What Obamacare Repeal Was Always About

Obamacare's Original Sin: Taxing the RichOver at The Hill, Naomi Jagoda wrote, House GOP Bill Repeals ObamaCare Taxes — With One Exception. The “one exception” is the “Cadillac tax.” This is the tax on employer provided healthcare that is considered too good. So if you are in a union that still has a bit of power and get a good healthcare benefit, you get taxed. It’s interesting, but hardly surprising, that this is the only tax that the Republicans thought was worth keeping; it was the only one that affected the middle class.

Now, I don’t have a problem with taxing employer-provided healthcare. I think all such benefits should be taxed. Maybe if they were, we would have a sane — non-job-based — health insurance system. But I see no reason why we should single out some plans and not others. Furthermore, I don’t see this as a big issue. If there was one tax in Obamacare that should have been eliminated, it was this “Cadillac tax.” But the Republicans think just the opposite. Their support for taxes is exactly in opposition to the wealth of the people paying the tax. So if it’s a tax on the poor, they are fine with it; if it’s a tax on the rich, it is the worst thing since slavery, and cannot be accepted.

Why Republicans Hate Obamacare

Ezra Klein wrote, The GOP Health Bill Doesn’t Know What Problem It’s Trying to Solve. But I think he’s being coy. He knows better — he even says as much. On its surface the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is just a way for the Republicans to say that they repealed and replaced Obamacare. But you have to look deeper and ask the question, “Why did they hate Obamacare?” It wasn’t just that a Democratic president passed it. That’s especially true after Obama won re-election in 2012.

As I’ve written about in the past, the Republicans really don’t care about anything in Obamacare except that it taxes the rich. All that stuff about destroying freedom and high premiums and anything else that Republicans ever say publicly is just propaganda for a prols. They hate Obamacare now and they always have simply because it raised taxes on the rich.

One of the taxes is particularly hilarious: medical devices. This is a tax that was created to offset the extra money that medical device manufacturers would make because of extra money that the government would spend on their products. The industry has been whining about it ever since. Given that the AHCA will end up covering far fewer people, this tax should probably be lowered. In fact, given how incompetent the Republicans are and the possibility that they will manage to effectively destroy our healthcare economy, maybe we should get rid of the tax entirely. Regardless, this isn’t the tax that most upsets the Republicans.

It’s Taxing the Rich, Stupid!

The big deal for the Republicans is the tax on incomes over $200,000. It isn’t much — 0.9 percentage points. But if you make $1.2 million a year, that’s $9,000 that you could use to, I don’t know, pay the year’s rent for a family of four living in a rural area. Or a month’s payment on the yacht. You know: a lot of money if you’re poor and almost nothing if you make a million dollars a year.

But as far as the Republicans are concerned, taxes on the rich were Obamacare’s original sin. And if you scoffed at me in the past when I’ve said that, all you have to do is look at this original draft of the AHCA. All the taxes that affect the rich are gone. The one tax that affects the middle class somehow hangs on.

Like any good Villager, Naomi Jagoda tries to justify it, of course, “By keeping that tax, albeit after a delay, Republicans are trying to ensure that their bill will not add to the deficit after 10 years.” But the Republicans are trying to jam this bill through Congress before the CBO gets its hands on it. They already know their bill will increase the deficit. And they don’t care. They just care that the rich pay less in taxes. That’s what’s all about. That’s what it’s always been all about.

Trump Is the Perpetrator of McCarthyism

Jonathan Chait - Trump and McCarthyismThat we do have evidence of Americans having actual contact with Russians — quite a lot of evidence about quite a lot of Americans in Trump’s orbit — ought to be a clue that “McCarthyism” is not the most apt analogy. Indeed, it is a much closer description for the methods used by Trump himself.

Since “McCarthyism” means different things to different people, a brief reminder of just what Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy did may be helpful. During and after World War II, conservative Republicans considered Franklin Roosevelt’s domestic and foreign policies socialistic and un-American. Conservative critics linked the two criticisms together: Roosevelt had enlarged the role of the federal government, and he and his successor, Harry Truman, had cooperated with the Soviets during and after the war. At times his coalition included some communist spies, a fact that gave enough surface plausibility for McCarthy to claim that the New Deal under Roosevelt and Truman was fundamentally a communist conspiracy.

McCarthyism was a series of specific lies in service of the larger conceptual lie. The specific lies insisted that the federal government was honeycombed with Soviet spies who were colluding openly with the Democratic Party. The larger lie was an attempt to erase the distinction between communists and New Deal Democrats, whose points of contact were short-lived and minimal, and by the postwar era had grown deeply estranged as Harry Truman confronted the USSR, McCarthy and his allies, of course, viewed it just the other way around. To them, the partnership between the New Deal and communism was a larger truth, which justified McCarthy’s smaller lies.

There are certainly some parallels between the charges made by McCarthy then and the charges made against Trump now. Both involve accusations of improper ties to Russia, and both rely on parsing evidence that is not wholly public. And it is also true that, if you search the internet, you can find some unfounded or even silly claims being made against Trump. This is a big country, after all.

That said, the differences overwhelm the similarities. The differences begin with the factual basis. If McCarthy had limited his accusations to cases where he had some solid basis for suspicion — like Alger Hiss, a State Department employee who really was a Soviet spy — then “McCarthyism” would not be a word. To apply the term “McCarthyism” to any suspicion of hidden or inappropriate relations with a hostile foreign power is to dilute the term beyond any useful meaning. The case for concern about Trump’s relationship with Russia does not rely on conspiracy thinking. There is an extensive public record.

It is the parallels between McCarthy and Trump, rather than McCarthy and Trump’s adversaries, that are most compelling. As some have noted, Trump was literally mentored by Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s right-hand man. Trump, like McCarthy, alleges the existence of a shadowy cabal of government bureaucrats to which he attributes near unlimited power. Representative Steve King’s plea for Trump to “purge leftists from executive branch before disloyal, illegal, and treasonist acts sink us” is indistinguishable from McCarthy’s plan…

Trump, like McCarthy, uses reckless accusations to whip his supporters into a frenzy and disorient his foes. A White House official, speaking to Mike Allen, inadvertently let slip Trump’s most McCarthyite quality: his indifference to truth. “The president just has a great nose for these things,” the official told Allen. “It’s the bureaucratic leaks — the deep state — that bother him most. Even if it turns out not to be true that they surveilled Trump Tower, he will have a very good point to make about the level of sabotage coming from Obama holdovers.” The giveaway is “even if it turns out not to be true.” Trump didn’t float this scenario as a possibility, he asserted it as fact. But like every conspiracy theory he has floated — from Obama’s allegedly forged birth certificate to Rafael Cruz’s alleged role in the Kennedy assassination — the facts of the case have no relevance to Trump.

–Jonathan Chait
Donald Trump Is the Perpetrator of McCarthyism, Not the Victim of It