Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Republican class warfare on Obamacare

By Frank Moraes 

Brian Beutler wrote an interesting article over at Salon recently, "Why They Hate Working America: GOP Equates Benefits With Personal Failure." It is about the Republican reaction to the CBO report that said that, because of Obamacare, some people would cut back the hours they work and others would stop working altogether. The information in the report is mostly good news. In particular, it gets rid of the problem of job-lock where people are stuck in jobs just because they need the health insurance it provides.

Back in 2009, Paul Ryan himself asked, "[A]re we going to continue job-lock or are we going to allow individuals more choice and portability to fit the 21st century workforce?" But as usual with them, Republicans approach any problem with a long list of solutions that are not acceptable. So they may all be in favor of affordable healthcare, but they aren't willing to do anything about it that would actually work. So it isn't surprising that Republicans would twist themselves in knots to attack Obamacare with information indicting it is fixing a problem they've claim to care about.

Beutler notes that the main argument that is appearing from Republicans about the CBO report is pretty much the same as Romney's 47% narrative. "They're not condemning 47 percent of people in the country, but they are being much more specific about the class of people they're condemning." The best example I have of this is a two-income family where the one person only wants to work part time but has to work full time in order to have health insurance. So Obamacare allows the family to go from two incomes to one and a half incomes, allowing more time for managing the home and children. That ought to be something that conservatives would applaud -- especially social conservatives!

Of course, it isn't something that Republicans, in general, are for. Beutler quotes Avik Roy writing in Forbes, "Bored with your job? No worries -- now you can quit, thanks to the generosity of other taxpayers." And that seems to be the main Republican line of attack when they aren't just outright lying.

There are a couple of things wrong with this. First, government policy always helps one group more than another. Before Obamacare, government policy helped people who had the kinds of jobs that provided healthcare. Obamacare actually makes the situation far more equitable. It still is the case that employees who get employer provided healthcare get an implicit tax refund. Under a normal system, they would have to pay taxes on the money and then buy health insurance. Roy is, despite everything, a smart guy. He knows this is true. But he throws out the nonsense above because it sounds good and supports the policy he wants regardless of the facts.

The second aspect of this is that there is no clearer example of class warfare. Any mention made of income inequality in this country causes Republicans to scream, "Class warfare!" But explicitly pitting middle class workers against the the rich, who will see their Medicare Tax go up by 0.9 percentage points on income over $200,000, is not. I'm not going to get into the issue of income inequality, although I don't think discussing it is a matter of class warfare. But it should be clear that the notion of middle class workers freed of job-lock are abusing the rich is nothing but class warfare.

In general, the Republican party is focused like a laser on the needs of the rich. And the reason they are against Obamacare is that 0.9% tax on the wealthy. We see this in the Republican "alternative" PCARE, where the tax burden is taken away from the rich and placed firmly on the middle class. I don't have a problem with that specifically. We should debate it. But we should not put up with this idea that taxing the rich is class warfare but taxing the poor is not. It's just a difference of opinion. But Republicans scream so loudly because they know that in an honest discussion they would lose -- badly.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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