It’s baaaack. Remember S-CHIP? The Democrats are racing their universal health care Trojan Horse through the House today and in the Senate by Friday. Yesterday evening after I filed my syndicated column (printed below) on Obama and the Democrats’ first massive tax increase of 2009, the 285-page text of the proposed S-CHIP expansion went online. It’s H.R. 2 and you can read the PDF in its entirety here — something a significant number of congressional members will not do before voting for the behemoth bill. The tax portion of the bill is broken out here (thanks to the Stogie Guys). Pelosi’s press release is here.
Every legal tobacco product from premanufactured cigarettes and cigarette papers to cigars to roll-your-cigarettes, pipe tobacco, and smokeless tobacco will be taxed out the wazoo. Take roll-your-own tobacco. It’s currently taxed at $1.0969/lb. The Obama/Democrat S-CHIP plan would hike that to $24.62/lb. Cigarette taxes would rise from $19.50 per thousand to $50.00 per thousand for small cigarettes and from $40.95 per thousand to $105.00 per thousand for large cigarettes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to have an open debate on the bill. House GOP leaders lodged a protest. (But remember that 42 Republicans sided with Pelosi last January in a failed attempt to override President Bush’s veto.)
So much for transparency and openness. And so much for those promises to provide tax relief to “ordinary Americans.” As usual, Barry O was just blowin’ smoke:
Stay tuned. I’ll be keeping track of the non-debate debate today and the Trojan Horse Republicans who will get along, go along, and bend over.
“Everybody’s going to have to give,” President-elect Barack Obama warned over the weekend. And some people will have to give more than others – starting with low-income smokers. Democrats are rushing this week to impose massive tax hikes of at least 61 cents on every cigarette pack sold in America, in addition to new increases on other tobacco products. The money will fund a long-plotted federal expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP).
Yes, this is Dr. Big Nanny’s prescription for recession: Punitive tax increases on the poor to feed a universal health care Trojan Horse.
Obama and his liberal Democrat colleagues sure have a funny way of demonstrating “progressive” values, don’t they? Health surveys show that smokers are more likely to be blue-collar workers, minorities, and have less than a high school education. The National Taxpayers Union noted that tobacco taxes take a 50-times-larger share of income from those earning less than $20,000 than those earning more than $200,000. Put another way: Families making less than $30,000 per year pay more than half of all taxes paid on cigarettes, while families making more than $60,000 pay only 14 percent.
That’s the dictionary definition of “regressive,” not “progressive.”
And what will that money buy? S-CHIP, you’ll recall, is the joint federal-state program that covers health insurance for children and families at or near the poverty line. Over the past two years, President Bush and the Republicans took a rare, fiscal conservative stand against widening eligibility criteria far beyond the working poor. Democrats wanted to be able to enroll families with incomes at 300 or 400 percent of the poverty level – adding an estimated $35 billion over five years to the existing S-CHIP funding costs.
Opponents of this Hillarycare-esque push were lambasted as cruel child-haters for arguing that the program should not be extended to include well-off families, illegal aliens, and single adults. They were attacked as heartless penny-pinchers for questioning the wisdom of subsidizing the S-CHIP expansion with a dwindling and unstable funding source (smoking is on the decline and cigarette tax revenues are shrinking). Left-wing comedienne Joy Behar called me a “b*tch” on national television for reporting that the Democrats’ poster family for S-CHIP expansion to cover the “poor,” the Frost family of Baltimore, owned middle-class assets including two properties and three cars.
But if these do-gooders truly cared about The Children, they’d be cursing mightily over the squandering of current S-CHIP funds and the cheating of the very children the program was intended to help. State data analyzed by the Department of Health and Human Services reveal that 13 states spent more than 44 percent of their S-CHIP funds in 2008 on people who are neither children nor pregnant women. Michigan topped the list with more than 70 percent of its federal children’s health insurance funds earmarked for adults who have no kids.
In New Jersey, people earning as much as $295,000 were enrolled in its S-CHIP program dubbed “NJ FamilyCare.” Like many states, New Jersey failed to check eligibility for all program enrollees and refuses to do stringent assets tests. As I’ve noted before, the refusal to do assets tests on federal health insurance programs is why federal entitlements are exploding and government keeps expanding. After an audit found that the program had paid $43.1 million to participants without knowing if they were eligible, Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris observed that it “called into serious question the state’s competence to run health insurance programs.” Multiply that by 50 states.
How will the Democrats prevent such fraud? I’d give you more details about the Obama/Democrat tax hike on the poor to expand children’s health care coverage for the non-poor and non-children, but as of Tuesday afternoon, there was no legislative text available. And no hearings are planned before the expansion is rushed through for Obama to sign. The Wall Street Journal did report that Democrats plan to lift decade-old restrictions to allow legal immigrant children to tap into S-CHIP. (Open-borders activists hope it’s the camel’s nose under tent for illegal alien applicants.) But there’s no word on whether (or how) citizenship eligibility requirements will be strengthened. The Democrat leadership hasn’t responded to Republican entreaties on that issue, either. Hurray for the deliberative process.
What I can tell you for sure is that the S-CHIP expansion is a rest stop on the road to a universal health insurance entitlement, built on the backs of overtaxed, low-income workers. (Listen to Democrat Tom Vilsack admit it openly here.)
Welcome to the era of “shared sacrifice.”