Thursday, July 16, 2009

If the LA Times is against Obamacare, you know it's in trouble

The Los Angeles Times has struggled for years to moderate its left-coast political leanings, but is still reliably supportive of the Democratic agenda. In an editorial today, however, its careful criticism of the healthcare proposals coming out of Congress amounts to an outright rejection. They even make excellent points against universal healthcare. The Times they are a-changin! Excerpts:

The 1,018-page House bill (HR 3200) is a decidedly mixed bag, reflecting the difficulty of making large-scale repairs while preserving the healthcare options people have today. The measure would make some important changes in the way healthcare is delivered and financed, yet it falls short of some goals and overshoots others.

The bill ... doesn't move as aggressively as it should to reduce the incentives for wasteful, inefficient or unnecessary procedures. It would extend coverage to millions of the uninsured but would pay for that expansion in too narrow a way. Part would be covered by a hefty tax on employers that don't provide insurance, a burden that would fall hardest on businesses with thin profits and low-wage workers. And part would be borne just by the wealthiest 2 million Americans, even though the benefits of the program would be spread broadly.

Ideally, lawmakers would finance those changes in ways that would increase consumers' sensitivity to healthcare costs without eliminating jobs and slowing economic growth. The House bill fails that test for a couple of reasons: It suggests to most Americans that they're getting a better healthcare system for free, and it makes one small group pay for improvements that benefit everyone. Taxes on the wealthy and businesses can help, but the middle class should contribute too, not only because it's the right thing to do but also to make the funding less vulnerable to economic downturns.

For starters, lawmakers should consider rolling back the tax exemption for employee healthcare benefits. The exemption is worth $3.5 trillion over 10 years, so even a modest reduction could raise a significant amount. Such a move would face stiff resistance from unions and President Obama, who promised not to raise taxes on the middle class. But it would send the valuable message that everyone pays for this reform because everyone benefits.


Colin said...

The Economist, meanwhile, has declared that the House version "turns its back on common sense."

Chad said...

Of all the Obama czars, the most critical one (that's unfortunately never going to be appointed) would be a Constitution czar. That person would be in charge of looking at all these nationalized health care bills, cap-and-trade bills, etc. and say, "I have examined the Constitution very thoroughly and found it does not grant the federal government these powers. These bills are DOA."

Maybe that person could be in charge of developing long-term plans to slowly phase out all the other unconstitutional programs, too.

Imagine if the budget was shrunk down to cover only what the federal government was Consitutionally allowed to do. It would be, what, maybe a quarter of its current size? Then imagine the uber-stimulus that would result from the other 75% being pumped back into the economy.

Ahhh, to dream...