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In an Ocean of Bad Ideas

The Washington Post reports that Republicans are going after the health-care bill, which is “riddled” with taxes on Americans making less than $250,000:

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee narrowly defeated amendments by GOP senators Mike Crapo of Idaho and John Ensign of Nevada, 11 to 12. But the measures attracted the votes of two moderates, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), suggesting that the issue could prove problematic as the health-care debate moves to the House and Senate floors in the weeks to come. Calling his amendment an effort to make sure that health-care reform lives up to Obama’s promises, Crapo proposed to strip out all taxes and fees that would strike individuals who earn less than $200,000 a year and families who earn less than $250,000 a year.

Crapo must not have gotten the memo explaining that these are not “taxes.” But voters really aren’t going to buy that explanation, as even Blanche Lincoln can figure out. So once again we are back to an uncomfortably familiar dilemma for Democrats: there aren’t enough rich people to pay for all the things they want to “give” us. The idea that they will raise taxes, massively so, in the midst of a recession, with unemployment climbing to double digits, strikes one as politically suicidal.

As you might imagine, the Democrats are furious. How dare Crapo offer a “message amendment,” says Sen. Max Baucus. (Can’t be casting those defining votes on an issue of central concern to voters, you see.) This is a “killer amendment,” fumes Baucus. Republicans certainly hope so. The telltale sign that Democrats are in a panic was the vote to exempt seniors from the tax. (If it’s not a tax, why do we need to exempt them? Oh, yes, they vote in overwhelming numbers and hate this whole thing.) That leaves younger voters to shoulder the entire burden. Sen. Orin Hatch has the comment of the day on the decision to load new taxes onto those already struggling to pay medical bills in a recession: “I think this is the worst idea in an ocean of bad ideas.”

At this point, one imagines that only Democratic lawmakers in very secure seats are looking forward to voting on this. But then they still have to figure out what the “this” is.



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