Never bring a knife to a gun fight

Carla Axtman

One of the rhetorically great classic blunders reminds us never to bring a knife to a gun fight (see also The Untouchables).

Yesterday in an Oregon House committee, that's exactly what Rep. Jim Weidner (R-McMinnville) did.

For this current special session, Weidner introduced HB 3603, which repeals a 1% tax on insurance premiums. This tax, incidentally, funds the Healthy Kids program which gives access to health coverage for 80,000 Oregon kids who could otherwise not afford it.

In doing the cost-benefit analysis, it seems Weidner and the rest of the Oregon Republicans didn't consider that it might be vastly more expensive in the long run for Oregonians to pay for uninsured kids' health costs. Or at least, nobody in the Caucus remembered to mention it to poor Weidner so he could have written some notes on his hand, at least.

During the committee hearing, Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) reduces Weidner to a shivering pile of shifty-eyed goo simply by questioning him on how he would deal with the 80k kids kicked off of health insurance:

What's next for Weidner? Perhaps involvement in a land war in Asia?

This is the best that the GOP can do for McMinnville? Seriously?

Update:2:20PM: Kari posted right after I did on this topic, but pulled his. He had a very important piece of context in his post that deserves an addition here as well. Also noted by Sal Peralta in comments:One bit of information contained in Kari's post, but not Carla's is that Medicaid matches Healthy Kids to the tune of 70 cents on the dollar. IIRC, from his post, a $108 million tax generates an additional $220 million in federal matching funds. Like I said in the post, somebody on the GOP side is guilty of a massive cost-benefit analysis fail.

Comments

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    It was a stupid, knee jerk proposal. I guess the assumption is that ridiculing it gets Dems extra yardage over his own display of stupidity. I guess if you watch the negatives that might be true, but have yet to see where that adds to Dems' positives.

    Great metaphor for the legislative process. I wonder why civility and compromise never occur to folks. How does one compromise or act civilly in a mortal fight? Once you've made it a matter of life and death, you've pretty much decided to throw reason out the window, except to the extent that it accomplishes the one, undebatable goal. Sounds familiar. Oh, right. That was that "intellectual integrity" bit that I keep forgetting doesn't apply. It's always the "heat of battle", even when it's just pointing out the stupidity of a plan. Why is it I keep getting the image of chimps jumping about and hollering as the alpha male successfully humiliates an ill-considered intruder? I can think of numerous metaphors that are just as colorful that don't invoke primitive, primate social stereotypes and/or implements of combat. Let's see. My English language comment generator suggests that one combine urban ghetto culture with personal accomplishment. "Got game?", basically. Of course, that's just a mindless collection of bits and pixels. Doesn't appreciate the "opera" of it all.

    You get points for rebel doggery though. This is pretty much exactly what the White House asked their supporters to give a rest, no?

  • jim (unverified)
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    This is a perfect illustration of the bankruptcy of the Republican mantra to answer TAX CUT to any and all policy questions.

    That was very simple and very civil questioning by Greenlick. If only we could get a venue for the same cross-examination of the proponents of tax-cutting initiatives so we could reveal their intellectual bankruptcy ...

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    "I wonder why civility and compromise never occur to folks."

    Oh yeah right. Because Greenlick was soooo out of line with his question "how do you propose to insure 80,000 children?"

    As if repubs were ever known as the party of compromise.

  • Capitol Guy (unverified)
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    It is worth noting that though Weidner has to endure this line of questioning alone, the bill has 13 Republican sponsores in the house and is a part of the Oregon House Republicans' 2010 Special Session Agenda.

    http://www.oregonhouserepublicans.org/files/2010_hse_gop_agenda.pdf

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    FYI, I had my own post about Jim Weidner's disastrous appearance - posted almost at the same time as Carla's. Hers is better, so I pulled mine.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    So 13 House Republicans want to cut off children's health insurance?

    It's looking more and more as though Democrats in Oregon and nationally may survive their failure after all. The most effective weapon in their favor is the even more massive failure of the opposition party.

  • Tom Vail (unverified)
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    Does the "... 1% tax on insurance premiums." completely fund all of the 80,000 kids covered by the Healthy Kids program? If the 1% tax is repealed, does that mean that all 80,000 will not be covered? Is this all that is done with the funds raised by the 1% tax? Thanks.

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    But Kari,

    Are you willing to take away the pleasure of reading your coverage from the 200 readers that might have seen it by now? Are you willing to take away that opportunity?

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    One bit of information contained in Kari's post, but not Carla's is that Medicaid matches Healthy Kids to the tune of 70 cents on the dollar. IIRC, from his post, a $108 million tax generates an additional $220 million in federal matching funds.

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    This is yet another example with not clearly limiting what should be a special session--not a regularly scheduled annual session--of the legislature. This is not the place to re-fight the issues that were already decided by essentially the same legislature last year.

    However, if Rep. Weidner had wanted to make a point, instead of repealing the 1% sales tax on commercial health insurance policies he should have proposed extending the tax to self-insurance plans and adjusting the rate accordingly.

    I think Rep. Greenlick might have been the one having hard time explaining why Nike, Intel and the OEA should be exempt from paying for this when small mom & pop businesses--manyof whom are already paying the highest health insurance premiums in the state--get dinged. (Although, in fairness, I think Rep. Greenlick probably doesn't oppose taxing self-insured plans, he just understands the politics of getting it done.)

  • Bob Baldwin (unverified)
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    Jack Roberts I think Rep. Greenlick might have been the one having hard time explaining why Nike, Intel and the OEA should be exempt from paying for this when small mom & pop businesses--many of whom are already paying the highest health insurance premiums in the state--get dinged.

    FYI, The OEA Choice Trust does very little health insurance business any more. Almost every OEA Local (possibly all of them) are now in the OEBB. And the OEBB is buying from Keizer, Providence and ODS. The OEBB basically ran OEA CT out of business.

    Full disclosure: my Local (AFT, not OEA) buys our Dental plan through OEA CT, but our health plan is Pacific Source.

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    Mitch is reminding me of this week's incarnation of Obama.

    Just ask the question. Wait for answer.

    Clarify. Wait for answer.

    No rudeness, or tone change to the voice or body language. Just keep coming back to the bottom line.

    <hr/>

    Seems like a lot of the argumentation from these guys requires that you focus on the single data point and ignore any and all of both context and history. Without those parameters, the whole thing sorat falls apart.

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    Posted by: Sal Peralta | Feb 10, 2010 2:18:06 PM One bit of information contained in Kari's post, but not Carla's is that Medicaid matches Healthy Kids to the tune of 70 cents on the dollar. IIRC, from his post, a $108 million tax generates an additional $220 million in federal matching funds.

    Not disputing the assertion that there are Federal matching funds for this (SCHIP I assume) but if they match 70 cents on the dollar, how do you get $220 million in Federal matching funds on $108 million in state tax revenue?

    $180-$185 million in matching I buy on 70 cents on the dollar matching. Not $220 million. Sounds like bad math in that post.

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    Carla,

    You should repost this at Daily Kos. It is a classic and should go national.

    John

    PS: What is Zarathrustra ranting about? Talk about civil, Mitch plays this about as calm and civil as one can be without ignoring what was said.

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    Mitch - Page 19 of the LRO budget highlight says that the HIP tax costs $94.8 million and generates $191.7 million in federal matching funds. The same document points to an increase in federal matching funds from 61 percent to 70 percent, but it is unclear whether this is for SCHIP.

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    Mitch - Page 19 of the LRO budget highlight says that the HIP tax costs $94.8 million and generates $191.7 million in federal matching funds. The same document points to an increase in federal matching funds from 61 percent to 70 percent, but it is unclear whether this is for SCHIP.

  • Jason (unverified)
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    That guy was woefully unprepared. My dad always used to say, "If you don't have a suggestion, I don't want to hear your complaints."

    At the very least, he could've offered an alternative, especially since research has shown that not insuring kids ends up costing more in the future. You'd think this guy was some average Joe off the streets who knew nothing about state government.

  • RedTed (unverified)
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    Off-topic comment deleted--Editor

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    Thanks Sal. The confusion seems to be that the CHIP (matching funds) is combined with Medicaid dollars to arrive at the $191.7 of combined Federal funds that is then added in with the $84.8 million in the state ins. premiums tax revenue.

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    Zar: Great metaphor for the legislative process. I wonder why civility and compromise never occur to folks.

    I'm having a hard time understanding your point. To help me out, could you please clarify how Rep. Greenlick was lacking in civility, exactly? Because from where I sit it appeared that Rep. Greenlick behaved with the utmost decorum and civility throughout, as did Rep. Weidner.

    And if it's not too much trouble, what part of Rep. Weidner's Bill strikes you as ripe for compromise? Should legislative Dems meet him half way and only insure 40k kids?

  • Tom Vail (unverified)
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    Posted earlier: "Does the "... 1% tax on insurance premiums." completely fund all of the 80,000 kids covered by the Healthy Kids program? If the 1% tax is repealed, does that mean that all 80,000 will not be covered? Is this all that is done with the funds raised by the 1% tax?"

    I'm just trying to find out if $84.8 million pays for 80,000 kids' health care or if it goes for more or if it only funds part of that care. Thanks.

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    As a follow up... I'd wager that a lot more than 80k kids in Oregon are at risk of having insufficient access to healthcare and that, in fact, the existing situation is, in fact, a compromise.

  • Tim McCafferty (unverified)
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    I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona delivering the Arizona Republic in the mornings to the Goldwaters, Ross's, and many of the most prominate families in Arizona. The old orchards at the South Face of Camelback Mountain around Lafayette Boulevard was for me ground zero for the Republican Country Club Croud.

    It's how I became a Democrat. I watched as the Democrats seemed to constantly fight against the tides for those things we established to be self evident, and yet the Republicans seemed opposed to. I wondered if they really were so opposed to racism, and wanted freedom for all then why did they seem so upset with the idea of anyone of color registering to vote?

    Why do Republicans always seem to know what's wrong, just never have an alternative other than it's somebody else's problem? Is that a virtue? You would think it was the way things are today.

  • PanchoPDX (unverified)
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    Hmmm.

    Problem: Fewer families can afford private health insurance.

    Solution: Just tax private health insurance and use the proceeds to expand public health programs.

    Short term result: More people with health insurance.

    Long term result: Fewer families can afford private health insurance.

    When this 1% tax needs to move to 2% in the next couple years, will it dawn on people that pursuing this gameplan (lather, rinse, repeat) will lead to a day that a majority of Oregonians qualify for the Oregon Health Plan?

    Feel free to blissfully ignore the exodus of productive Oregonians who weary of carrying this ever-increasing load.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Kevin, I think I said that we need more of that, meaning the cross-examination. I was referring to the tone of the post.

    What I'm ranting about is that we treat reps as individuals and not as reps. Sizemore can be a douchbag, because he isn't an elected rep., and Chambliss can run a douchebag campaign, but you don't call elected reps douchebags, for example. It's dissing the constituents. These people don't change their stripes much. Too thick to. His constituents voted for that kind of crap. The Dem opposition was brilliant. That's debate. That's how you address that misguided thinking. I just don't like making it about the individual and gloating over what an idiot he is. He wasn't speaking as an individual I have to say that I'm surprised that required elaboration.

    Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Feb 10, 2010 1:45:08 PM

    FYI, I had my own post about Jim Weidner's disastrous appearance - posted almost at the same time as Carla's. Hers is better, so I pulled mine.

    And in another shocker, I respectfully, and totally, disagree.

  • Dr. Rick Dulas (unverified)
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    While I hate to bring up old, dead history... I suggest that long time Oregon residents clue the younger generation about the "good old days" when the most popular bumper sticker in Oregon was "Don't Californicate Oregon".

    The comment by PanchoPDX directly addresses the results of the California model of Progressive Action. If you create a Nirvana where there is no reward for effort, people who are inclined to be productive will vote with their feet. Once the tax base has left the state, who is going to support the lotus-eaters?

    Maybe it is time that those old bumper stickers were revived.

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    The comment by PanchoPDX directly addresses the results of the California model of Progressive Action. If you create a Nirvana where there is no reward for effort, people who are inclined to be productive will vote with their feet. Once the tax base has left the state, who is going to support the lotus-eaters?

    So when 80k kids don't have insurance and that same "tax-base" you're citing has to foot the bill in higher premiums and health costs, exactly how is that better? Or do you have an alternative solution?

  • LT (unverified)
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    " Once the tax base has left the state, who is going to support the lotus-eaters?"

    Who are you calling lotus eaters? Oregon kids? Anyone you disagree with People thrown out of work by the recession?

    "If you create a Nirvana where there is no reward for effort"

    Exactly how does that relate to this topic?

    "Reward for effort" sounds like a slogan.

    And yes, I remember the bumper stickers. I always thought they were about the folks who sold homes in California, paid more than an Oregonian would pay for a home in Oregon (thus raising housing prices) and then started asking why Oregonians did things different than Californians.

    Lotus eaters sounds like the sarcasm Gov. Reagan used on anyone who disagreed with him.

  • alcatross (unverified)
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    Carla Axtman commented: So when 80k kids don't have insurance and that same "tax-base" you're citing has to foot the bill in higher premiums and health costs, exactly how is that better? Or do you have an alternative solution?

    It's not better - that's what he meant when he implied Oregon is on a path to ending up like California... on the cusp of bankruptcy as more and more high-wage earners (but not the super-rich) move out leaving a tax base unable to sustain all the state has committed itself to support. Any suggestions for improvement I might propose would not be palatable here (they weren't in California before) so I'm not going to waste my breath. Otherwise, I'm not sure there is a solution for Oregon that would be acceptable until there's a change in the overall mindset - what's in place is not easily undone. And if you think the gap between the rich and the poor is big now, just keep on keeping on the same path another 10 to 20 years...

  • LT (unverified)
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    "Any suggestions for improvement I might propose would not be palatable here "

    Especially if they are vague.

    Are you proposing tax cuts that are not paid for, repealing the right of collective barganining, removing any benefits from public employment?

    No, that might not be palatable----unless, of course, there was also a cap on managment salaries, no benefits for management not also given to front line workers, deciding if the state can afford any tax expenditures until the economy improves.

    Talked with a legislator who is on Ways and Means today. He said adding a tax deduction would create jobs---but that the cost of the tax deduction would not make the work of Ways and Means more difficult. Do you agree with him?

    Or you unwilling to say where you stand in concrete terms, just as the Rep. was?

  • Tom Vail (unverified)
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    Carla, Weidner did make a fool of himself. I also think that Chairman Greenlick made a statement that seems incredible and I would really like to know the answer(s). The question asked by Chairman Greenlick implied that if there were no longer a 1% tax on health insurance premiums, that 80,000 Oregon kids would lose health care. I find the number hard to believe. Does anyone know the answer? It would also be interesting to know if that money is used for more than the healthy kids program.

  • Jake Leander (unverified)
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    Carla,

    This may not be a good decade to make light of land wars in Asia.

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    he question asked by Chairman Greenlick implied that if there were no longer a 1% tax on health insurance premiums, that 80,000 Oregon kids would lose health care. I find the number hard to believe.

    Given that there are federal matching funds that add 70% to the money from the 1% tax, 80k seems like an appropriate number to me. If the math is correct, that's about $320 million to cover 80k kids. All of that money goes away without the 1% tax.

    What part is sounding unreal or unlikely to you?

  • Madprogressive (unverified)
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    Indeed, never bring a knife to a gunfight. These Republicans are like a one-armed man in a butt kicking contest. What the hell is moron thinking? Wait let me answer my own rhetorical question, MONEY IS THEIR GOD. If it costs any money, or rise in taxes, no matter how miniscule, they oppose it. So much for the so-called "Pro-Life" party, huh!

  • Tom Vail (unverified)
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    Carla, I read an article not long ago in the Oregonian that indicated that the program would have 65,000 eligible kids at one level and almost 15,000 more at a lesser level of support. It indicated that the program subsidized health insurance based on family income. I did not get the impression that 65,000 kids went without coverage. I did get the impression that this would now make it easier for their parents to afford coverage for them.
    From viewing the video, I got the impression that if the 1% tax went away, 80,000 kids would be without healthcare, not that they would lose a subsidy and maybe many or most of them would not have health care. Viewing the short clip, I was led to believe that it was a very simple equation: Repeal the 1% tax and 80,000 kids have no health care. I think the facts might show that if the 1% tax was repealed, there would be 80,000 kids who have families needing help to cover health care costs with no program to give that help.
    I also wondered about the math relating to the revenue generated. There appear to be comments that show the 1% tax generating anywhere form $85 million to $320 Million. At $85 Million that is just over $1,000 per child and it seemed incredible to me that for $1,000 our State could pay for health care insurance for a child. At $320 Million or about $4,000 it sounds like plenty of money. I was also curious if the funds generated by the 1% tax were used for any other purpose.

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    Greenlick is calm, assertive but not aggressive, to the point and flawless in this video sticking up for kids' healthcare in Oregon. Good for him and well done!

  • There is a problem (unverified)
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    Here's my situation and how this 1% effects me. Not asking you to feel sorry for me. But this is from the reality based world of small business.

    15 employees. I made $133,000 last year. Health insurance for employees cost $4,500/month, or $54,000/year.

    I just got our increase this week. Kaiser, is increasing us 17%. So that's another $9,180/year my business is paying.

    Because of the economy, I can't raise my pricing at will. I'm already running a lean ship, so don't really want to lay off anyone, so that means if I don't make changes it comes out of my profit for the year. And of course that's assuming I have no other increase, give employees no COLA's or merit or seniority increases, my rent doesn't go up, my utilities don't go up, etc. etc.

    Assuming all that, my insurance increase means I either take a pay cut of 7% myself, or pass some on to customers, or to employees, or reduce insurance coverage by enrolling in a lesser plan. Most likely, I'll take some of the financial hit and reduce coverage.

    Now, while the 1% tax doesn't make up a large portion of my increased expense here, and, I'd much rather see my health insurance increase go to low income kids, and not into the pockets of insurance brokers, and overpaid workers in the medical fields, it doesn't make me feel all warm and cozy about this tax. Its feels like piling on. The Democrats here have imposed this tax because it is invisible to consumers.

    The fair way to have gotten kids covered would be to have everyone chip in, and not just expect employers to either absorb it or allocate the tax out to the public.

    Could have done a payroll tax. Or a special assessment on income tax, or a gross receipts tax on medical providers (this would require the self insured and those who chose to go without insurance to contribute to this noble goal)

    The way it was done was chickensh*t, and easy, and unfairly burdened small businesses who are trying to proved decent jobs with decent benefits to its employees.

    Like I say, don't feel sorry for me, and I realize that a single payer system would be the ideal, and I'd like the State to provide one. Now, but instead I see this piling on going on.

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    Once the tax base has left the state, who is going to support the lotus-eaters?
    ...Oregon is on a path to ending up like California... on the cusp of bankruptcy as more and more high-wage earners (but not the super-rich) move out...

    Seriously? You guys think that the high-wage earners left California because the taxes were too high and that's the problem? California's median household income is about 10% higher than the country as a whole. In 2008, it was ranked 9th in median household income among all the states. Oregon's right in the middle of the pack at 26. And California has the disadvantage -- when dealing with median values -- of having a huge population. Half of the households in the state in 2008 made more than the $61,021 median income; that's about 6 million households, roughly 1/20 of all the households in the United States. And that's just the ones making more than $60K. Admittedly, housing prices in California are awful, but you're going to have to come up with some better evidence that high-income residents are fleeing the Sunshine State (as opposed to buying vacation homes and retiring to less-expensive beaches in Mexico and the southern Oregon Coast aka Mexico de la North).

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    Wait just minute - I think the fine Rep. Jim Weidner has a valid point here. I really don't think we should be taxing the insurance companies to provide free healthcare for 80,000 children when ....

    Hold on a minute - this just in:

    "In a recent press release, insurance provider WellPoint stated that the 39% increase reflects rising medical costs and that its profit margin is 'in line with and below that' of competitors."

    OK, as I was saying, the 1% increase that Weidner is trying to abolish is way out of line with ...

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Posted by: Madprogressive | Feb 11, 2010 8:56:18 AM

    Indeed, never bring a knife to a gunfight. These Republicans are like a one-armed man in a butt kicking contest.

    You see? Is this how you want to motivate your base? Give me a break. "one-armed man in a butt kicking contest"? Forgive me if that's "Hinglish", but it looks like straight ahead English. Does speak volumes as to the mindset, though. Have to remember that all this comes from the crowd that found "nuclear option" as a legislative metaphor to be tres gentil. How cute.

    Maybe I should just dumb down and try to enjoy it. Here goes. "Yeah, and in the land of the blind, the one-armed man is king". "If you outlaw the profit motive, only outlaws will make profits".

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)
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    Please Z don't get stupid on us. You could just lighten up on the sarcasm and allow that a commenter has mixed their similes, unless you really need to feel superior on such a minor matter.

  • Bob Baldwin (unverified)
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    There is a problem:

    Now, while the 1% tax doesn't make up a large portion of my increased expense here, and, I'd much rather see my health insurance increase go to low income kids, and not into the pockets of insurance brokers, and overpaid workers in the medical fields, it doesn't make me feel all warm and cozy about this tax. Its feels like piling on. <snip>

    The fair way to have gotten kids covered would be to have everyone chip in, and not just expect employers to either absorb it or allocate the tax out to the public.

    Let's do the math: 1% of $54,000 is $540.00. So, however you choose to "feel", it's still $540.00.

    Basing policy of "feelings" instead of reality is how we got here.

    And, instead of "everyone" chipping in, howzabout we just have more competition and lower prices?

    You say that because of the economy, you can't just raise prices at will. The economy doesn't seem to be stopping providers or health insurance companies from doing so.

    If you had the immediate choice of paying a reasonable premium for your employees, one based on the whole group and not just your 15 employee's experience rating; and where the provider prices were negotiated nationally instead of individually for each employer, do you think you might get a better price?

    Of course, that's possible: it's called Medicare-For-All. And it especially benefits small businesses owned by people trying to do the right thing and offer a decent benefit package.

  • j. loewen (unverified)
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    I wish Weidner was in my district so i could call him up and tell him he was an idiot. Great example of spouting BS without a plan to defend his position

  • Zarathustra is my real pseudonym (unverified)
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    Posted by: j. loewen | Feb 11, 2010 2:32:59 PM

    I wish Weidner was in my district so i could call him up and tell him he was an idiot. Great example of spouting BS without a plan to defend his position

    So, the idea that you treat reps as reps and not as individuals is "hopelessly naive" too? Or just not any fun? Fair 'nuf if you would call all that voted for him and tell them they're idiots too.

    I wouldn't have mentioned it, Ed, if it didn't also make the point I was putting forward earlier. As for tone, it was an answer in kind. As for "getting stupid", I take it as a compliment that you think I have a different tone at times!

    On a purely cultural note, why are there so many sayings about a one-somethinged person? Guess it's supposed to be a funny image. Perhaps I'm sensitized by the English cricketing superstition about 111 being an unlucky score, called "the Nelson", because Nelson had one arm, one leg, and one eye. Nelson had two legs, though his missing eye is the basis of the oft heard idiom "to turn a blind eye toward" something.

  • There is a problem (unverified)
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    Bob Baldwin

    I DO want a change in how health care is delivered. I DO want to participate in it. I DO want to provide good benefits to my employees. If you re-read my post, I said that single payer would be my ideal.

    But my point was, when I have an increase of 17% in my health care premium this year, which results in a 7% cut in profit, it leads me to believe (not feel...believe) that many Democrats don't get it either. Some people think that paychecks and benefits magically appear every week.

    And I guess I don't understand why you seem to think it would be so philosophically bad for everyone to chip in to covering kids. (Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines.) It seems to me the right thing to do.

    Again, my problem is, this tax doesn't get us to where we need to be. I question it, not because I don't want to cover kids, but because its a patch on our out of whack health care system. And unfairly allocated to those businesses who already provide benefits.

    Here's how I may have responded to Greenlick's question....

    I agree that covering kids is something we should all contribute towards. (Don't you Representative?) So rather than imposing additional costs on businesses that are not only already providing insurance to their employees, but also seeing annual double digit increases in that cost, here are two prossible revenue streams.

    First impose an income tax surcharge so everyone contributes to this noble goal, according to their ability to pay. That way everyone understands the cost of this crazy system, every year. That would come to about $40/year average per taxpayer. That seems reasonable, and would move us towards single payer.

    (If we start with covering kids with a health care income tax assessment, run coverage through OHP, then maybe we could move to covering other groups of people, and we could end up with single payer over time as people see the cost savings and fairness)

    Second option, if you want it to be business based cost (which moves us away from single payer by the way), then impose a per employee payroll tax on businesses that don't provide health insurance for their employees. Since we know that those employees and their families are using our health care system anyway, and its the people with insurance who are paying that cost.

    Lets not confuse being a business person, or being against some taxes, as being anti-progressive. You know what? Sometimes taxes are ill thought out.

  • alcatross (unverified)
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    darrelplant commented: You guys think that the high-wage earners left California because the taxes were too high and that's the problem? California's median household income is about 10% higher than the country as a whole.

    And I would bet the median cost of living in California is well more than 10% higher than the country as a whole. Yes, Californians have a higher median income... but it's not only housing prices that are high - so are taxes in all forms (sales, property, income, etc), energy, and many other day-to-day items. I could automatically increase my salary 10 to 20% moving to California - but my overall cost of living would go up at least several times that. You can't just dismiss the cost of living factor from the discussion.

    Second... Florida is the 'The Sunshine State' - California is (or was) 'The Golden State'.

    Third, California is losing population each year at the rate of ~150,000 per year. Now, not all or even most of those leaving are necessarily high-wage earners... but with 144,000 of California's wealthiest residents (less than 0.5% of the population) paying nearly 50% of the state's income taxes, it doesn't take many of those leaving to cause revenue problems. Out of the 25,000 or so seven-figure-income families, more than 5,000 left in the early 2000s, and the loss of their tax payments could account for about half last year's $14B budget hole.

    High taxes alone are not driving rich/wealthy people out of California, no - but they certainly aren't attracting or making them eager to stay.

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    Again, my problem is, this tax doesn't get us to where we need to be. I question it, not because I don't want to cover kids, but because its a patch on our out of whack health care system. And unfairly allocated to those businesses who already provide benefits.

    You do know the tax isn't assessed on businesses in general, but rather on health care providers, right?

  • Sir Humphrey (unverified)
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    Here's a quote from Weidner's bio on his legislative web site. It certainly rings a bit hollow.

    Jim is disappointed by the lack of care expressed for our children at a state policy level... Jim will always advocate for the most vulnerable of our state, our children and elderly.

  • alcatross (unverified)
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    torridjoe commented: You do know the tax isn't assessed on businesses in general, but rather on health care providers, right?

    Actually, it's a 1% tax on health care insurance premiums - not on health care providers. And most health care insurers are passing the 1% tax directly on to their customers... i.e., businesses and individual consumers.

  • There is a problem (unverified)
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    TJ

    Alcatross is correct. If it were assessed on health care providers, as you thought, it would be a bit more fair, as I pointed out in my first post. Because that would at least spread the cost over not only those of use who choose to purchase insurance for our employees, but also the large companies (Nike) that can afford to self insure. The current law lets those companies escape the tax altogether.

    Again...another problem with the way its assessed because politics trumped fair tax law again.

  • Jerry (unverified)
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    There is a Problem, thank you for asking well thought out questions, providing background, having a common sense business perspective, and giving some possible answers. It is refreshing unlike some who respond.

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    I just got our increase this week. Kaiser, is increasing us 17%. So that's another $9,180/year my business is paying.

    This is the crux of the problem. The costs of providing health care didn't raise 17% over the last year. The cost of running an insurance company (or division in the case of Kaiser) didn't go up 17% over the last year.

    We can bicker and fight about how to raise enough money to fund health care access for the disadvantaged all we want and it won't address root causes of why the disadvantaged don't have access to health care.

    The system is broken.

  • There is a problem (unverified)
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    Kevin, with all due respect, the 17% increase in my rate may be the crux of the problem, but that only exacerbates the wrongheadedness of this tax.

    Tax policy is largely driven by three things;

    1. Fairness, that is, those that have the ability to pay more, due in part by our system and the investments we all make, should pay more. The progressive ideal. This tax doesn't qualify as fair. Imposing this tax on insurance policies is arbitrary, since it falls on individuals who have to pay for their own coverage, regardless of their income, and on companies that provide benefits, regardless of their profitability. In fact, a WalMart that does all it can to avoid providing benefits would escape the tax, as will Nike and other large employers.

    2. Behavior Modification; Rewarding good behavior (home mortgage deduction, charitable deduction) and imposing costs on bad behavior (tobacco tax). This kids health care tax is 180 degrees wrong. It punishes individuals who already buy coverage, and encourages bad behavior, like dropping insurance, going without insurance, reducing coverage.

    3. Having those that benefit pay. This comes the closest to fitting this tax. Because when we can leverage federal dollars by 2 to 1, the health care providers and insurance companies MAY modify their charges accordingly. So for every $1 in extra premium we pay, the health care providers will get $3 of payment for previously uncovered care. Of course that assumes that the health care providers will pass the savings on to the health insurance companies, and the health insurance companies will pass it on to the consumer.

    As I pointed out, there are much better ways of achieving all three, or at least two of the three taxation theories. Imposing the tax at the medical provider level captures the self insured companies, and would avoid simply hoping that the health insurers would actually pass the savings on. Imposing an income tax surchage would make it a much more progressive tax, and would reduce the cost of insurance to the individuals and businesses who are paying their own cost. (Again, assuming the providers and insurers would pass that savings on) which would, magically, encourage "good" behavior. (getting coverage, because it is now cheaper, or at least not going up as much)

    Its good social policy to insure kids. From what I can tell, it appears to me that this tax is be bad tax policy.

    Really, how can anyone in their right mind, who wants health care for all, or at least insurance reform think its a good idea to make health insurance even more expensive.

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    In terms of tax policy I agree that it's wrongheadedness. I've never seen the logic (short of short-term desperation) in taxing insurance policies. But even if it was good policy, or we were discussing a policy that we felt was good tax policy, we'd still be shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic because tax policy - good or bad - doesn't even begin to address the real problem.

    From my perspective the wrongheadedness is really a case of adding insult to injury. It's not helpful, but neither is it the more important fact before us. We're arguing over the type of bandaid rather than the oozing infection it's meant to cover up.

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    I was referencing this passage of the repeal preamble:

    Whereas the provider tax was assessed on large hospitals, long term care facilities, Medicaid managed care organizations and each program of all-inclusive care for elderly persons;

    but there is assessment on business language further down, it does look like. There IS a provider tax already, and the repeal argues that providers get more than that offset from federal payments, but private insurers don't?

  • Joe M (unverified)
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    News Register-"Weidner’s lone bill turned back" An interesting post... Posted by: Non-partisan P.I.When I called Weidner's office to ask WHY he was carrying this bill, he said: because small businesses and individuals shouldn't be forced to carry the burden of Oregon's uninsured "alone" while LARGE self-insured Corporations and self-insured Unions were EXEMPT. To be fair, that DOES make sense! Also, he said that FUNDING for Healthy Kids could come from either making NO Exemptions, or, revisiting the idea of state employees paying into their health care at the SAME rate our Public Teachers do!

  • KCleland (unverified)
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    to- There is a problem. Thanks for speaking so eloquently for businesses who care, but are struggling in the current system. I know of many who you are speaking for. Well done.

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