- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 27, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

While hastily ramming his 2,457-page, $2.5 trillion Obamacare package through the Senate before Christmas, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, must have seen himself as Saint Nick. High atop his sleigh, Santa Harry piled 12 brand-new taxes and six tax hikes totaling $398.1 billion.

“If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime,” President Obama told Congress on February 24. “I repeat: Not a single dime.”

This remains technically true. For families earning less than $250,000, taxes would rise between 2010 and 2019 by much more than a single dime. According to Americans for Tax Reform, seven of Mr. Reid’s tax hikes violate Mr. Obama’s pledge and collectively cost $81.8 billion. These include:

c A $2.7 billion levy on indoor tanning salons that Mr. Reid imposed after ditching a plastic surgery tax. He just as arbitrarily could tax haircuts, or heirloom tomatoes, or Hula Hoops. Why not a tax on guys named Harry?

c A $5 billion Medicine Cabinet Tax specifically permits insulin purchases but otherwise prohibits using money in Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, or Health Reimbursement Accounts for non-prescription, over-the-counter medications. While diabetics thankfully are spared, how does this benefit those who use antacids or asthma inhalers?

c $15 billion individual mandate would force Americans to buy health insurance. In 2014, those without “qualifying,” government-approved coverage would pay $495 or 0.5 percent of Adjusted Gross Income, whichever is higher. In 2016, that rises to 2 percent of AGI, or approximately $640 today.

c A $15.2 billion tax requires costs to reach 10 percent of AGI, up from 7.5 percent, before Americans may deduct itemized medical expenses.

c A $28 billion tax would hit employers who do not provide health coverage to their payrolls of at least 50 employees. If only one worker qualifies for a health-care tax credit, the employer must pay a fine of $750 on all 50 staffers, not just the one tax-credited employee. For 50 staffers, this penalty equals $37,500 annually. Small-business owners who file personal returns and earn below $250,000 will suffer this tax themselves.

Sen. Mike Crapo, Idaho Republican, tried to enforce Mr. Obama’s pledge by deleting from Obamacare all taxes on families earning less than $250,000 and individuals making under $200,000. Every Republican supported Mr. Crapo’s amendment. All but five Democrats ganged up and killed it.

Beyond the $250,000 threshold, Mr. Reid’s sleigh overflowed with other new taxes:

c $149.1 billion, 40 percent excise tax awaits those with “Cadillac” health plans worth at least $8,500 per individual and $23,000 per family. These taxes, the Congressional Budget Office predicts, “would be largely passed through to consumers in the form of higher premiums for private coverage.” Also - in an affront to equality before the law - longshoremen are exempt from this tax. Why not ship captains, or nurses or test pilots?

c An additional $59.6 billion tax on health insurance companies also will make costly coverage costlier.

c A $22.2 billion tax on drug companies would increase price pressures and slash funds available for pharmaceutical research and development.

c A $19.2 billion medical-device tax would boost prices of hearing aids, heart stents, artificial limbs and similar implements, and divert money to Washington that could refine such products and create new therapeutic, life-saving inventions.

Despite this massive picking of citizens’ empty pockets, Obamacare still would leave 24 million Americans uninsured. Among them, Mr. Reid claimed Monday, “On average, an American dies from lack of health insurance every 10 minutes.” If true, 210,384 Americans will drop dead waiting until 2014 for the start of Obamacare’s benefits, such as they are. Why are profligate Democrats so desperate to do so little so slowly for so few?

All this is possible thanks to the Senate’s Kremlinesque procedural vote last Sunday night/Monday morning at 1:08 a.m. Liberal Democrats once chanted “The whole world is watching.” Mr. Reid and his snow-covered Democratic elves built a sleigh full of tax hikes while the whole world was sleeping.

Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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