When William J. Casey was a young attorney during the Great Depression, he learned an important lesson.
Jobs were hard to come by, so Casey thought himself lucky to land one at the Tax Research Institute of America in New York.
His task was to closely read New Deal legislation and write reports explaining it to corporate chieftains.
At first, he thought they wanted detailed legal commentary on the meaning of the new legislation.
But the he quickly learned a blunt truth: Businessmen neither understood nor welcomed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts at reforming American capitalism. And they didn’t want legal commentary.
Instead, they wanted to know: “What is the minimum we have to do to achieve compliance with the law?”
In short: How do we get by FDR’s new programs?
Fifty years later, Casey would bring the same mindset to his duties as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for President Ronald Reagan.
William J. Casey
He was presiding over the CIA when it deliberately violated Congress’ ban on funding the “Contras,” the Right-wing death squads of Nicaragua.
Casey gave lip service to the demands of Congress. But privately, with the help of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, he set up an “off-the-shelf” operation to provide arms to overthrow the leftist government of Daniel Ortega.
It was what President Ronald Reagan wanted. So Casey felt he had a duty to get it done, and Congress be damned.
When news of Casey’s–and Reagan’s–illegal behavior leaked, in November, 1986, it almost destroyed the Reagan administration.
Especially damning: Much of the funding directed to the “Contras” had come from Iran, America’s mortal enemy.
To ransom a handful of American hostages who had been kidnapped in Lebanon, Reagan sold them our most sophisticated missiles in a weak-kneed exchange for American hostages.
Then he went on television and brazenly denied that any such “arms for hostages” trade had ever happened.
But the “Casey Doctrine” of minimum compliance with the law didn’t die with Casey (who expired of a brain tumor in 1987).
It was very much alive within the American business community as President Barack Obama sought to bring medical coverage to all Americans, and not simply the ultra-wealthy.
The single most important provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–better-known as Obamacare–requires large businesses to provide insurance to fulltime employees who work more than 30 hours a week.
For part-time employees, who work fewer than 30 hours, a company isn’t penalized for failing to provide health insurance coverage.
Obama’s enemies have long slandered him as a ruthless practitioner of Chicago politics.” So it’s easy to assume that he took “the Casey Doctrine” into account when he shepherded the ACA through Congress.
But he didn’t.
The result was predictable. And its consequences are daily becoming more clear.
Employers feel motivated to move fulltime workers into part-time positions, and thus avoid
- providing their employees with medical insurance;
- and a fine for non-compliance with the law.
John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, has been quoted as saying:
- The price of his pizzas will go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, of 15 to 20 cents per order; and
- He will pass along these costs to his customers.
“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”
After all, why should a multimillion dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?
- Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
- Its 2014 revenues were $1.60 billion, an increase of 11.1% over 2013 revenues of $1.44 billion.
- Its 2014 net income was $73.3 million, compared to 2013 net income of $69.5 million.
In May, 2012, Schnatter hosted a fundraising event for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney at his own Louisville, Kentucky, mansion.
“What a home this is,” gushed Romney. “What grounds these are, the pool, the golf course.
“You know, if a Democrat were here he’d look around and say no one should live like this. Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this.”
Of course, Romney conveniently ignored a brutally ugly fact:
For the vast majority of Papa John’s minimum-wage-earning employees-–many of them working only part-time-–the odds of their owning a comparable estate are non-existent.
Had Obama been the serious student of Realpolitick that his enemies claim he is, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his law.
To counter that, he need only have required employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees–regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.
This, in turn, would have produced two substantial benefits:
- All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
- Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones, since they would feel, “I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, so I should be getting fulltime work in return.”
The “Casey Doctrine” needs to be kept constantly in mind when reformers try to protect Americans from predatory employers.