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Papa John’s founder’s disingenuous complaint about Obamacare

Right now, a hungry Bostonian can order a large Papa John’s chicken parmesan pizza for 10 bucks. But watch out: the pizza chain’s founder, John Schnatter, is warning customers that to accommodate President Obama’s health care law, they may have to shell out $10.14. Schnatter, a fundraiser for Mitt Romney, may be accurate in explaining how some fast-food chains will cover the costs of new provisions in the law — by slightly raising prices. But he is wrong to complain.

Schnatter’s comments were made to shareholders. According to Politico, his intention was to alleviate their concerns about profits. “[W]e will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs. . . in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests,” he vowed.

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The guessing here is it won’t be that tough for Papa John’s to survive the 11- to 14-cent-per-pizza increase. Its biggest competitors, like Domino’s, will also have to contend with potential health care increases. Schnatter’s concern is that the corner pizza shop will be exempted because it has fewer than 50 employees.

But, of course, Papa John’s has a huge leg up on Mom-and-Pop stores because of bulk purchasing and advertising. If Obamacare succeeds in getting the big chains to at least offer a decent health benefit, everyone will be better off: Mom and Pop will have a more level playing field; the chains will be able to utilize their market clout to drive down health-insurance costs; and taxpayers won’t be obliged to cover free care for workers whose employers should properly provide it.

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