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Ehrlich's hypothetical arguments don't ring true [Letter]

I am grateful to columnist Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for bringing to my attention the deplorable conditions inflicted on entrepreneurs by President Barack Obama ("Building a business is bad under Obama," May11).

I admit to being a bit surprised that such oppression of job creators persists with the stock market hitting records on a regular basis — but there you go.

Of course, much of Mr. Ehrlich's discussion was hypothetical. An admirable, hypothetical entrepreneur with a good idea and hard work starts a viable business. Growing and expanding a list of customers, setting up and expanding facilities and hiring employees gains just rewards for excellent work. Hypothetical, but admirable nonetheless.

I am certain our hypothetical business owner faced quite a few challenging decisions. How much risk/debt do I assume? What price do I charge? How should I organize, and whom do I hire?

Most of these choices are not black and white. Among the decisions to be made are determining the type of relationship you will have with your employees. Is your business a team, or are your employees expenses?

Assuming that every business owner faced with the 50-employee heath care mandate places minimizing expenses first is convenient rhetorically but not necessarily good business. One hypothetical business owner may see marginal productivity as the measure of their employees performance, while another may see health care as an important part of maintaining a workforce that is reliable, engaged and — yes — productive.

Our hypothetical example is interesting, but not every business is faced with the heath care mandate decision. Some are much larger than the threshold, and some are much smaller. Regardless of the new law, and the size of businesses, the fact that people who have health insurance through their employer value this benefit is not conjecture.

One hypothetical business person's efforts to protect her narrow margin can translate into another's tax burden. McDonald's announced a profit of $1.5 billion in 2013. Could it have made a choice to reduce that profit margin and perhaps reduce the amount of tax money we have to pay subsidizing health care for its employees?

Tyson Foods proudly proclaimed recently that its profit margins in the chicken business are higher now than at any point in history. That translated into a paltry $254 million in profit last year, but I would speculate that the hypothetical farmer who is squeezed in the mega food supply chain does not see a proportional share. And that farmer is stuck with the label of polluter since he is left holding the proverbial bag.

Sadly, one man's resources are another man's expenses. Governor Ehrlich may recall that there were many who did not feel the resources he (and, later, Gov. Martin O'Malley) committed to the Inter-County Connector were well spent. At this point, the investment barely meets toll projections, which were reduced after failing to meet optimistic initial goals. Maryland taxpayers get to assume this type of risk, but the entrepreneurs who built the road have all been paid. Darn that Barack Obama.

In spite of all of this, a majority of Marylanders are not desperate to leave the state. The governor hints at wealth flight, but on close inspection the much cited recent Gallup poll on the matter points to lots of Marylanders "willing to move" — for jobs, family and climate among other things — but only about 8 percent of respondents cited taxes as a concern.

Sadly, these types of arguments are not always labeled as "hypothetical," and while they may apply to an empty state out in the middle of the country with two Senate seats but few citizens, they are not signs of the apocalypse in Maryland.

Perhaps the former governor would consider an essay on "Why I like Maryland" someday?

Greg Boss, Ellicott City


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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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