Did The Supreme Court Impose A Tax On Everybody? What's John Roberts On?
The progress towards universal health care-- something that infuriates the greed-obsessed billionaires behind the Tea Party-- was bolstered this week when John Roberts joined the 4 moderates on the Court to declare it constitutionally sound. Within an hour, though, Republicans had their talking points. From Limbaugh, Hannity, anti-healthcare crusader Paul Ryan, Priebus and the Romney campaign all the way down the right-wing foodchain to Michele Bachmann and birthday girl Virginia Foxx... they all immediately started singing the same tune about the "biggest tax increase in the history of mankind." Slower Americans had to be excused for believing that the Supreme Court had just imposed a massive tax increase on every man, woman, child and precious zygote in America.
In fact, hysterical Republican House Leader, Eric Cantor, a notorious Wall Street shill who's taken $6,347,965 in direct bribes from the finance sector (more than anyone else currently in Congress other than John Boehner) went so far as to claim that the ACA will raise the tax on stock dividends from 15% to 43%. There's no basis in truth to that whopper, none-- but that doesn't mean the typical Republican voter and some weak-minded independents won't believe it. In fact, there's no basis in truth to any of the lies about this bring a tax increase-- at least not for 99% of Americans.
Almost 80% of Americans get their health insurance through their employers or their spouse's or parent's employer. No tax increase of any kind there. Another 15% of Americans get health care through exchanges or as individuals. No tax increases there. And anyone else who decides to purchase health insurance... no tax increases there either. So what are Eric Cantor and the other GOP mouthpieces talking about? AP ran a list of winners and losers after the Supreme Court decision. It goes a long way towards explaining the deranged hysteria from the far right-- and, ironically, the first winner listed is a constituent of Eric Cantor's, though not a bankster, so he doesn't care a whit:
Casey Quinlan, a 59-year-old breast cancer survivor who lives near Richmond, Va., and millions of other uninsured people. Starting in October 2013, the uninsured will be able to sign up for taxpayer subsidized coverage either through private insurance plans or the Medicaid health care program. Coverage commences on Jan. 1, 2014. The law eventually is expected to provide health insurance to about 30 million of the estimated 50 million uninsured Americans. Insurers will not be able to turn away people with a history or medical problems, or charge them more. "What's at stake is whether or not the insurance market will be encouraged to recognize our presence and create products that are affordable for people with pre-existing conditions," Quinlan said.
Hospitals. Their stock zoomed Thursday after the Supreme Court ruling guaranteed them millions more paying customers. Some analysts expect the law to reduce uncompensated care losses borne by hospitals by about half. Currently about one-fourth of the care provided by hospitals is never paid for, either because debts can't be collected or the patient is uninsured. Stocks of big laboratories also rose. But insurance companies had a see-saw day, down sharply at first but recovering some lost ground. They'll get millions of new customers also, but they face new federal regulation and taxes they fear will drive up costs.
Family practice doctors. The law provides a pay boost for those treating Medicare patients, and takes other steps that could make general practitioners the new gatekeepers of a more efficient health care system.
Democrats. President Barack Obama and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi devoted a vast amount of his first term to passing a health care law that has divided the nation. Democrats lost the House in the 2010 midterm elections partly on public displeasure with Medicare cuts embedded in the health care overhaul. By winning at the court, Obama and his party preserve historic legislation that liberals have been pining for over more than 50 years.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. Obama's top Supreme Court lawyer was maligned for his performance in both the health care and Arizona immigration cases. His argument in defense of the insurance requirement got off to a bad start when Verrilli appeared to choke on his words and had to take a drink of water. Turns out, he largely prevailed in both cases, in which he also was in charge of producing the administration's written legal briefs. That's perhaps just the latest indication one shouldn't hang too much on oral arguments.
Chief Justice John Roberts-- The darling of conservatives, Roberts finds himself in the unusual position of being praised by the left and criticized by the right following the health care ruling, and to a lesser extent, the Arizona immigration case in which he also sided with the court's liberals. On one level, these demonstrations of a willingness to break with conservatives could burnish Roberts' reputation as the neutral umpire he told his confirmation hearings he sought to be. On the other hand, the conservative Roberts may be very much in evidence when the court takes up affirmative action in the fall.
The National Federation of Independent Business. The powerhouse small business lobbying group played a pivotal role in derailing former President Bill Clinton's health care bill and was lead plaintiff in the case against Obama's overhaul. NFIB President Dan Danner said Thursday the group will continue to push for repeal, but odds of completely overturning the law seem slimmer now. The law imposes fines on employers that do not offer coverage, but companies with fewer than 50 workers are exempt, and that means most small businesses will not have to worry about the mandate. Moreover, most companies with 50 or more employees already provide coverage. Nonetheless, business groups generally see the health care law as an encroachment.
Republicans. From presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to congressional leaders like House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., it will get harder for Republicans to argue that the law should be wiped from the books. However, Republicans could regain the upper hand by targeting unpopular provisions for repeal, like tax increases on industry, cost controls and cuts to service providers.
States that didn't prepare. About half the states now find themselves in the position of the little piggy that built his house out of straw. Many Republican-led states held back on carrying out the law's plan to set up new insurance markets, confident the Supreme Court would toss out the whole thing. They're now in the position of watching Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' federal bureaucrats come in and run the markets for them. Sebelius says she wants to play nice and will partner with any interested states. But you can bet it will be on her terms.
Justice Antonin Scalia. He sat glumly and silently as other justices read their takes on the health care law. Scalia was more vocal than any justice in his distaste for the law when the court heard arguments in March.
I suspect Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan have no interest whatsoever in anything Families USA has to say. If they did, they'd be better informed-- probably not something either is interested in. Yesterday they issued a report showing that millions of middle class American families (up to $88,200) will get a tax cut because of the ACA.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act), enacted in March 2010, will extend health coverage to millions of Americans by expanding Medicaid to those with the lowest incomes and by creating a tax cut to help low- and middle-income individuals and families afford private coverage. These tax cuts will be provided in the form of new, refundable tax credits that will offset a portion of the cost of health insurance premiums.
This report takes a closer look at these premium tax credits, which will go into effect in 2014 and will help Americans with incomes up to four times the federal poverty level ($88,200 for a family of four in 2010) afford coverage. The unique structure of the tax credits means that individuals and families will have to spend no more than a specified portion of their income on health insurance premiums.
Families USA commissioned The Lewin Group to use its economic models to estimate how many individuals would benefit from the new premium tax credits in 2014 and the value of the dollars going to help pay for insurance (see the Methodology on page 12 for more details). We found that an estimated 28.6 million Americans will be eligible for the tax credits in 2014, and that the total value of the tax credits that year will be $110.1 billion.
The new tax credits will provide much-needed assistance to insured individuals and families who struggle harder each year to pay rising premiums, as well as to uninsured individuals and families who need help purchasing coverage that otherwise would be completely out of reach financially. Most of the families who will be eligible for the tax credits will be employed, many for small businesses, and will have incomes between two and four times poverty (between $44,100 and $88,200 for a family of four based on 2010 poverty guidelines). However, because the size of the tax credits will be determined on a sliding scale based on income, those with the lowest incomes will receive the largest tax credit, which will ensure that the assistance is targeted to those who need it the most.
As this key provision of the Affordable Care Act takes effect, millions of hard-working Americans will enjoy tax relief and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they and their family members have affordable health insurance that they can depend on, even if they experience changes in income or become unemployed.
By 2014, close to 30 million Americans will be eligible for the tax credits, estimated to be slightly more than $110 billion. That's a lot of tax cut-- but for middle class working families, not for wealthy GOP donors... so to crooks like Cantor, Boehner and Ryan and their cronies, it just doesn't "count." Families USA explains that "Most of the families who will be eligible for the tax credits will be employed, many for small businesses, and will have incomes between two and four times poverty (between $44,100 and $88,200 for a family of four based on 2010 poverty guidelines)." That's a nightmare scenario for the Republican Party political machine. Because, for them, it's always only about tax cuts for the richest Americans. And no one summed up the problem Cantor and Ryan and that crew are facing this week because of this better than Ilyse Hogue at The Nation:
[T]his whole linguistic rabbit hole we find ourselves at the bottom of raises the question: why not just call the whole thing what it is? Given how much Americans tend to love tax breaks and how relatively few “free-riders” there are who would incur unsubsidized new taxes under Obamacare, what political cost calculation led to all the talk of a mandate and a commerce clause in the first place?
The answer lies in a decades-long war on taxes that has left Democrats paralyzed when faced with an advantageous opportunity to reclaim the term. Conservatives, well aware of their victory in this strategic front of the language war, use the weaponized word prodigiously.
...The full frontal assault on taxes was birthed by conservatives with an agenda to squeeze the life out of popular social spending initiatives in the latter part of the last century. Given how normative taxes were in American culture, the intellectual architects of the “Starve the Beast” strategy saw no way to force spending cuts without a high-profile campaign to destroy the funding mechanism. The fact that the Federal Treasury would be collateral damage was of no concern to these men, and any political consequence for an incoming Democratic administration was icing on the cake. George W. Bush’s deficit spending and casino style regulatory approach drove the American economy straight off a cliff after systematically dismantling the rescue squads. The subsequent mess is one that Republicans have delighted in watching Obama try to clean up, a task made even more impossible by Republicans who would rather see the economy destroyed than vote for an increase in tax revenue, even-- or especially-- on the country’s wealthy.
But the impacts of this scorched-earth campaign are ominously visible not only in a policy agenda skewed towards the 1 percent but also in newly embedded cultural norms. When fire services were rendered optional in rural Tennessee as a way to curb spending in 2011, many residents opted out. After all, who ever believes that their house will burn until the sparks start flying? But in at least two heart-breaking instances, firefighters were forced to sit by and watch as peoples’ homes burned to the ground because of unpaid fees. The parallels are strikingly similar to the conservative outcry against the healthcare mandate, without which we would be forced to sit idly by while people suffer. As I wrote last week here, Justice Scalia’s endorsement of the “let them die” faction of the tea party in the healthcare hearings gave judicial credibility to a fundamentally anti-American posture of indifference-- a position reinforced by his dissenting opinion this morning. Do we really want to embrace an America where we watch our neighbors’ lives go up in flames?
Given all of this, the irony of this much-reviled three letter word offering a parachute for a plummeting healthcare initiative is not lost on this progressive. As millions sleep easier tonight as a result of this ruling, it’s important to remember a few lessons as we forge ahead: Obama didn’t kill your granny, freedom is not actually dead and constitutionally protected taxes can-- and often do-- create a stronger America. That may be language actually worth fighting for.