Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Limbaugh's Take On The Health Care Tax

It can't be! A tax that Rush Limbaugh supports.

No, it's not the progressive income tax. Or the estate tax, dubbed the "death tax" by propagandistsRepublicans who, Digby notes, long for an aristocracy in which any individual owning property over $3.5 million dollars can pass it on unencumbered.

No, it's the regressive excise tax in the Senate health care bill. Limbaugh on January 13 crowed

This is just out now from the National Journal's Congress Daily: "Unions tentatively struck a deal Tuesday to exempt collectively bargained healthcare plans from a tax on high-cost plans expected to be used to help raise revenue for the healthcare overhaul." I knew this was going to happen! The only people... Ahem! The only people who are going to be exempted from paying the Cadillac tax are people who make Cadillacs, the union workers who make them and make other things -- and a little piece of Nebraska as well. I knew this was going to happen.
(For what it's worth, the AFL-CIO has denied that a deal has been struck.)

Many unions have negotiated favorable health care plans for their members, most of them middle class, hardly the kind of American Rush speaks for. Often, these benefits are in lieu of higher wages. Still (or maybe because), Limbaugh is aghast- after all, they are "union workers who make them and make other things!" In Rush's world, CEOs and CFOs should never be discouraged from making as much money as possible, including million dollar bonuses with taxpayer money- but for the middle class, their health care must be taxed.

As Firedoglake's Jon Walker has noted, the burden of the tax may fall not only only on the middle class but also on the elderly because

The excise tax in the Senate bill is not structured to tax generous health care plans — just expensive ones. The problem is that relatively generous health care plans are not necessarily expensive and expensive plans are not necessarily generous. Age, region, and health status of the employee pool are primary determinants of the cost of a group insurance plan.

For example, a snowboard company with all young athletic employees could have an extremely generous insurance policy that costs relatively little, while a bakery with many older employees with health problems could have a very bare bones policy that still costs a lot. The limit should be based on the cost of the insurance if applied to the average demographic makeup of a group plan in the area. This will prevent the excise tax from simply being a tax on older Americans.

The excise tax is a flat tax assessed at 40% on all employer-provided benefit plans above a set dollar amount. This is a very regressive way to cap the tax-exempt status of health insurance.


One can imagine Limbaugh's reaction if President Obama had discouraged, rather than apparently encouraged, such a tax. Candidate Obama wisely- in both a policy and a strategic sense- criticized Senator McCain for proposing such a levy. Accusations of hypocrisy and worse would have flowed from the mouths of the right-wing talkosphere if the Administration had actively backed the wiser, more progressive surtax on the wealthy included in the House bill.

But give Rush credit! If consistency is the hobglobin of little minds, Limbaugh has a big mind- one that supports a tax if, and only if, it harms the middle class rather than asking the wealthy to bear its fair share. On that point, though, Rush Limbaugh is consistent- if it widens the gap between the wealthy and the middle class, he's all for it.

1 comment:

omnivore said...

What is this between you and Rush Limbaugh, main street liberal- or should I say main street paranoiac?

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