Democrats on Friday claimed to be nearing a deal in the House/Senate negotiations on health care legislation. The compromise likely will include a provision exempting unions for seven years from the 40 percent excise tax on "Cadillac" health care plans.
That's right, union members get at least a seven-year exemption from paying the tax, designed to punish those whose health care plans are "too good."
And who's to say the exemption couldn't be extended? Congress does such things for favored constituencies all the time.
If this "compromise" doesn't seem outrageous on its face, consider the shrieks and moans that would be emanating from around the country today if the House-Senate negotiators had simply turned this formula around, declaring that anyone who belongs to a union does have to immediately start pay a whopping big tax on their current health benefits plans, but that non-union workers do not have to pay the tax, and in fact any current union member can escape the tax by the simple expedient of quitting his or her union.
"They're trying to destroy the union movement!" many would protest, and with some reason.
Outrageous? Yes, but no more so than plan "A."
It becomes increasingly clear that the Democrats are willing to fall on their swords -- voter opposition to this scheme now exceeds 60 percent in many polls -- to pass something, anything that they can call "health care reform," regardless of the likelihood that the floor of the Supreme Court chambers will look like a slaughterhouse by the time the justices get done taking chainsaws and bill hooks to the unconstitutional portions of this monster.
It's said the camel is a horse designed by a committee. But the camel is a model of grace compared to this thing.
A court test was already inevitable, challenging the premise that the Congress can order consumers to buy "health insurance" -- which won't really be insurance, by that time, but merely pre-paid medical care. Citizens aren't free to decide to spend that money on food, shelter or donations to their church or temple?
And while the conferees seem to believe they can disguise the nature of the fine proposed for non-compliance by calling it a "tax," isn't it possible the court will consider such subterfuge actually makes the scheme worse, rather than better?
Then there was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's brilliant move, buying Ben Nelson's vote by promising the Nebraska senator that his home state will stand forever immune from the Medicaid surtaxes to be assessed against the residents of the 49 other states. Does anyone believe that will stand constitutional muster? If so, why not just declare that the tax will be levied only against those states that vote Republican? And now the union exemption.
"If Republicans want to campaign against what we've done by standing up for the status quo and by standing up for insurance companies over American families, that is a fight I want to have," President Obama declared Thursday -- ignoring yet again the fact that the insurance companies, greedy for the new customers promised by this scheme, are among its major backers, even to the extent of now pouring in the millions of dollars in hopes of holding Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat for the Democrats.
It's nice to hear the "community organizer" president finally deliver some fighting words -- even if many hoped such brimstone would be targeted at al-Qaida, rather than the domestic opposition.
But well and good. Mr. Obama says "Bring it on," and he will have his answer, starting in November.
Though it may not be pretty.