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So far, I’ve survived ‘ObamaCare’

Gary Caruso | Friday, March 26, 2010

What a week to catch my first chest cold in several years. Many times a day, while nursing my miserable congestion, my e-mail account fluttered with apocalyptic warnings from Alan M. Gottlieb, Chairman of the conservative AmeriPAC organization about what he calls, “ObamaCare.” Gottlieb’s personal pleadings began, “We need your continued help more than ever as ‘Socialized Health Care Must Still Be Stopped!'”
“Wow,” I thought to myself. Who wants that much socialism? After all, socialism is a form of the government pooling citizens together for the common good. Who the hell would want that? But then I remembered — local police forces, fire departments and school systems are all forms of socialism. Say what you may about an individual organization or the merits of home schooling, but those particular forms of a socialized system have worked pretty well now for hundreds of years.
Next Gottlieb enlightened me about the specific facts House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid do not want me personally to know. They are, “rejecting sensible ideas, not starting over, feeding on the members of their own party and when all else fails Obama, Pelosi and Reid have become true dictators as they lie, cheat and deal.”
In another message, Gottlieb notes, “Obama truly made history by betraying America and has become a Progressive Dictator ruling from the extreme liberal left with his own agenda.” He traces the roots of Obama’s socialistic past in a 1996 Obama commitment made while running for state senate to the Chicago Democratic Socialist Party. Even the socialist magazine, “Progressive Populist,” acknowledges “new party member Barack Obama [who] was uncontested for a State Senate seat from Chicago.”
But Gottlieb then flaunts his tireless fight “to stop the progressive socialist agenda of Obama” and takes credit for more than 1,346,016 faxes and phone calls that virtually shut down the congressional switchboard while “Democrats told American that their government does not listen to them. Instead, Democrats accepted Pelosi’s bribes of power, money, promises of committee positions and getting better office space and sold out America.”
Gottlieb further chronicles his belief that ObamaCare:
u Imposes $2.5 trillion in new taxes
u Puts seven percent of Americans on a government subsidy to help pay for mandatory health insurance
u Raises taxes on 25 percent of Americans earning $200,000 a year
u Raises taxes on three middle-class families to pay for every family receiving a government subsidy
u Excludes 93 percent of Americans who are not eligible for a tax benefit under the bill.
Well, Alan — may I call you Alan, since I have at least 40 communications from you? That is exactly what the bill does, and much more. The legislation not only reduces the deficit by more than a trillion dollars in 10 years, it models itself on the initial Social Security foundation whereby several workers while currently employed pay into the system for the benefits of some who are retired. What would you like to repeal?
Starting this week, reform immediately began to lower health care costs for American families and small businesses. For example, small businesses can now receive tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums to help cover employees. This year, early retirees will receive help through a temporary re-insurance program that offsets the costs of expensive premiums for employers and retirees aged 55-64. Shall we forego these business-friendly initiatives by labeling them some form of socialism?
Or shall we turn right around now and take back money we just put into the American public’s pockets with this law? Now, new private plans must provide free preventive care: no co-payments and no deductibles for preventive services. Medicare will do the same next January. This year, the law starts to close the Medicare Part D “donut hole” by providing a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who reach the gap in prescription drug coverage. Next year, the bill institutes a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs for seniors in the “donut hole.” It is not a conservative value to prevent government tax rebates, is it?
Under health insurance reform, Americans will be ensured access to the care they need. Now children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage. Young people may now remain on a parent’s insurance policy until their 26th birthday. Insurance companies can no longer drop people when they become sick, and cannot implement certain restrictive annual limits or lifetime caps on coverage. Adults previously uninsured because of pre-existing conditions will now have access to affordable insurance through a temporary subsidized high-risk pool.
Furthermore, everyone will be considered equally and have access to coverage. Discrimination based on salary is now outlawed. New group health plans are prohibited from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that discriminates in favor of higher-waged employees. The law establishes an independent commission to advise on how best to build the health care workforce and increase the number of nurses, doctors and other professionals to meet our country’s needs. It creates a new, independent appeals process that ensures consumers have access to an effective process when appealing decisions made by an insurer. Later this year, but technically in the next fiscal year, the bill increases funding for community health centers so they can treat nearly double the number of patients over the next five years. Are any of these changes bad for the nation?
Finally, my new BFF, Alan, thanked me yesterday by pledging to continue the fight while quoting President Ronald Reagan’s farewell that referred to our nation as a shining city. Gottlieb concludes with “we have only begun to fight to bring America back again. For America, Alan.”
For the record, BFF Alan, your hero raised taxes several times during his presidency after campaigning to cut personal income and business taxes. In fact, taxes during the end of Reagan’s era were as large a percent of GNP (about 19 percent) as when he took office. The 1981 Economic Recovery Act tax cut reduced revenues by $1.48 trillion by the end of fiscal 1989. But tax increases since 1982 equaled about $1.5 trillion. The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 — at the time, the largest tax increase in American history — designed to raise $214.1 billion in just five years, took back many of the business tax savings enacted the year before.
In 1982, Reagan also supported a five-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and higher taxes on the trucking industry totaling $5.5 billion a year. In 1983, on the recommendation of his Special Security Commission — chaired by the man he later elevated to the Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan — Reagan called for, and received, Social Security tax increases of $165 billion over seven years. A year later, Reagan’s Deficit Reduction Act raised another $50 billion. I will charitably call him a pragmatic politician; something Obama proves each day when he weighs his campaign promises against the nation’s best interests.
Returning to our new “ObamaCare,” we made the correct step towards correcting our health care industry. Years from now when we look back in history, we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about … and chicken soup will still be the best remedy for a chest cold.

Gary Caruso, Notre Dame ‘73, serves in the Department of Homeland Security and was a legislative and public affairs director in President Clinton’s administration. His column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at GaryJCaruso@alumni.nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.