On Tuesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown—a notable leftist who has said he supports a single-payer health care system in theory—said in a CNN story that “it’s a terrible mistake if the Democratic nominee would publicly support ‘Medicare for All.’” On Tuesday evening, two of the party’s leading contenders for that nomination, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, redoubled their commitment to such a policy, with Warren drawing fire from all sides about her lack of detail surrounding the issue.
As she had in previous debates, Warren refused to get into specifics about how she would pay for the single-payer plan that Sanders has introduced as legislation, and which Warren has endorsed. Sanders has previously admitted that taxes on the middle class would go up under his plan.
Warren would not admit that taxes on the middle class would go up under single payer. She claimed that costs for the middle class would go down on net under her plan, and that she would not sign any legislation that raised costs on the middle class.
However, even this supposed promise raised additional questions:
- Who qualifies as middle class in Warren’s estimation? A family making under $50,000, a family making under $250,000, or somewhere in between?
- Does Warren’s promise mean that no middle-class families will see their costs go up on net? If so, that seems like an impossibly high bar to clear, as virtually every major law creates both winners and losers. Even though the left tries to turn the federal government into another version of “Oprah’s Finest Things”—“You get a car! You get a car! You get a car!”—it rarely works out that way in practice.
- In September 2008, Barack Obama made a “firm pledge” that he would not raise taxes on families making under $250,000 per year—“not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” That promise lasted for less than a month of his administration. On February 4, 2009, two weeks after taking office, Obama signed a children’s health insurance reauthorization that included a large increase in tobacco taxes—taxes that hit working class families hardest. Given how quickly Obama did an about-face on his campaign promise, why should the American people take Warren’s word any more seriously than they did Obama’s “firm pledge?”
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg also chimed in on the funding discussion. He had previously characterized Warren as “extremely evasive” on the issue during the last debate, and released ads prior to this debate questioning Warren’s and Sanders’ proposals to prohibit private health insurance. During the CNN debate, he pressed both issues, noting (as this commentator has) that Warren has “a plan for everything, except this.” With that, Warren derided Pete’s plan as “Medicare for all who can afford it.”
It seems particularly noteworthy that Warren wants to enact a major expansion of the federal government’s role—the largest expansion of government’s role ever, in both its financial scope and massive reach into every American’s life—yet cannot find a sufficient justification to admit the middle class will pay even a little bit more in taxes to fund this socialist utopia. The former speaks volumes about the left’s ultimate objective—full, unfettered power over the economy—and the latter speaks to the deception they are using to obtain it.
This post was originally published at The Federalist.
Writing on his Washington Post blog, liberal activist Greg Sargent admitted that last night’s referendum in Ohio regarding health care freedom was a rebuke to Obamacare’s unpopular individual mandate. Specifically, he took issue with Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown’s assertion that the referendum succeeded because “the language [of the referendum] was confusing:”
Here’s the language in Issue 3:
1. In Ohio, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.
2. In Ohio, no law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance.
3. In Ohio, no law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of healthcare or health insurance.
A Yes vote on this does seem to be a clear rebuke of the type of individual mandate Obama’s health reform law contained.
The fact that even a liberal activist was forced to admit this “rebuke” – and contradict a Democrat senator in the process – shows the depth of the “shellacking” against the law’s unpopular individual mandate, and (many would argue) the 2700-page law itself. And as to Senator Brown’s assertion that the voters were “confused” by the mandate issue, some might alternatively suggest that actually the voters of Ohio took Speaker Pelosi’s suggestion, found out what was in the bill after Democrats passed it, and decided to deliver a “clear rebuke” as a result.
Amidst a variety of attempts by Democrats to portray their health care law as gaining political momentum, I wanted to reference a few useful data points:
- The Washington Post poll released this morning shows that the President ‘s handling of health care remains unpopular – 50 percent disapprove, while only 45 percent approve. Strong disapproval outweighs strong approval by an even larger 40-27 percent margin.
- Politico reported yesterday that “few Democrats held health care-related events in their districts last week, despite a request from the Speaker’s Office to hold three events at home, including one on health care. A House Democratic aide attributed the drop to a decline in the number of constituent questions and comments on the subject and more interest in the economy and jobs. The few Dems who did hold health events— among them Andrews, Dingell, Hill and Sens. Carper, Sherrod Brown and Sanders— stuck with “safe” audiences, such as seniors and health care workers or business groups, and outlined how to take advantage of the law.”
So if the President remains “upside-down” on health care, and Democrats in Congress don’t want to talk about the new law with their constituents – despite being asked to do so by their leadership – how popular can the legislation really be?
Senators Casey and Brown (OH) have offered an amendment (#4371) regarding COBRA health insurance subsidies. A vote is possible later today. This amendment may be subject to a Budget Act point of order for exceeding aggregate spending caps.
- The amendment would extend eligibility for federal subsidies of COBRA continuation coverage first included in the “stimulus” (P.L. 111-5). The amendment would allow individuals currently eligible for subsidies – those suffering a loss of employment prior to May 31, 2010, when the subsidies lapsed – to continue receiving a maximum of 15 months of subsidized coverage. Individuals laid off after June 1, 2010 would receive only six months of subsidies.
- The amendment includes elimination of the advanced refundability of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as a pay-for.
- The Democrat argument that this amendment is paid for is factually dubious on several levels.
- Although a CBO formal score for the Casey/Brown amendment is not yet available, a six month extension of COBRA subsidies initially included in Section 511 of the House version of H.R. 4213 was scored as costing $6.8 billion. When included in the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget, the Joint Committee on Taxation scored elimination of the advance EITC as saving only $1.2 billion over ten years.
- While scaling back the subsidy length for newly eligible individuals (i.e. those laid off after June 1, 2010) may reduce the apparent cost of the amendment, many may view this as a budgetary gimmick. Section 1010 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-118) extended the subsidies from the nine months originally included in the “stimulus” to 15 months. Given that Democrats have already extended the length of COBRA subsidies once this year, some may question whether the majority will try to lengthen the subsidy duration again at the first possible opportunity.
- The amendment sponsors are citing an interim report on the COBRA subsidy recently released by the Treasury Department as evidence that the subsidy extension will cost less than the CBO projects. The Treasury report stated that the program has cost $2.1 billion to date, and served just under 2.2 million households. However, at the time of the “stimulus” JCT estimated that the subsidy would benefit 7 million individuals. Even after accounting for an average American household size of 2.59 persons, the 2.2 million households cited in the Treasury report mean that about 5.6 million individuals received some benefit from the subsidies—or nearly 20% fewer than the 7 million projected. Some may view the smaller cost—because fewer individuals than expected participated in the program in the first place—as evidence that the program is ineffective and should be discontinued, NOT extended.
- Democrats themselves have raised concerns about the repeated extensions of COBRA subsidies, with little oversight or evaluation by Congress as to the program’s merits—one reason why a six-month COBRA extension was not included in the House-passed extender package. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) told CongressDaily last month: “COBRA, that’s never had a hearing. That’s never had a congressional hearing, yet some in our Caucus think that automatically should be extended ad infinitum…There are constituents in our districts who are working and don’t get any help paying for their health insurance and yet we’re going to subsidize COBRA for people who may lose their jobs next month. … So we think some of these provisions warrant far more scrutiny than they’ve received to date.”