Papa John’s Under Fire: Buycott for CEO Who Says Obamacare Will Cost Too Much Dough

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The raging food fight over Obamacare expands to Papa John’s pizza today, as National Papa John’s Appreciation Day is being held in support of the restaurant’s CEO John Schattner. The founder of the popular pizza chain recently criticized Obamacare’s increasing costs on the franchise, and explained that employee hours would need to be slashed in order to cover added expenses. The result has been a public relations furor over the CEO’s lack of delicacy on the sensitive political matter .

The national appreciation day counters the planned boycott by supporters of Obamacare, who believe that the rich one-percenter should cover the additional expenses out of his own pocket or raise his prices. There is a major dispute over how much the Obamacare legislation will actually cost the pizza chain. While Schattner claims that government compliance will mean to $5-8 million in costs and a 10-14 cent increase per pie, a Forbes analysis puts the cost at less than a penny per pizza.

The escalating cost of Obamacare, which is now three times the original estimate that President Obama sold the American people, has been muted in the national media and is a sore spot for those who think affordable healthcare is a right. What sets medical insurance companies apart from, say, pizza chains, is that they are insulated from open market competition by government regulations that limit coverage to each state.

Obviously, cost is not the central issue that concerns those who believe health insurance is a universal right; but it is the main issue for those who run businesses and have to pay for employee coverage. This makes ideological conflict inevitable between those who think businesses are the business of those who run them, and those who believe they are standing up for the rights of oppressed workers.

The compelling success story of John Schattner selling his 1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 to transform a tavern into a pizza restaurant, and then building a franchise of 3,500 restaurants over the course of 28 years, doesn’t really impress progressives. Those on the left see his estimated net worth of $250-600 million as coming mostly at the expense of others, instead of that he seized an opportunity in a marketplace and provided willing customers with a desired product; meanwhile employing thousands with jobs making things that people want.

While progressives see the workers as making grossly less than what they are worth, and outrageously less than the owner and CEO, conservatives see the American dream in action and argue that even low-skilled workers lead a quality of life much better than most people in other countries. The right believes that people should be motivated to get ahead, not envy others’ wealth, be content with the relatively good lives they have, and overcome obstacles themselves as much as possible. The left sees this as a heartless and cold way to view the world.

Further infuriating the left, conservatives believe that businesses are the business of those who own them and run them, and the idea of government telling people how to run their own businesses is anathema to the American way. Those on the right believe in competition’s ability to lower costs and prices, thereby making things more attainable to the masses; those on the left believe they are more about compassion, and thus they are more confident calling on government to force people to ‘do the right thing’ and make rich people ‘pay their fair share’  (even if the top 10% pay 70% of the taxes).

Progressives therefore tend to ignore costs and believe they have the moral force of right on their side; conservatives tend to argue in terms of cost and therefore often lose, either because they make weak pragmatic arguments, or else seem to be accepting wrongdoing in their principled support of economic freedom.

Shoring up the right’s worldview, conservatives tend to be more religious and commonly believe in free will and ultimately, God-given justice; progressives are animated by the need to exact “social justice” in this world, even if that effectively means support for unlimited government (which understandably scares the hell out of most conservatives). These fundamental views on the relationship of government and business are mutually hostile.

Businesses have become the new front in a culture war that is raging between the left and right over everything from social issues to the actual cost of Obamacare. It started with the surprising turnout for Chik-fil-A this summer for a much different political controversy.

The buycott of Chik-fil-A was launched after the restaurant’s president Dan Cathy voiced his support for traditional marriage. Those on the left perceived this as a slight of gay marriage, and organized not only a boycott, but the political obstruction of Chik-fil-A’s businesses in Chicago and Boston. Conservatives flocked to the southern-style chain to order chicken sandwiches and its famous waffle fries.

The historical record suggests that boycotts and buycotts have limited effect on businesses’ bottom lines. But what they do accomplish is a chance for opposing people to show public camaraderie in support of their side’s respective worldview.

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