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“Primarily”?

The president, in one of the more curious passages last night, said:

I don’t want that final one-third of the cost of health care to be completely shouldered on the backs of middle-class families who are already struggling in a difficult economy. And so if I see a proposal that is primarily funded through taxing middle-class families, I’m going to be opposed to that.

Primarily? Mickey Kaus spotted that one, explaining:

In standard Washspeak, this means Obama is open to a health reform that taxes middle class families as long as it isn’t “primarily” or “completely” funded by taxes on middle class families. But 49% funded by taxes on middle class families? . . . However you interpret these sentences, it’s hard to see how Obama hasn’t given a flashing green light to non-trivial tax increases on middle class families.

The Boston Globe figured it out, too: “[H]e edged away from repeating his campaign promise that he would not raise taxes on families making under $250,000 a year. He even used language suggesting middle income earners might wind up contributing something.”

So what happened to the cross-his-heart, absolutely won’t raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 (other than the cigarette and energy taxes he has favored long ago)? Yes, Robert Gibbs has been hedging for some time on whether that was a “pledge” or a “promise” and whether the president is doing a 180 on it. But this is the clearest signal yet that he’s coming after non-rich voters to pay for expanded access for the uninsured — and for the rationing of their own health care.

Think about how unattractive this is becoming. If you have insurance and are relatively content with it, you now get to pay higher taxes. Your employer may drop the coverage you like and shove you into a public plan. There a government health board will start telling your doctor what procedures are reimbursable and squeeze payments to your doctor and the hospital you may need to go to. You pay more and get worse health care.

And that is before we get to the macro-picture — the impact on employers, the expansion of debt, the squeeze on R & D funds.

The plan’s opponents keep saying they are not in favor of the status quo. But compared to what the president is peddling, the status quo seems like nirvana. It is only by offering such an awful alternative that Obama has made the current system, which has its share of access, cost, and portability issues, look so great.



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