- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 11, 2012

After an election campaign that featured jobs as a central issue, some of the nation’s businesses have responded to President Obama’s victory with a series of layoff announcements related to a variety of factors including the New Year’s “fiscal cliff.”

A number of companies had hoped the election of Republican Mitt Romney would raise the chances of avoiding the cliff’s $1 trillion in federal spending cuts, half of them defense-related, plus higher taxes from the expiration of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. Other factors in the spate of layoff notices included costs related to Mr. Obama’s health care plan and environmental regulations.

The Boeing Co., Groupon Inc., Applebee’s International Inc., Papa John’s Inc. and Murray Energy Corp. are among those that have announced layoffs or other job cuts in the days since Mr. Obama was re-elected.

Defense giant Boeing, which stands to be one of the biggest losers if $500 billion in automatic defense cuts proceed as scheduled, announced the day after the election that it was cutting 30 percent of its management positions. The aerospace company already has cut costs by $2.2 billion since 2010 and plans to cut another $1.6 billion by 2015.

“We are at one of the most challenging yet opportunity-rich times in our history,” Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement that cited how “funding for the U.S. Department of Defense is under extreme pressure.”

In Washington, congressional leaders from both parties have sounded cautiously optimistic since Tuesday about reaching a long-term budget deal in the coming weeks that would head off the looming tax increases and spending cuts.

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, said Sunday that he is hopeful about a resolution.

“I think there is room. I’ve said, from Day One, the key to solving this is Medicare reform. If we can agree to Medicare reform, I think the other pieces will fall in place,” Mr. Corker said in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

Some Democratic lawmakers and liberal pundits have suggested that going over the “fiscal cliff” would benefit the country more over the long term — and strengthen the Democrats’ political hand in the short term. But Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said those suggestions aren’t realistic.

“I don’t know where you are hearing that,” he said on Fox. “You certainty don’t hear that from me. I’ve spent five years trying to put together a package in a bipartisan way to get us back on a sound fiscal course.”

Although Mr. Conrad and other Democrats, including Mr. Obama, have emphasized that revenue would be a key part of any compromise, Republicans have insisted that tax increases could derail an already fragile economy.

“A tax increase never created a new job in this country, and what we need is economic growth,” Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, said on the same Fox program. “We can increase revenue without increasing the tax rates on anybody in this country, we can lower the rates, broaden the base, close the loopholes and put in place pro-growth policies in energy and health care and the regulatory policy and address the spending.”

A Washington compromise on the fiscal cliff, however, was unlikely to change the outlook for some business leaders who already have determined that a second Obama term will be bad for the bottom line.

Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray blamed his company’s layoffs on Mr. Obama’s “war on coal” and pushes for clean-energy manufacturers, and the CEO punctuated his company’s layoffs with a seemingly anti-Obama prayer that he delivered to employees Wednesday.

Mr. Murray, who expects the U.S. coal industry to go out of business by 2030, said he was putting his company into “survival mode.” The Ohio-based coal company is laying off 102 employees at Utah American Energy and 54 people at American Coal, both subsidiaries.

“Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build,” he said in the prepared prayer. “We ask for your guidance in this drastic time with the drastic decisions that will be made to have any hope of our survival as an American business enterprise.”

Without naming Mr. Obama directly, Mr. Murray said the “takers outvoted the producers” and lamented “lower and lower levels of personal freedom.”

“The American people have made their choice,” he prayed. “They have decided that America must change its course, away from the principles of our founders. And away from the idea of individual freedom and individual responsibility. Away from capitalism, economic responsibility, and personal acceptance.”

Murray Energy wasn’t the only American company with an abrupt response to Mr. Obama’s re-election, as Groupon, the daily-deals website, also announced 80 layoffs Thursday.

The conservative group Freedom Works has posted a constantly updated list of companies that will be laying off people because of the Affordable Care Act, including such medical-device makers as Welch Allyn Inc. and Stryker Corp., which will be hit by a medical-device tax under the health care law.

Separately, an anonymous Las Vegas CEO went on a local radio show last week to say he had fired 22 of his company’s 114 employees because of Mr. Obama’s re-election. He told KXNT-FM that “elections have consequences.”

“I had to lay off 22 people today to make sure that my business is going to thrive, and I’m going to be around for years to come,” he said. “I have to build up that nest egg now for the taxes and regulations that are coming my way.”

In New York, a large Applebee’s franchise owner announced Thursday that he wouldn’t continue expanding, and left the door open for layoffs. Zane Tankel, chairman and CEO of Apple-Metro, which has 40 restaurants with 80 to 300 employees at each location, said Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which Mr. Romney vowed to repeal, is making it too expensive to do business.

“We’ve calculated it will [cost] some millions of dollars across our system,” he told Fox Business Network. “So what does that say? That says we won’t build more restaurants. We won’t hire more people.”

Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter also said after the election that Mr. Obama’s health care law could force the company to cut employees’ hours, a warning that follows his claim in August that the law could cause pizza prices to rise as much as 14 cents.

Other restaurant chains such as Darden Restaurants Inc., which owns the Red Lobster and Olive Garden brands, have said they would consider cutting workers’ hours because the health care law’s mandate to provide insurance applies only to employees who work at least 30 hours a week.

Before the election, Milwaukee manufacturer Rite-Hite Corp.’s owner Mike White warned employees that there will be “personal consequences” for voting for Mr. Obama.

In an email, he said workers “should understand the personal consequences to them of having our tax rates increase dramatically if President Obama is re-elected, forcing taxpayers to fund President Obama’s future deficits and social programs (including Obamacare), which require bigger government.”

That’s the same thing Westgate Resorts Ltd. CEO David Seigel did when he emailed employees to tell them that if Mr. Obama was re-elected, it would “threaten your job.”

David Eldridge contributed to this report.

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