President Obama promised to make health care more affordable, but instead he’s done the opposite. The White House and congressional Democrats slipped 20 new taxes into the Obamacare legislation to raise $500 billion to help pay for the new entitlement’s $2.6 trillion cost. It’s now up to the Supreme Court to provide relief.
Mr. Obama claims to want to raise taxes only on “millionaires and billionaires,” but his signature health care law hits the middle class hard. Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) analyzed the 2,700-page bill and came up with a comprehensive list of its levies.
“Obama promised no taxes of any kind for those who earn less than $250,000. Obamacare broke that pledge repeatedly,” ATR President Grover Norquist told The Washington Times. “They deliberately hid the taxes and wisely understood that delaying the pain by making the effective date after the election, maybe you could get through the election.”
Until last year, people could pay for over-the-counter medications with tax-free Flexible Savings Accounts and Health Savings Accounts. No more, thanks to Obamacare’s medicine cabinet tax. Starting on Jan. 1, these tax-free accounts will be capped at $2,500, punishing families who face higher than normal medical expenses. The threshold for deducting those costs will also go up from 7.5 percent to 10 percent of adjusted gross income in 2013.
The left mistakenly thinks companies will just absorb the extra charges from Uncle Sam and not pass them along to consumers. Medical-device manufacturers will be smacked with a 2.3 percent tax in the new year, driving up the costs of things like wheelchairs, stents and pacemakers. Innovative drug companies already are sending Washington $2.3 billion in taxes for a surcharge on their share of sales, which helps explain why prescription-drug spending will see a projected 10.7 percent increase in 2014.
That’s also when health-insurance companies face a new surcharge on sales that will result in an estimated $350 to $400 increase in annual premiums. So much for the president’s promise to reduce the cost of insurance by $2,500.
Americans who refuse to go along with Obamacare by buying a policy not approved by the government will be charged 1 percent of their income in 2014, rising to 2.5 percent in 2016. Employers with more than 50 employees who don’t offer health coverage and have at least one employee who qualifies for a health tax credit will be penalized $2,000 per person. If the employee receives coverage through this exchange, the penalty goes up to $3,000. An employer with a 30- to 60-day enrollment waiting period will have to pay $400 per person.
These new penalties on employers who don’t provide the health coverage dictated by bureaucrats will amount to $113 billion. Expect companies to pay less and lay off more. Growth will be further stunted when January brings a new levy on investment income for those who earn more than $200,000, making the tax on capital gains 23.8 percent and dividends a staggering 43.4 percent.
This monster law already has created 159 new programs and boards in Washington. As Mr. Norquist explained, “It’s a huge increase in the size and scope of government because the government is getting control of 15 percent of the economy.” The Supreme Court needs to reject this unconstitutional power grab and return the money to the people who actually earned it.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
- Critical Time: Justices Hear Arguments Against Obamacare (fox4kc.com)
- Justices Seem to Signal They Will Not Punt On ObamaCare, But Will Rule On Its Constitutionality (minx.cc)
- Obamacare In The Supreme Court 101: Deliberations, Rulings And Impacts (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- ObamaCare on Trial, Day One: A Case of “Inartful Drafting By Congress” (reason.com)
Industry insiders fear rules, taxes
By Ben Wolfgang-
President Obama spoke of the role natural gas must play in America’s energy future during his State of the Union address last week, but industry insiders fear it’s merely lip service designed to distract from what they consider the administration’s behind-the-scenes plan to sabotage the sector.
“They’re trying to make it more difficult for the industry to survive while the president is standing in front of the country saying we’re going to create jobs through hydraulic fracturing,” said Ken von Schaumburg, former deputy counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Bush administration.
At the same time the president boasts of the nation’s vast shale gas deposits, his EPA is poised to make extracting that fuel much more difficult. The agency will this year release a widely anticipated study on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the use of water, sand and chemical mixtures to crack underground rock and release huge quantities of gas. The practice is widely used in Pennsylvania, North Dakota and other states, and has helped revitalize small-town economies and led directly to the creation of thousands of jobs in recent years.
Many in the gas industry fear that the upcoming EPA study will call for harsh new regulations on the process, and many environmental groups – a key constituency for Mr. Obama during this year’s re-election bid – are publicly pushing the administration to outlaw fracking entirely.
The EPA has already dealt a severe blow to fracking with the release of a report last year alleging the process was responsible for water contamination in Pavillion, Wyo. That study was met with ridicule from across the natural gas business because it was put out before being subjected to an independent, third-party review. While the EPA has promised such an unbiased look will be conducted, the study has likely already had a negative impact on the public perception of fracking.
Possibly making matters worse, Mr. Obama has over the past week repeated his calls for increased federal investment in the renewable energy sector, a policy some view as an effort to stack the deck against natural gas.
“Job creators and American consumers should welcome the president’s latest energy promises with suspicion,” Thomas Pyle, president of the nonprofit Institute for Energy Research, said in a statement following Mr. Obama’s State of the Union speech, during which he called for an “all-of-the-above” approach toward energy independence that relies heavily on American oil and gas reserves.
“In the same breath that he extolled the virtues of natural gas development and called for higher energy taxes on the companies that produce it, President Obama continues to press for more taxpayer subsidies for Solyndra-style green energy companies,” Mr. Pyle said.
Mr. Obama’s positive rhetoric toward natural gas could also represent a desire to please both sides of the debate, though the move to the middle has, thus far, seemed to satisfy no one. After the speech, environmental groups blasted the administration for being too timid and called for an all-out war on fracking.
“We can’t wait much longer for the clean energy revolution. We need to clean up a fossil fuel industry run amok, by ensuring … natural gas safeguards that go much further than what the president suggested,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement after the State of the Union address.
So far, however, the administration has stopped far short of what the Sierra Club and other liberal groups want to see. Mr. Obama did, however, call for legislation requiring any company drilling on public land to disclose all chemicals used during the fracking process. Several states, such as Texas and Colorado, have already passed disclosure bills, and many leading companies voluntarily post detailed breakdowns of their chemical mixtures to the website fracfocus.org, an online clearinghouse.
Potential state or federal regulations aren’t they only problems confronting the gas industry. The explosion of natural gas extraction in areas like the Marcellus Shale region has glutted the market, keeping prices low for consumers but leading to diminished returns for drilling companies.
Last week, Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest players in the game, announced plans to reduce daily gas production by 500 million cubic feet, an 8 percent drop. The firm said it’s considering slashing production even further and predicts “flat or lower total natural gas production in the U.S. in 2012” as supply outstrips demand.
- Obama loves oil – Not! (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Cabot Cites Obama Speech to Fault EPA’s Dimock Fracking Probe (junkscience.com)
- No energy industry backing for the word ‘fracking’ (junkscience.com)