Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

The Long, Sad Tale of Evel Knievel and the Wet-Panted Caterpillar Execs

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The Long, Sad Tale of Evel Knievel and the Wet-Panted Caterpillar Execs
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Autoworker Ben Hamper, author of the life-on-the-assembly line memoir Rivethead, once bragged that he had more benefits than Evel Knievel could piss away in a million bus jumps.

That makes companies like Caterpillar piss themselves.

Caterpillar, like the automakers, creates big honking machines -- and they pay big, honking health care premiums for their employees.

Hence their resistance to the health care bill. The Peoria-based manufacturer says it'll drive up their already exhorbitant costs "by more than 20 percent (over $100 million)" and put currently covered employees at risk.

Mark Kirk agrees. He thinks the health bill will make it harder for Caterpillar to compete. By extension, he wants Caterpillar to keep their cradle-to-grave health plan, in which employees’ kids are covered through the age of 25, as long as they’re in school, and retirees get prescription drugs.

How does Caterpillar afford that health plan? Tax-free federal subsidies. What will the health care plan do? Tax those subsidies. Hence the cost increase. Then again, proponents of the tax say Caterpillar already deducts those benefit costs from their taxes. (Read the whole debate here).

Net result: to keep its profits up, Caterpillar may reduce coverage. Cat may be thinking, “if the government’s going to get involved in health care, we can start stepping aside.”

Health care reform will make life easier for people who don't have any benefits.

But people who have more benefits than Evel Knievel could piss away in a million bus jumps? The people Mark Kirk is worried about?

Well, they may have only 100,000 bus jumps from now on.

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