Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Controlling Costs On The Backs Of The Middle Class

By TalkLeft's Big Tent Democrat TalkLeft

Rather than just copping to the fact that the policy he favors does indeed impose a stiff cost on middle class workers, Ezra Klein argues:

[Herbert] doesn't really argue that the excise tax is bad policy. Instead, he argues that there will be losers. Workers who will see higher deductibles. Union members who will find a portion of their policies taxed.
Actually, Herbert's argument explains why he opposes the excise tax - it would enact cost control by making the middle class pay for it. In Herbert's view, and mine, that is bad policy. In Ezra Klein's view, that is good policy. Remember that the competing financing mechanism presented by the House bill is to tax persons making 500k/yr. Ezra is saying he prefers a policy that punishes middle class workers to one that places the burden on the wealthy. you can call Ezra's position many things, but certainly not progressive. But of course not every good policy has to be progressive in nature. what is Ezra's argument for this non-progressive policy?

Cost control is based on precisely opposite premises, in fact. First, more insurance is not always better. Health-care outcomes in Canada and England -- both of which have strong pressures against overuse -- are not worse than those in America.
Fascinating that Ezra chooses England and Canada for his counter-examples. As we all know by now, both England and Canada have implemented a public insurance reform to their health care systems. Neither uses an "excise tax." Of course, neither England or Canada could as neither use a private insurance/employer based system. Ezra writes:

There is no way to sharply cut costs in a fifth of the economy without there being losers.
Assuming this is true, I am not comfortable with a policy that puts the pain on the middle class as opposed to the wealthy. Ezra urges such a policy. All in the name of "cost control." Ezra writes:

Those who would kill this attempt should think really hard about what their counter-policy is, and who will lose from that policy, and why that is preferable, and whether it can actually pass, and where we're left if it doesn't, and who loses from that.
(Emphasis supplied.) Ezra well knows that people who oppose the excise tax almost universally favor a public insurance reform. He argues that "it can't pass." And of course, as we all knew, it can not pass with 60 votes. But it could pass through reconciliation. Of course, what Ezra will not discuss is that he prefers the fanciful "exchanges and regulation reform" which can not survive the reconciliation process to the public insurance reform that actually has a proven track record of working in the United States.

That is certainly his right, but it is long past time for him to come clean and discuss these issues honestly.

Bob Herbert objects to the policy that Ezra endorses - the excise tax - which is cost control at the expense of the middle class. This is bad policy and bad politics according to Herbert (and me.) Herbert prefers that we enact universal insurance (at least the idea of it) in the manner the House bill prescribes - by taxing the rich. Ezra opposes that. It seems clear which position is the progressive one.

Speaking for me only