More pay back for Big Labor

Don’t ask, for the moment, why congressional Democrats need to find an extra $1 trillion to pay for a socialized medicine scheme they insist will “reduce costs.”

We’re way too far into Wonderland to worry about that.

The fact is, that’s what they’re looking for. And this week, Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters that taxing employer-provided benefits is “perhaps the best way to raise money for an overhaul of the health-care system.”

This is a proposal that goes even farther than the one endorsed by Sen. John McCain when he was running under the GOP banner for president last year. He suggested replacing the current tax break for employer-paid health insurance with tax credits for anyone purchasing health insurance.

His plan was roundly denounced by Barack Obama.

But that was then, this is now.

Unfortunately for Sen. Baucus, the labor unions — who own the Democrats the way a Turkish sultan once owned his harem — are dead-set against that part of the scheme. Unions have negotiated great health plans for their members, and they don’t want them taxed.

So Sen. Baucus gave that some thought, and is now floating a brilliant (albeit thoroughly corrupt) solution: exempt health benefits from taxation at union workplaces, only.

As Kimberly Strassel writes in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Baucus intends to tax the health care benefits only of those who didn’t spend a fortune electing Democrats to office. …”

The health benefits provided to GM workers — currently benefiting from huge tax-funded bailouts — would not be taxed, but the often skimpier benefits provided by non-union employers would be.

With health care nationalization “apparently headed for the morgue in the House and Senate,” agree the editorial writers at Investor’s Business Daily, “the latest scheme to revive it is to give union health plans a special tax break. This will create a Frankenstein.”

Sens. Baucus and Ted Kennedy “both would like to slap a tax on private health plans to pay for a new government one,” IBD reports. “But they’ve carved out one very big exception: unions and their gold-plated benefit packages. …

“The logic behind this tax giveaway is that union health plans, which are lavish, would be subject to higher taxes than those of workers with regular private sector health care plans.

“According to news reports, if unions get a special tax break for themselves on health care taxes, they’ll gladly muscle ‘their’ Congress members into supporting a ‘public option’ health care bill,” IBD reports.

“In short, it’s little more than a political payoff to unions for spending $400 million in campaign cash to elect Democrats to Congress and the White House last year. As if the outrageous favors they’ve received from the auto bailouts aren’t enough.”

But unions wouldn’t merely get a tax break. This could also become a great recruiting tool. “After all, nationalizing health care in itself undermines any reason to belong to a union, since unions exist to squeeze more out of companies. If a company is no longer involved in health care and thus can no longer be squeezed, why belong to a union? The answer: special tax privileges. …

“With the Employee Free Choice Act to coerce workers into unions now dead in the water, this could be a back-door means of doing the same thing — while bringing in more campaign cash to Democrats,” Investor’s Business Daily concludes.

“This may be great for the Democrats and their union backers, but it’s bad for the rest of us. … The people who will get the short end of the stick on this — the rationing, the shortages, the wait lists — will be the very ones forced into paying for other people’s health care. Unions will get a free ride.”

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