Economy & Business

GOP Battle Cry: ‘Make Obamacare Voluntary!’

President Donald Trump delivers remarks in Washington, November 15, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Tax-saving Obamacare-repeal mandate could use a better name

Congress should adopt an idea that President Donald J. Trump offered as he concluded his successful twelve-day Asian sojourn. Lawmakers also should give this policy a better name.

“I am proud of the Rep. House & Senate for working so hard on cutting taxes {& reform.} We’re getting close!” Trump declared Monday via Twitter. “Now, how about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further? Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?”

The Senate’s draft bill reflects Trump’s advice, although the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that passed the House Thursday, 227 to 205, did not. House leaders seem open to including this language in a final conference report, assuming that it first clears the full Senate.

Trump’s suggestion would give Republicans another chance to lasso Obamacare and unleash $318 billion for fresh tax cuts. Either through Senate floor amendments or through a House–Senate conference committee, this unexpected infusion should help the GOP alleviate or eliminate several major shortcomings in their competing bills:

• The House legislation keeps today’s 39.6 percent top rate and, outrageously, adds a new 45.6 percent “bubble tax” bracket on incomes between $1.2 million and $1.6 million. God put Republicans on Earth to cut taxes, not hike them.

• The Senate blueprint would cut corporate taxes from 35 percent to 20 — not next year, but in 2019. This delay is a recipe for recession. Many businesses would postpone income for twelve months so they could savor this 43 percent tax reduction. The last thing America needs is one more year of Obama-style stagnation.

• Both chambers fail to kill the much-hated death tax immediately. The House keeps it alive for six years. The Senate chickens out and merely raises the income threshold on what Steve Forbes calls “taxation without respiration.”

“Currently, the law requires every working-age American to buy health insurance — or pay a penalty equal to 2.5 percent of household income or about $700, whichever is greater,” U.S. senators Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) wrote last month at “Almost 6.7 million households were forced to pay the penalty last year,” they added. “Nearly 80 percent of Americans who paid the penalty last year made less than $50,000.” Thus, this proposal would deliver middle-class tax relief.

“The mandate is simply a tax on Americans who can’t afford insurance,” Toomey and Cotton continued. “This is a moral outrage, and the public agrees: 66 percent of Americans oppose the mandate, according to a 2017 YouGov poll.”

Democrats and their media henchmen wail that mandate repeal would make 13 million people lose their health insurance. This is a lie. The Congressional Budget Office reckons that these Americans would flee Obamacare if they no longer were dragooned into it. Likewise, if Acme University made a required calculus course voluntary, students who spurned that class would not “lose calculus.” They simply would exercise their newfound freedom to escape useless mathematical sadism.

Once unshackled, CBO believes, individuals who run from Obamacare would stop collecting its subsidies. The unclaimed $318 billion could underwrite additional tax cuts through 2027.

“This is a political fight the GOP can win,” the Wall Street Journal explained Monday. “If you like your Obamacare plan, you can keep it. If you don’t want it or can’t afford it, you don’t have to pay a penalty. There would be no changes to benefits or coverage for pre-existing conditions, and not a dollar taken out of Medicaid, a word that would appear nowhere in the bill.”

“I love getting rid of the mandate. It makes no sense,” supply-side godfather Arthur Laffer told Fox News Channel’s Bill Hemmer Wednesday morning. “If someone decides they don’t want Obamacare — ‘I don’t want it’ — then you get taxed. Well, this [measure] takes away this tax, which allows you free choice. If you want the Affordable Care Act, you can have it. If you don’t want it, you don’t have to have it. And you don’t have to pay a tax. So, I see no downside, whatsoever, to getting rid of the mandate. I think that’s wonderful.”

Republicans should sell this concept with a simple slogan: “Make Obamacare voluntary!”

By killing the first-ever federal requirement that anybody buy anything, Republicans, once again, would emancipate millions.

“Repeal the Obamacare mandate” sounds to the untrained ear as if Republicans were prying life-saving pills from the fingers of the terminally ill. As demonstrated above, this is not so.

Still, to make this even more appealing, Republicans should say that their plan would “Make Obamacare voluntary.” By killing the first-ever federal requirement that anybody buy anything, Republicans, once again, would emancipate millions: Those who want Obamacare may have it. Those who don’t may go elsewhere.

Along these lines, dubbing the estate tax the death tax made it easy to fight: Only the spectacularly wealthy own estates, and they can afford high taxes. Everybody faces death, however, and taxing the departed is depraved. Thus, Washington shrank the death tax last decade, and it actually died in 2010. Alas, G. W. Bush’s milquetoast tax-cut measure resurrected it in 2011. Ever since, this odious levy on already-taxed income has menaced mourners anew. And yet the death tax remains squarely in the crosshairs.

Rechristening “Repeal the Obamacare mandate” as “Make Obamacare voluntary!” will land Republicans on the moral and rhetorical high ground. Let Democrats defend a federal law that forces Americans to buy something they do not want and taxes those who resist.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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