Clark second-guessing 9/11 tragedy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Jack Faris – Heritage News Forum

It’s impossible these days to avoid advertisements for the latest abdominal shapers or aerobics machines, not to mention the guaranteed weight-loss gimmicks. Judging by the audiences that tune in the mega-sports events such as March Madness, one would think that America is a nation obsessed with fitness and physical activity.

But that’s a false assumption, says the U.S. Department of Human Services, which notes that fitness problems such as obesity have reached epidemic proportions in the United States.

Faced with unlimited options for comfort, an over-abundance of food and entertainment delivered right to our over-stuffed recliners, we Americans are gorging ourselves on the good life. We deserve it, we rationalize, because we work hard and spend long hours at our chosen occupations.

It’s also virtually impossible these days to avoid advertisements and news reports about another favorite American contact sport, the upcoming November 2 election. Like March Madness, November Nuttiness has become a made-for-television event filled with fouls, fights and free throws.

But this is no spectator sport. It calls for participation. Unfortunately, the participants-registered voters-may head for the exits before the final playoff begins. Four years ago, barely half of the nations’ voting age population of 205 million people even bothered to show up at the polls. Like our weakening physical condition, we are also in danger of letting our political muscles atrophy.

That’s one reason the National Federation of Independent Business is about to launch a fitness program for small-business owners and politicians alike that is not based on a passing fad, but whose roots can be found in a document more than 200 years old. The First Amendment to the Constitution, better known for its protection of free speech, also asserts our national right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Small businesses in America have a big grievance: conditions preventing them from obtaining fair and affordable health-insurance coverage for their employees and themselves have become unbearable. In the last decade, employer-sponsored health coverage has changed dramatically. Premium increases, which were virtually non-existent in the mid-1990s, have re-emerged with a vengeance. In 2003, increases of 15 percent to 20 percent were common.

To ensure that the increasingly grim health-insurance picture for small business is clearly understood by those who will be facing voters in November, NFIB is preparing a nationwide effort to petition the government, primarily the U.S. Senate, to pass legislation allowing small businesses to band together to purchase affordable health insurance.

The Senate, having swallowed a heaping helping of hokum by labor unions, big businesses, liberal health groups and state officials threatened by the idea of Small-Business Health Plans, has let its legislative system become clogged.

By exercising their political muscle with a national petition drive, small-business owners are going to send politicians a strong message that obtaining fair and affordable health coverage is their Number-One priority. They will hold those who fail to shape up accountable on Election Day.

Jack Faris is president of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s largest small-business advocacy group. More information is available on-line at