Health Reform and Obama's Tax Pledge

Excerpt from Karl Rove

Public support for his plans shrank when Americans saw the trillion-dollar-plus price tag, recoiled from the intrusive expansion of government into patient-doctor decisions, and came to understand the plan was financed in part by huge cuts in Medicare and large tax increases.

So, after running into heavy opposition among Congressional Democrats and growing public hostility to his plan, Mr. Obama has now recast the debate as an attack on insurance companies, with the president serving as savager-in-chief. This would be more credible if he hadn’t surrounded himself with insurance CEOs and lobbyists when he kicked off his effort in March.

The corrosive effect of basing policy decisions on polls also could be seen in White House handling of the refusals on Sunday of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Larry Summers to rule out middle-class tax increases. They got disciplined Monday by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who said they’d “allowed themselves to get into a little bit of hypothetical back and forth.”

This dispute pits the economic team against the campaign team. The economic team awakens each day worried about reconciling two irreconcilable realities: The administration’s budget calls for huge, sustained new government spending, which threatens giant budget deficits. Being liberals, the economic team is inclined to raise taxes, not cut spending.

The campaign team is intent upon protecting a pledge driven by its 2008 campaign polls: Mr. Obama promised never to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year to avoid being labeled a tax-and-spend liberal.

Even so, Mr. Obama has already broken his no-new-taxes pledge. On Feb. 4, Mr. Obama signed a $33 billion cigarette tax increase, which fell disproportionately on lower- and middle-income individuals. And the “cap and trade” energy bill, approved by the House on June 26, is a tax on anyone who owns a light switch, uses a car key, or has bought anything manufactured, shipped or sold in the U.S.

The House version of Mr. Obama’s health-care—excuse me, “health-insurance”—reform already has four taxes that will largely be paid by people making less than $250,000 a year. There’s $8.2 billion in taxes for using health savings accounts and other tax-free medical savings vehicles to purchase over-the-counter drugs. There’s an 8% tax on employers who don’t offer insurance: The Congressional Budget Office says workers in those businesses would pay the $163 billion cost via lost wages.

There’s a 2.5% “Tax on Individuals Without Acceptable Health Care Coverage” in the House bill that applies to people who either don’t have insurance or whose policies the government deems inadequate. Finally, there’s a $2 billion “Comparative Effectiveness Research Tax” on all private and “public option” insurance policies.

If some version of ObamaCare is passed, the president will break his tax pledge several more times while adding trillions to the deficit, dismantling the best elements of our health-care system and slashing Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars.

There are no polling data or focus groups on earth that can help Mr. Obama out of this jam. He has set in motion events he appears unable to control and commitments he cannot keep. Great communicators succeed when the ideas they are communicating are sound. Tax-and-spend liberalism doesn’t work, no matter how pretty its package.

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Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here


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