By HAROLD L. KATZ

In 1983, the country faced a serious problem with Social Security that was going to occur in about 30 years. The president, realizing that Congress would turn it into a political circus, appointed a blue ribbon committee to address the issue of the expected shortfall in funds. This committee did what had to be done, which was accelerate the collection of money to cover the anticipated cash shortfall. (Social Security is in financial trouble today, but that's because elected officials used excess Social Security tax revenue to decrease the federal budget deficit.)

A similar blue ribbon committee should be put together again to address the issue of health insurance reform. We have already seen the circus performance of our elected officials. To this committee, I would nominate the four panelists who spoke at the Business Journal's Health Reform Roundtable, an excellent and intelligent discussion, a transcript of which was published in the Sept. 28 issue. And I'd nominate others like them from across the country, including doctors, nurses and the members of the public. No lobbyists or representatives of the drug companies need apply. To the extent possible, politics should be kept out of the committee's work, though all parties should be represented.

One of the Business Journal's panelists, Richard Jacobs, a senior vice president at Cedars-Sinai Health Systems, lamented that not enough is heard from businesses, especially small business. In my 39 years as a citizen activist, that has been my battle cry.

Speaking up

Many business people belong to a chamber of commerce or some other business organization. And I congratulate the activity of the Los Angeles area chamber and my own Century City chamber, but the fact is elected officials have a tendency to discount those organizations. They say they want to hear from the small business people themselves. I heard that while working on city charter reform. I've heard that in connection with traffic mitigation programs, and so many more instances.

But small business people, who oversee companies of 100 or less employees that create 70 percent of the jobs in our economy. are too busy running their businesses, especially now as they strive to stay viable. They are L.A.'s large silent majority. But they pay a terrible price for their silence.

One of the panelists told those present that they should talk to their friends and business associates: Get them activated. The fact is someone is going to have to pay for what is being proposed, not in the distant future but next year, if not sooner. My problem is that when I try to raise this discussion with so many business people, they quickly change the subject to the football pool for next week's games. I'd tear my hair out if I had any to spare.

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