efficient.

On the moral dimension, Paster and other corporate executives should consider the gross inequities of the current system of untaxed corporate health care benefits. As result of this system, the Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins reports that a high-end worker gets a 40 percent discount on health insurance and a low-end worker gets nothing.

Consider what this means to blacks, who disproportionately populate the low-end portion of the labor spectrum. High end corporate staffs receive a tax subsidy for their health care and the ex-welfare mother who answers the phones in my CURE office in Los Angeles is left to hang out to dry. This system is not only inefficient, but it is immoral and unfair.

A tax neutral health care regime at corporations would promote true tolerance and workplace neutrality. Why should a company be involved with an employee's private life beyond paying that employee the wage he or she earns? We should be promoting maximum individual autonomy and privacy in their relationship with their employer.

The regime that Paster and a good portion of corporate America now promote in the workplace, in the name of what they call tolerance and diversity, is really the advancement of a particular social agenda. One cannot place gay marriage and traditional marriage on the same level, suggest they are alternative equally legitimate lifestyles, and call this value-neutral and tolerant. Corporations should be honest about the fact that they are playing a major role in undermining traditional values in advancing a clear and explicit left-wing social agenda.

Promotion of an agenda in the corporate workplace that undermines traditional values is a negative development for the welfare of the black community. As I have long argued, the collapse of the black family sits at the root of the social problems in the black community. This collapse is the product of the welfare state, brought to us by the same left wing elitists that talk today about workplace diversity.

Let's really keep the workplace neutral and respect individual autonomy by keeping government and tax policy out of it as much as possible. This is what corporations who really care about minorities should be promoting.