Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Harry Reid's sausage

As voters start assimilating what Harry Reid's health care proposal means for them particularly, they might be interested in finding out how some people are being treated differently from others in this bill. And if you're a member of a powerful supporting interest group of the Democratic Party, you made out well.

Consider the additional tax on people with the so-called "Cadillac plans" that offer benefits that the Democrats should be taxed in order to help pay for their plan. And guess who got a special exemption from that tax?
Start with the special tax carve-outs included in the "manager's amendment" that Harry Reid dropped Saturday morning. White House budget director Peter Orszag has claimed that the bill's 40% excise tax on high-cost insurance plans is key to reducing health costs. Yet the Senate Majority Leader's new version specifically exempts "individuals whose primary work is longshore work." That would be the longshoremen's union, which has negotiated very costly insurance benefits. The well-connected dock workers join other union interests such as miners, electrical linemen, EMTs, construction workers, some farmers, fishermen, foresters, early retirees and others who are absolved from this tax.

In other words, controlling insurance costs is enormously important, unless your very costly insurance is provided by an important Democratic constituency.

The Reid bill also gives a pass on the excise tax to the 17 states with the highest health costs. This provision applied to only 10 states in a prior version, but other Senators made a fuss. So controlling health costs is enormously important, except in the places where health costs need the most control.
And if you object to the special earmarks inserted into the bill to gain individual senators' votes, Harry Reid has an answer for you. The senators who didn't get such special consideration were just saps.
“There are 100 senators here and I don’t know that there’s a senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that isn’t important to them,” Reid said. “If they don’t have something in it important to them then it doesn’t speak well of them.”
There has always been such trading of pork for votes; but it's at a much higher level now. And it's all public. We're going to be finding all sorts of these nuggets in the bill over the coming days. And then we'll have stories about the federal debt and how we can't pay for things anymore. And people just won't be so impressed with a senator's ability to get a $100 million for a health care center somewhere in their state.