For several years the advocates of health care reform via the public option or single-payer have been telling us about the obscene amounts of money Americans spend on health care, the poor results we get, and--this one is really important--the amount of money we will save under a nebulous new system.
To the 45-50 million people without health care, to the middle class struggling with rising premiums, and to the businesses trying their best to maintain health plans, that idea that health care reform will lower costs has been a mantra that has slowly built their expectations until ....
... it's actually time to pay for the damn thing.
Now, all of a sudden, nobody is talking any more about the savings we're going to reap, but where to get the money to pay for it.
Given their druthers, your representatives would like a direct tax on the health care benefits of those who already have insurance to pay for those who don't. That'll really help the struggling middle class, eh?
The idea of taxing health care benefits has been controversial since it was proposed. Obama has never fully supported it, and many key Senate Democrats have opposed it outright. Even so, Conrad didn't rule it out, saying the tax remains "viable" while senators seek other options.
Meanwhile, a new surtax on Americans who make more than $250,000, the sugary drinks tax and increasing the Medicare payroll tax were among the proposals for funding health care reform discussed by Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rep. Charles Rangel, the committee's chairman, said "all of the above" and more were covered during an all-day meeting at his Capitol Hill office, but declined to give details.
This boils down to:
(A) Going back to that $250K well again....
(B) Sneaking the middle-class health care tax in by increasing their Medicare taxes (yeah, they'll be too dumb to notice that)
(C) Taxing my Mountain Dew fix...
Folks have also been telling us for years about how Medicare is so much more cost-effective than private insurance--until it becomes time to pay for the public option:
Larson said the committee members hoped to reach an agreement Tuesday night. Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen said members were also discussing how Medicare savings could offset the cost of reform.
Medicare savings? If Medicare is being run so much more efficiently (which is the reason we're supposed to love the model), then how come there are apparent huge Medicare savings available to subsidize health care?
What's happening here is the classic bait and switch that both the traditional right and left have played for so many years.
Promise people they can have better, cheaper, universal health care and they'll support the idea overwhelmingly in polls and even vote for you.
But once you have to explain exactly how you're going to take the money out of their hides, that support abruptly evaporates:
A recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed only 20 percent of respondents support the tax and a Washington Post/ABC News poll found 70 percent opposed it. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 54 percent of respondents oppose the new tax.
The poll was a setback for many lawmakers who considered the tax the best way to raise hundreds of billions of dollars needed to pay for health care reform.
"When you get numbers like that, it certainly causes you to look for alternatives," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota.
The same thing happened under Reagan: he promised that huge tax cuts and reductions in government spending could be accomplished without ever cutting into essential services. When he couldn't pay for it, he kept the tax cuts and huge chunks of the services, content to run up the deficit....
Here are three important points to remember when the government promises to solve really big problems [you could think of them as the political laws of thermodynamics]:
1. Government programs never cost as little a projected--usually the estimate is off by powers of magnitude.
2. Government revenue plans never bring in as much money as promised--because if the tax bite is that significant people will exert massive energies to avoid it.
3. Despite repeated proof that numbers (1) and (2) are true, American voters will faithfully continue to vote for a convincing politician who promises them something for nothing.