One of my biggest irritations with Obamacare was that it further knotted the relationship between being a full time employee and having health insurance that is affordable to the individual. As I have pointed out in other threads, there is extreme inequality between families that have the same household income based on nothing other than the fact that one is a public employee whereas the other runs a family business. Same household income, wildly different costs of health insurance. This is a symptom of our random, arbitrary, haphazard system that entangles health insurance benefits with W2 employment.

But that's just health insurance. Managing even small organizations, especially in the public sector, requires burning tons of time administering employee payroll and benefits. Pensions, unfunded liability payments, health premiums, deductible reimbursements, HSAs, self-insurance, life insurance, supplemental insurance, accident and disability insurance, worker's compensation, 401(k)s/403(b)s/457s, pre-tax, post-tax, employer matching and vesting schedules, vacation cashout liabilities, sick leave accruals, PTO, unemployment, and on... and on... and on. And that doesn't even get into the extra built-in complexity of union contracts. All of this stuff goes into the cost of compensation for employees who have an panoply of benefits like this. People who work in your local and state government have chapters and chapters worth of employment benefits. It is part of the total cost of compensation, and it also takes an insane amount of work to manage it all.

What is the "benefit" of tying all these things to employment? Why is that really so important? Who really benefits so much from this? Why is it so great that we build in this mind-numbing amount of complexity into employment? It requires virtually every employer to have a department that has to manhandle all of its employees' private and personal information, track and retain tons of their paperwork, answer their questions, redirect their complaints, reconcile invoices to payroll reports, become their de facto personal assistants/insurance agents/bankers, and so forth. How much organizational redundancy is there in all this?

How federal tax and labor laws treat all of this stuff adds to the complexity. It also makes it exceedingly difficult to make apples to apples comparisons of compensation between similar or virtually identical jobs. And it creates significant cost differences between part-time temporary work and full-time permanent work, creating job creation disincentives for the latter.

And keep in mind, a lot of these vendors that provide these benefits are private, for-profit companies, ultimately. Insurance companies, benefit companies, investment companies... They profit from getting employers as clients and taking their fees out of the money that is sent to them. What real value are they adding?

It is so ingrained and expected that "a good job" means copious non-wage benefits. Someone has convinced us of this. We've come to believe it. We've written complex tax code around it. Benefits cost money too. They are part of compensation. Money is what we want and need, and why we ultimately sell our labor. Who ultimately benefits most from this benefit complexity? Is it really and truly the employees?

I think American employers should pay employees what their work is worth, and when I say pay them, I mean pay them. With money. I would be happy if employment benefits were completely eliminated and all wages and salaries (note, not equity compensation) increased by 30-35% (which is the average cost of benefits relative to wages/salaries).

/end rant