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Is Mark Warner the Designated Social Security Killer?

The propaganda the Administration has put out to spin the debt capitulation as a win–“victory!” “bipartisan!” “compromise!”–would be amusing if the deal weren’t so dangerous. In addition to all the language claiming that cutting expenditures during a Depression–described here as “remov[ing] the cloud of uncertainty– will help the economy, there are these two bullets:

  • Establishes a bipartisan process to seek a balanced approach to larger deficit reduction through entitlement and tax reform;
  • Deploys an enforcement mechanism that gives all sides an incentive to reach bipartisan compromise on historic deficit reduction, while protecting Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries and low-income programs;

Bulllet 3 says this deal establishes a process to bring about entitlement reform. Bullet 4 claims the deal protected Social Security and Medicare. Both of these bullets can’t be true.

Which has set off a discussion about whether SuperCongress is only possibly going to cut Medicare and Social Security, or will almost certainly do so.

I wanted to look at how the membership of the predecessor committees to SuperCongress–the Catfood Commission and the Gang of Six–to suggest which is more likely.

As you recall, the Catfood Commission members voted 11-7 in favor of passing the Commission’s recommendations, which included raising the retirement age. The members of Congress on the Commission voted this way:

  • Tom Coburn: Yes
  • Judd Gregg: Yes*
  • Mike Crapo: Yes
  • Kent Conrad: Yes
  • Dick Durbin: Yes
  • Max Baucus: No
  • Paul Ryan: No
  • Jeb Hensarling: No
  • Dave Camp: No
  • Jan Schakowsky: No
  • Xavier Becerra: No
  • John Spratt: Yes*

Assuming for the sake of argument that the members who are still in Congress would be part of SuperCongress, that would make for a stalemate–though Republican opposition focused on Obama’s healthcare reform, not on the package of entitlement cuts and tax breaks for the rich that the commission recommended.

Both Judd Gregg and John Spratt are gone. Rather than replace Judd Gregg, the former Ranking Member of the Budget Committee with his functional equivalent, Jeff Sessions, Mitch McConnell will likely put Saxby Chambliss on SuperCongress, as Chambliss has been involved in the Gang of Six discussing a deficit reduction plan. John Spratt’s functional equivalent would be Chris Van Hollen, a not horrible addition for liberals. (Update: Or maybe he’s just like Durbin, a so-called liberal who will support this crap.)

But it’s not safe to assume Harry Reid will just pick the Senators who served on the Catfood Commission for SuperCongress. After Max Baucus voted no on the Catfood Commission, saying, “we cannot cut the deficit at the expense of veterans, seniors, ranchers, farmers and hard-working families,” he was replaced on the Gang of Six. Joe Biden and Harry Reid replaced him with Mark Warner, a man worth more than $200 million who has spent much of the tenure of the Gang of Six insisting that working Americans with whom he shares little in common won’t mind so much if they have to work another two years before they can retire.

In other words, one change we’ve already seen happen between the Catfood Commission and the Gang of Six is the replacement of Max Baucus, who proved unwilling to push through the $4 trillion deficit plan Obama has been chasing, with Mark Warner, who is all too willing to champion entitlement cuts for poor people.

If his newly central role in these discussions stands, we can be pretty sure we’ll see cuts to Social Security. And heck, if he won’t do the deed, then alleged liberal, Dick Durbin, and Kent Conrad seem prepared to do the work themselves.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Max Baucus Finally Gets His Grand Bargain!

Usually, when Max Baucus tries to craft a grand bargain, oversized legislation starts by getting progressively worse, at which point the legislation finally dies.

But he has finally succeeded in getting a grand bargain, with a deal to extend Trade Adjustment Assistance in exchange for votes on the Korea, Colombia, and Panama trade deals.

Baucus said he had secured an agreement with the White House and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to renew the expanded version of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The program, which funds job-training programs and healthcare benefits for workers hurt by trade, will be extended until the end of 2013.

If that doesn’t already make you vomit, then consider the way the Chamber of Commerce’s Tom Donohue is preening over this agreement.

“For members of Congress who care about American jobs, this is a moment of truth,” said Tom Donohue, the Chamber’s president and CEO. “I urge members of both parties to seize a reasonable compromise and move the trade agenda forward. The time to act is now.”

As if the Chamber gives a hoot about jobs–aside from the ones they can move to countries where labor organization is met with murder.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Former WellPoint VP Liz Fowler to Implement Health Care Oversight

Remember Liz Fowler? The former WellPoint VP whom William Ockham noted was the literal author of the health care reform bill?

I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to learn that WellPoint’s former VP will be in charge of consumer issues and oversight as our country implements the WellPoint/Liz Fowler health insurance bill. (h/t Glenn Greenwald)

Liz Fowler, a key staffer for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus who helped draft the federal health reform bill enacted in March, is joining the Obama administration to help implement the new law.Fowler, chief health counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs, will become deputy director of the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Liz Fowler is an extremely knowledgeable and dedicated adviser, and while I’m very proud of her new position, she will certainly be missed at the committee,” Baucus said in a statement Tuesday.

[snip]

Obama and fellow Democrats have been promoting what they say are positive aspects of the reform bill, while the Health and Human Services Department is drafting many rules to implement to complex measure.

So Liz Fowler, WellPoint’s gal, will be writing the rules implementing the law (the rules that will determine whether this is a worthless bill or a decent one), particularly those designed to protect (cough) consumers and oversee companies like…WellPoint.

This is the kind of “oversight” that resulted in the BP disaster.

And remember Obama’s lobbyist restrictions? The ones that prevent someone from working in the Executive Branch on an issue that they’ve lobbied Congress on for two years? Fowler was not a registered lobbyist; rather, she was the VP of Public Policy and External Affairs. But in any case, it appears that Fowler returned to MaxTax Baucus’ staff on March 4, 2008, so nothing prevents the former VP of WellPoint from writing the “consumer and oversight” rules that are the only thing protecting Americans from policies — like WellPoint’s — that screw consumers.

It’s a nice trick: send your VP to write a law mandating that the middle class buy shitty products like yours, then watch that VP move into the executive branch to “oversee” the implementation of the law. What could go wrong?!?!

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Baucus’ Girlfriend Helped Arrange His Separation

Okay, this is just creepy, but creepy in terms that may impact politics more than Tiger Woods taking a hiatus from golf:

The Missoulian newspaper today disclosed that Sen. Max Baucus’s future girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, was involved in discussions with the senator’s divorce lawyer in 2007 while serving on the Montana Democrat’s Senate staff. The Montana newspaper quoted from billing records submitted by Baucus’s lawyer, Ronald F. Waterman, in Helena.

Main Justice obtained a copy of the billing records. Click here to see them.

The records show that Hanes – whom Baucus later recommended to the White House as a finalist for Montana’s U.S. Attorney – consulted with the divorce lawyer on such delicate matters as how to determine the value of the home Baucus shared with his then-wife, Wanda, in Washington’s exclusive Georgetown section.

Mind you, nothing about this development (unlike the fact that MaxTax nominated his girlfriend to be US Attorney and that he brought her on a trip to Dubai) is ethically scandalous. MaxTax just had his then State Director and now girlfriend handle discussions with the lawyers drawing up his separation agreement with his then wife.

Indeed, at one level this proves the point Baucus’ office has been making–that Baucus’ relationship with Hanes (which reportedly started in June 2008) had nothing to do with his split with his ex-wife.

But it is all rather, um, cozy.

Update: It gets creepier. Baucus’ then wife, Wanda, didn’t know that he was scheming on a separation at the time.

Wanda Baucus, the senator’s second wife, said Friday that she knew nothing about the 2007 meetings and that the couple had not at that point discussed getting a divorce.

“I think this whole thing is very sad. It’s not the way you do things,” she said in an interview.

[snip]

“Ending a 25-year marriage is a serious undertaking that should be discussed first within the family,” Wanda Baucus said. “There’s no justification for the staff being involved in such private matters.”

Which I guess means Baucus’ then State Director and now girlfriend knew that he was splitting before his then wife did.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Late Night: Max Tax Baucchanal Grabs The Dental Floss

There seems to be no end to the duplicitous clean livers that are hiding cirrhotic private lives and peccadillos. Now, if you ask me, no one should be all that shocked Tiger Woods prowls like a big cat. He has been known to feel a kinship and run with Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley pretty much since he left Stanford for the bright lights and big city attractions of the PGA traveling circus. Tiger didn’t want to be like Mike, he already was like Mike. The “right stuff” that makes the greatest athletes stand out above the mere all stars and all pros generally comes with a healthy quotient of carnivore like killer instinct and desire.

But the discovery that a holier than thou condescending family values prairie dweeb like Max Baucus (R-Dentalflossville) is footing the shack up of his latest shag, well that is a whole nuther thing. Who knew Max chased the skirts and dental floss just like those hedonists in California? And considering the Max Tax concubine was, at least for a while, one of his staffers, there is of course some relief it was not an intern. So he has got that going for him I guess.

Before the moment that is the Passion Of Max fleets from memory though, let the proletariat he arrogantly betrays daily in his day job as an elected representative of the people, nation and the collective interest not be lost as to the real upshot. But lost it will be if left up to the puerile panty sniffers in the main stream political media. For instance those deer hunting manly men over at Politico have two stories on their front page (here and here) on the Max Tax plan to boost his squeeze with an elite appointment to a coveted US Attorney position and, yet, not one mention of the hypocrisy exhibited by the revelation as framed against the Baucus constant braying for fiscal responsibility and reticence to provide a health care bill covering women equally and fairly. Go figure.

As an extra Late Night bonus, check out this story of the evil terrorist Christmas elf:

A man dressed as an elf is jailed after police in Georgia say he told a mall Santa that he was carrying dynamite.

Police say Southlake Mall in suburban Atlanta was evacuated but no explosives were found.

Police say Caldwell got in line Wednesday evening to have his picture taken with Santa Claus.

Police say when Caldwell reached the front of the line, he told Santa he had dynamite in his bag. Santa called mall security and Caldwell was arrested.

Caldwell faces several charges, including having hoax devices and making terrorist threats.

Awesome.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Jay Rock Demands 90%

This is delectable politics. Fresh off a meeting with Ob-Rahma, Jay Rock has come back to the Senate and demanded 90% loss ratio for any coverage the subsidies pay for. "Loss ratio" is insurance-speak for what they actually have to spend providing actual health care. That means the insurance companies can’t steal 20% of our tax dollars to pay for executive salaries. They get 10%.

They’re peeing their pants right now.

But I suspect Jay Rock has offered this as an outcome of his meeting with Ob-Rahma. I’m sure at that meeting they said, "Jello Jay, We’d like you to pitch other ways to save money. We’d like to come up with a way to keep costs down."

And voila!!! 90%!!! Insurance companies have to actually provide health care without gobs of executive subsidies. We’re actually going to demand a certain amount of health care in exchange for the half trillion MaxTax!!!

After Max Tax and Blanche vote it down, it will be crystal clear this is about profits profits profits. 

I don’t know whether Ob-Rahma will pull their head out of Jay Rock’s amendment. 

But I do know this. Jay Rock is intent on fucking with the narrative that MaxTax and Rahm are intent on spinning. If we do our jobs, it’ll be clear why they’re rejecting common sense ways to deliver health care at lower costs and instead are just interested in subsidizing the insurance companies. 

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

MaxTax’s Medicare Reforms: Would They Really Reform Health Care?

The MaxTax is largely a Medicare bill attached to 39 pages of private health care reform. To show you what I mean by that, here’s roughly how many pages MaxTax spends on each topic:

Health care exchange and other means to make private care available to the uninsured: 39 pages (including several on preventing tax dollars from being spent on undocumented workers or abortions)

Extending access to the poor and underserved (including expanding Medicaid to 133% of poverty): 34 pages

Improving the efficiency of public health care systems (mostly Medicare): 120 pages

Revenue plans: 25 pages

Total: 223 pages

I make this observation as a way to raise an honest question about Ron Brownstein’s claim that "Baucus’ draft bill offers the most fiscally sustainable framework yet devised for expanding coverage."

About half of Brownstein’s support for this claim comes in a discussion of the changes the MaxTax makes to public health care delivery. To understand what those changes are, read paragraphs four through thirteen of his piece. Those paragraphs summarize the 120 pages of the MaxTax treating Medicare that do things like shift payment to reward the quality of service, rather than the quantity of it (these changes make the kind of changes proposed by Atul Gawande in this important New Yorker piece). 

Now, I’ll get to the other half of Brownstein’s support for his article in a second. But first, regarding the many admirable changes MaxTax advocates for Medicare, here’s my question.

What effect will those important changes in public health care delivery–made in a bill that specifically prohibits public health care solutions for the rest of the population–really have on the fiscal responsibility of health care overall?

That is, Brownstein rightly commends Baucus for implementing changes to Medicare that will probably have real impact on the cost the government pays for Medicare. But this is in a bill that–almost as an afterthought–dumps 30 million people into private care that includes no such changes (at least no mandated changes). The Federal government would, under MaxTax, be paying billions for health care that did not necessarily integrate the same changes that the government would incent in Medicare coverage.

So here’s my honest question. Do policy wonks believe that by rewarding or even mandating such changes in Medicare, the entire health care delivery system would change? Read more

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Pay2Play Ceci: “The Most Influential Players” Love MaxTax

Pay2Play Ceci Connolly has an article out summing up the reaction she’s seeing to Max Baucus’ health care plan:

As they scoured the 223-page document, many of the most influential players found elements to dislike, but not necessarily reasons to kill the effort. Most enticing was the prospect of 30 million new customers.

In order of appearance, here are the people she cites in her article (I’ve bolded the ones she has actual quotes from):

  • Max Baucus
  • Obama
  • Liberal Democrats and allies, particularly labor unions
  • Republicans
  • Major industry leaders and interest groups
  • White House strategists
  • Obama
  • John D. Rockefeller
  • Lawmakers and lobbyists
  • Ron Wyden
  • Neil Trautwein, a vice president of the National Retail Federation
  • Leaders of the Business Roundtable and the National Federation of Independent Business
  • Drugmakers and hospitals
  • Kenneth E. Thorpe, an Emory University professor and Clinton administration official (noting that health care providers stand to make more than they’ll lose)
  • Max Baucus
  • Several trade associations
  • The medical device industry (dsecribed "recruiting" four senators to roll back fees on its industry)
  • One White House aide

In all, Ceci presents a landscape in which the most important players–aside from two Senators who have been slighted in the process thus far–are trade industry groups. And the most important issue for them is the profit they stand to make off of taxing America’s middle class to make them wealthier.

Now, to be fair to Pay2Play Ceci, that’s unashamedly the point of her article–that while the bill has pissed off Democrats and Republicans, it has thus far lulled the industry with dreams of forthcoming riches.

But behind the rhetorical fireworks was a sense that the fragile coalition of major industry leaders and interest groups central to refashioning the nation’s $2.5 trillion health-care system remains intact.

And also to be fair to Pay2Play Ceci, it’s clear that these players were the prime movers behind this bill. The story is absolutely accurate–though that doesn’t mean it has any business being told.

Nothing demonstrates the degree to which actual politicians–much less their constituents–have become mere bystanders as the health care industry crafts up a plan to get 30 million new captive customers.

One more point on this (so I can count this as my daily thrashing of the WaPo). An article like this is the natural outcome of the WaPo’s attempt to be a broker of the key players (not surprisingly, the same industry hacks highlighted here) in the health care debate. Read more

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Affordable for Individuals Versus Affordable for Wal-Mart Employees

Here’s a scary part of MaxTax, if I understand it correctly. MaxTax still screws employees but rewards Wal-Mart as I’ve laid out in this post and this post. Here’s the language in question:

As a general matter, if an employee is offered employer-provided health insurance coverage, the individual would be ineligible for a low income premium tax credit for health insurance purchased through a state exchange. An employee who is offered coverage that does not have an actuarial value of at least 65 percent or who is offered unaffordable coverage by their employer, however, can be eligible for the tax credit. Unaffordable is defined as 13 percent of the employee‘s income. For purposes of determining if coverage is unaffordable, salary reduction contributions would be treated as payments by the employer. The employee would seek an affordability waiver from the state exchange and would have to demonstrate family income and the premium of the lowest cost employer option offered to them. Employees would then present the waiver to the employer. The employer assessment would apply for any employee(s) receiving an affordability waiver. Within five years of implementation, the Secretary must conduct a study to determine if the definition of affordable could be lowered without significantly increasing costs or decreasing employer coverage.

A Medicaid-eligible individual can always choose to leave the employer‘s coverage and enroll in Medicaid. In this circumstance, the employer is not required to pay a fee.

But note how affordability is defined: 13% of "income."

Now look at how MaxTax defines "affordable" for individuals having to buy insurance via an exchange.

Exemptions from the excise tax will be made for individuals where the full premium of the lowest cost option available to them (net of subsidies and employer contribution, if any) exceeds ten percent of their AGI.

The individual definition of affordable uses 10% of Adjusted Gross Income. Whereas the employer’s definition of affordable uses 13% of (apparently) total income.

Now, it’s a good thing (sort of) that the affordability rate for individuals is 10% of AGI. That means a family would be able to opt out if there were no health care available at even a lower rate than I thought (for example, it might mean a middle class family could opt out if health insurance cost them $6,000 a year, as opposed to $8,000 a year). Read more

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

We Can’t Afford the MaxTax

The newspapers (and some Senators) have apparently discovered what I pointed out a week ago. The MaxTax is completely unaffordable for the middle class.

Near the top of the list for the panel’s Democrats is worry that health insurance subsidies will not be sufficiently generous nor available to enough people despite the fact that the bill would legally require most people to obtain coverage. Beyond premiums, some Democrats are concerned that Baucus’s proposal would not do enough to protect middle-class families from high healthcare expenses.

"It’s very clear, at this point in the debate, the flashpoint is all about affordability,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “I personally think there’s a lot of heavy lifting left to do on the affordability issue.”

The healthcare bills already approved by three House committees and another Senate committee offer more generous subsidies – but at a higher cost to taxpayers.

“We’re doing our very best to make an insurance requirement as affordable as we possibly can, recognizing that we’re trying to get this bill under $900 billion total,” said Baucus, who has been courting Republican support for his measure in an attempt to guarantee that a healthcare bill can achieve the 60 votes or more needed to avoid a Senate filibuster.

“I’m going to work even harder to address any legitimate affordability concerns. I knew they were there,” Baucus said.

Just as a reminder, here are the numbers I came up with last week–showing that if a middle class family had a significant (but not catastrophic) medical event under MaxTax, it might be left with as little as $7,215 to pay transportation, utilities, school, clothing, and debt.

Here’s a very rough budget for that family making $67,000 (I’m not an accountant, so tell me where my assumptions are wrong).

Federal Taxes (estimate from this page): $8,710 (13% of income)

State Taxes (using MI rates on $30,000 of income): $1,305 (2% of income)

Food (using "low-cost USDA plan" for family of four): $9,060 (13.5% of income)

Home (assume a straight 30% of income): $20,100 (30% of income)

Bad Max Tax: $20,610 (31% of income)

Total: $59,785 (89% of income)

Remainder for all other expenses (including education, clothing, existing debt, transportation, etc.): $7,215 (or 11% of income)

(Note, there was a lot of discussion about the Federal tax figure–including whether it would be lower once you account for writing off these medical costs. Since it’s a CBO number that accounts for that kind of deduction now, Read more

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.