A Critique Of the Excise Tax, From An Excise Tax Proponent

Ezra Klein:

The excise tax, by contrast, does not have progressive rates -- it's just a flat 40 percent. If health benefits were treated as wages, then a middle-class worker with a $27,000 health-care plan would've paid much less in taxes than a Goldman Sachs trader with a $27,000 health-care plan. With the excise tax, the two will pay the same rate.

(Emphasis supplied.) Indeed. But then Ezra levels a strange, disingenuous critique at the House Dems:

But unions partnered with House Democrats to fight the cap on the employer tax exclusion, and the Obama administration realized that it couldn't defend a policy that it had attacked John McCain for proposing, and then everyone ended up with a policy that did basically the same thing as capping the exclusion but did it in a less progressive fashion. And that's how a bill becomes a law.

This is ridiculous and disingenuous coming from Ezra. Ezra spent months championing the excise tax. He has been one of its biggest fans and defenders. The House NEVER killed the Wyden-Bennett proposal Ezra loves because it never had to. It was as non-viable as single payer. Ezra might as well attack Pelosi for never giving single payer a chance. This is either stupid or dishonest of Ezra.

Remember that Ezra OPPOSED the House financing mechanism, the most progressive piece of any proposal - imposing a 5.4% surtax on incomes in excess of 500,000 a year. That progressive financing proposal was vehemently opposed by Ezra Klein.

His pretensions to supporting progressive financing of the health bill are simply nonsense. And an attempt to rewrite history. Enough.

Speaking for me only

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    Democratic choices (5.00 / 8) (#2)
    by MO Blue on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 11:29:26 AM EST
    Tax individuals making over $500,000 and families over $1,000,000 or taxing workers health insurance. Now which would be garner more popular support?

    Democrats must have worked long and hard to come up with the most unpopular option.

    How and why did they even? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 11:35:37 AM EST
    That is what people are really really upset about.  That is what people were upset about back when Ezra couldn't even contemplate issues that mattered to voters.  I have no idea what he hopes to accomplish now.

    IMO the focus of the health insurance (5.00 / 7) (#4)
    by MO Blue on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 11:41:25 AM EST
    policy advocated by the powers that be in D.C. is to reduce the consumption of health care by shifting the costs to the people who need it rather than to provide actual affordable health care.

    It is that and, I think, more. (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 12:12:44 PM EST
    Max Baucus and Ben Nelson have been around long enough to understand exactly how unpopular this approach is going to be.  I can't read their participation in making sure the excise tax was included as anything other than a poison pill.  I also have to wonder if the Obama policy wonks who think it is such a great strategy aren't so damn green in real politics that they haven't a clue what a monster they've created.  Add those people to the people who are afraid to tax the high earners and you get a toxic combo of really disasterous policy in practice and in the politics of it all.

    It is weird, I have this image of some pencil head telling Baucus that the excise tax is a necessary inclusion in the bill, and he's sitting there all smiles, eyes sparkling saying, "Yes.  Oh, yes I couldn't agree."  Thinking all the while that this thing would ultimately be a perfect poison pill for this bill.


    Could it be that not all Dem Senators (none / 0) (#9)
    by Cream City on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 12:35:30 PM EST
    and especially some of those longtimers, were not and are not in the O fan club, are not slavish followers?  Gosh.

    Baucus is close to Obama. (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 01:04:25 PM EST
    His former COS is now serving at the WH as the assit COS.  I actually think - and thought from the begining - that the old timers sided with Obama because they knew they weren't going to be able to control Hillary and saw potential in having influence over Obama.

    Obama vs Hillary (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by norris morris on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 04:31:10 PM EST
    What you say is right but the leadership of the party wanted Obama because they could control him. The other part of picking Obama was the Kennedy Kerry factionistas felt Hillary too polarizing and could lose. Felt Obama was able to win with the rhetoric and star making, and most of all they'd have someone to play ball with.

    They were right. If Baucus &Co are tight with WH then it isn't hard to figure out how this mish mash screw job of a HC bill got consructed, and it explains Obama's backroom deals with Big Pharma and Insurance lobbyists.  Also explains why Obama sold out women and there wasn't a peep out of him as decades of women's rights were trashed by Nelson & Stupak.  Depriving women by their end runs on RoevWade and harming millions of women is ok?

    The leadership and so called centrists of the Democratic heirachy are as corrupt and corporately and militaristically inclined as the Republicans.  Wall Street has bought both parties, and the lobbyists do the rest.

    There reaally needs to be a third party or Americans will continue to get screwed no matter which party they vote for. However if punishment at the polls doesn't convince Democrats that real change has to happen then forget this administration.

    I am very pessimistic about the outcome of our election that I felt could make things better in America.    American Idol has morphed into Strangelove.


    Klein,Nelson & Other Insanities (none / 0) (#11)
    by norris morris on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 03:02:36 PM EST
    Klein is an inconsistent critic and writing head of the Healthcare debacle. He basically carries water for Obama but what's more important is that his positions change, & his rationales don't hold up.   He comes on like an expert healthcare guru and Chrlie Rose defers to him as the go to guy for info.

    This alone tells us how uninformed the press and we the people are of all the sticking points, giveaways and betrayals in both bills. We've received piecemeal and incomplete details of this bill and still don't know what it really contains as we were locked out of the transparency process we were promised on C-Span.

    There are many Poison Pills in Senate Bill that are remaining and obviously Pelosi has caved to the WHouse.

    I do think the really unfair and boneheaded issues in the bill are so glaring that I believe the WHouse has made deals we know nothing about, or this crud would not have stayed in from Stupak to Nelson and the Big Nebraska Giveaway Bribe. Oh yes the ass kissing of Lieberman and abandonment of Public Option, etc.

    Unions have caved as well, and it's one thing for their leaders to comply because they've bargained bad and sold out, but when the rank and file goes to vote...watch out.

    This entire HC has let us see politics at its most ugly,incompetemt,greedy, and stupid. Our House and Senate are adrift with opportunism and corruption laced with clumsy political incompetence and laziness.  Courage? Don't even mention it.

    This has been a bitter thing to observe along with the cringe making sellout from Team Obama and the cowardly sneak attacks from our leader who promised far far better than this.


    Democrats Committing Political Suicide (none / 0) (#12)
    by norris morris on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 04:14:39 PM EST
    Nothing makes sense in this horror show of ineptness, stpidity, poor planning, and corporate ass kissing.

    Democrats have a death wish.


    Submitted for your approval. (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by SOS on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 11:49:43 AM EST
    One Mr. Ezra Klein, who's about
    to take a trip into oddness and obsolescence, through a zone whose boundaries are that of imagination. Accompanying him on this journey is the mesmerizing sound of the Twilight Tone.

    Ezra needs his own personal Truth Ministry. (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 12:11:49 PM EST
    (Yes, I am listening to audio book of Orwell's "1984."  

    And the more Ezra writes stuff (none / 0) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 11:18:17 AM EST
    like this, the less likely the disaffected Democrat or a left leaning Independent is going to want to go out and vote for Coakley.  Is he really a White House mouthpiece?  Does the White House not see the various writings and scribbles on the wall?

    I've taken to thinking of Ezra as (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Anne on Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 12:04:40 PM EST

    Ezra's either just trying to keep up, or trying to be, as the WH thinks it can be - all things to all people, but it amazes me how the guy can type with all ten fingers up in the air testing the wind.

    As for the WH, do you think the president who still thinks he gets a B+ for Year One is likely to see the writing on the wall?  Not bloody likely.