Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

A Powerful Success

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

A Powerful Success

Article excerpt

President Bush was in Oklahoma City on Thursday and as I approached him to say hello, and welcome him to Oklahoma City, he said, "Thank you for being in Waco. And, association health plans and the cost of health care premiums are huge issues for small business, and we must pass AHP's out of the U.S. Senate," he held up a thumbs OK and then said, "I am on the case."

Now, let me explain why those words are so important for millions of small business owners.

President Bush's Economic Forum at Baylor University was phenomenal, and it was a privilege to have been invited to participate.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and seven cabinet secretaries assembled men and women representing a cross-section of racial and ethnic groups, each with a story to tell and ideas for new policies.

Cabinet secretaries led eight simultaneous breakout sessions on issues ranging from corporate responsibility to health care issues. President Bush and Vice President Cheney attended four each, with the vice president joining our Small Business and Smarter Regulation session for almost half an hour.

Karen Kerrigan, chairman of the Small Business Survival Committee and founding partner of Women Impacting Public Policy, SBA Administrator Hector Barreto and Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels led the discussion. There were about 30 people on the panel including many small business owners, academia, association leaders and governmental officials.

Participants on the panel spoke eloquently about the difficulties they are having making a profit in today's economy. The issues of most importance were access to capital, government procurement, health care, regulations and paperwork, and taxes.

Our panel discussion was not a "love fest" with the administration. We indeed talked about our hardships but we offered solutions.

I brought up health care and the need for association health plans, making the death tax permanent, leveling the playing field on procurement, reducing burdens of paperwork and regulations. I believe we were heard.

The president's speech in the general session after the workshops was the best I have heard him deliver. He spoke from cards, with a lot of his own scribbled notes, and was passionate about articulating the administration's comprehensive domestic policy agenda. The media could not help but observe his ownership of the details of these policy ideas.

And finally, the president attended the concluding luncheon for the 240 participants, spending more than two hours going from table to table to shake every hand and continue the morning's conversations. I spent about 10 minutes sitting next to Vice President Cheney and then about eight minutes one-on-one with the president as he stood at our table. In both conversations, I asked the president to shine a brighter light on association health plans. …

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