Food, Voting, and Obamacare

When Michelle Obama announced her signature initiative Let’s Move in order to change, in her perception and opinion, the nation’s unhealthy diet and girth, one of the first restaurants to jump on the bandwagon was Olive Garden, followed by Red Lobster, both owned by Darden Industries. They trimmed the size of their offerings but prices stayed the same.

I made a conscious decision to personally boycott the two restaurants, not because I was against eating healthy or a smaller portion but because I did not think, it was the role of government to tell us what to eat, how much salt to use, or how many ounces of soda to consume. Many of us can stand to lose a few pounds which we can do on our own without government interference or the nanny state.

Michelle Obama also dabbled in overnight gardening at the White House although she does not hold degrees in horticulture or nutrition. Schools have changed their menus at her directive, requiring increased food expenditures, offering fresh fruit and vegetables which children promptly started throwing in the garbage or using them for food fights. High-schoolers even staged protests across the country, demanding that the old menu be reinstated. For much younger students, fruits and vegetables are still an acquired taste, particularly if parents have not introduced them earlier to their children as part of daily meals.

The Darden Restaurant Group which employs 180,000 people across the U.S. is making headlines again. In anticipation of the unfortunately named Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, Darden is cutting hours for many employees in four different markets. They are not sure how much Obamacare is going to cost the company in the future. To mitigate increased cost, they are cutting employees from full-time to part-time status. By reducing their hours, Darden does not have to pay for their healthcare, forcing some employees into the government-run exchanges which are part of Obamacare. Additionally, there is a re-definition of full-time status as 30 hours of work per week.

The Darden Industries CEO, Clarence Otis Jr., has given a lot of money to Democrats. He has been an ardent supporter of Let’s Move Campaign, the signature healthy initiative of First Lady, Michelle Obama. If the company is to survive, according to the CEO, major changes must take place. The number of full-time employees must be lowered in order to avoid the $100 per day per employee penalty in Obamacare if insurance is not purchased. Darden cannot afford to offer full-time insurance benefits to all of its 180,000 employees. The Darden Restaurant Group survived so far because they received a waiver for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2010. Most waivers will expire at the end of 2012 or have already expired.

And Clarence Otis Jr. is not alone. Real estate mogul, David A. Siegel, who runs Westgate Resorts, a huge Orlando-based time share company in Orange County, an Obama leaning county, has sent a warning letter to his employees. If Obama is re-elected, there is a strong possibility of layoffs. He is not exactly telling them to vote for either candidate, however, if they vote for Obama, increased costs and uncertainty would force him to reduce staff.

Hiring across the country has been on hold because of the entire tax structure increase. Most companies face an uncertain future about taxation for employers and employees, the overt and hidden costs of Obamacare, forcing big changes for many firms. Business confidence has been quite low in the last four years. New taxes on successful producers will leave Siegel with no choice but to cut the size of his company. His employees have been reduced already from 8,000 four years ago to 7,000 today.

“With the new Obamacare coming in and now the threat of higher taxes, it just means less money to expand our business. We are not going to fire anybody, lay off anybody, as a result of who they vote for, or who they lean towards, it’s just that I want them to know what the future holds for them and their families.” (David A. Siegel, CEO)

As the new round of Medicare cuts was to take effect in October this year, the administration found $8 billion to avoid the painful cuts temporarily under the guise of research. The $8 billion helped delay the elderly outrage at the voting booth when confronted with the shift of $719 billion over ten years from Medicare to Obamacare.

This is what happens when nationalized health care is passed in the middle of the night, without bipartisan debate, and then forced on Americans against their vociferously expressed will. As Nancy Pelosi said, “You must pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” The American people are finding out and they do not like it.

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