Campaign promises are like fruit flies - they never live very long. The latest to go legs-up is President Obama's campaign pledge that not "one single dime" of new taxes will hit families making less than $250,000 annually.
If by "not one single dime" then-candidate Obama meant about $2 billion, he should love the Senate Finance Committee's embrace of additional taxes on the middle class and younger Americans.
According to new Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation figures, 71 percent of the individual "penalties" in Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus' health care plan would hit families well under Mr. Obama's threshold. If the president signs the legislation, $2 billion of $2.8 billion in expected penalties faced by those who refuse to buy health insurance would be paid by families of four earning less than $120,000 annually.
The White House's response is to argue that this is not a tax, equating the penalty to a speeding ticket. If you've ever been in a town with speed and red-light cameras, you know tickets are all about revenue, just like taxes. We've heard it all before under different guises, such as talk about "revenue enhancers" or "user fees" or measures to close supposed loopholes. The reality is simple. If the feds are taking your money to pay for government expenses, it is a tax, no matter what spin Democrats want to put on it.
The bill also would raise taxes by making it more difficult for people to deduct medical expenses. Committee lawmakers looking to protect themselves against a possible backlash from older voters decided this week to exempt taxpayers older than 65 from this tax increase. The youth tax will hit the pre-AARP set with more than $15 billion in new taxes over 10 years. For those who aren't paying attention, the average earnings of those younger than 50 is considerably lower than the earnings of older Americans.
Social Security is funded under a similar shell-game scheme, with younger workers' taxes paying the retirement benefits of older Americans. In good economic times and when workers greatly outnumber retirees, problems with the system are obscured by the gusher of surplus cash. But when times are tough or there aren't enough young taxpayers to carry the burden of a graying nation, big deficits are the inevitable result.
Democrats have promised Americans a medical nirvana where no one pays for anything and everyone gets the best care imaginable. If that's not quite so and a new health care paradise requires some new taxes, a little honesty would be nice. Don't expect to hear it from those making the decisions about your future health and wealth.