Monday, March 16, 2009

# Posted 4:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THANK YOU, NEW YORK TIMES: I've got to give credit where credit is due. Yesterday's front-page story about Obama's health care plans is a remarkable vindication of what McCain was saying about healthcare last fall. The Times' story captures just how dishonest Obama's attacks really were. I can tell you as a veteran of the McCain policy shop just how angry and frustrated we were by those attacks, which were repeated night after night in tens of millions of dollars worth of television ads. The fact checkers were pretty good about exposing Obama's "old politics" (as well as GOP spin on the issue), but it would've been nice if the Times and the MSM gave Obama's distortations the attention they deserved and made it plain what a stark contrast they offered to promises of hope and change. Here's the story:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is signaling to Congress that the president could support taxing some employee health benefits, as several influential lawmakers and many economists favor, to help pay for overhauling the health care system.

The proposal is politically problematic for President Obama, however, since it is similar to one he denounced in the presidential campaign as “the largest middle-class tax increase in history.” Most Americans with insurance get it from their employers, and taxing workers for the benefit is opposed by union leaders and some businesses.

In television advertisements last fall, Mr. Obama criticized his Republican rival for the presidency, Senator John McCain of Arizona, for proposing to tax all employer-provided health benefits. The benefits have long been tax-free, regardless of how generous they are or how much an employee earns. The advertisements did not point out that Mr. McCain, in exchange, wanted to give all families a tax credit to subsidize the purchase of coverage.

At the time, even some Obama supporters said privately that he might come to regret his position if he won the election; in effect, they said, he was potentially giving up an important option to help finance his ambitious health care agenda to reduce medical costs and to expand coverage to the 46 million uninsured Americans. Now that Mr. Obama has begun the health debate, several advisers say that while he will not propose changing the tax-free status of employee health benefits, neither will he oppose it if Congress does so.

At a recent Congressional hearing, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat whose own health plan would make benefits taxable, asked Peter R. Orszag, the president’s budget director, about the issue. Mr. Orszag replied that it “most firmly should remain on the table.”

Mr. Orszag, an economist who has served as director of the Congressional Budget Office, has written favorably of taxing some employer-provided health benefits and using the revenue savings for other health-related incentives. So has another Obama adviser, Jason Furman, the deputy director of the White House National Economic Council.
The rest of it's here.

Cross-posted on Conventional Folly
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