Surprise Package

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After ramming his health- care program through Congress and up the wazoo of the American people, Obama did a victory-taunt-dance in the end zone. He arrogantly crowed about his victory, say- ing that if the Republicans want to run in November on a pledge to repeal Obamacare, they should “Go for it!”

This hubristic remark brings to mind Bush’s famous line to terrorists in Iraq: “Bring it on!” And Obama may regret his remark, because after the passage of the bill, the public seems to think no more of it than before.

Indeed, support may actually be diminishing. Nancy Pelosi famously quipped that we would have to pass the bill to see exactly what’s in it. Well, we did, and we are. The first surprise was quick in coming: the bill contained a provision that eliminates the tax subsidy the feds created for businesses to support Medicare Part D (the prescription drug benefit program). This subsidy covered 28% of what companies actually paid to provide the coverage. This immediately led to a string of companies reporting massive losses soon to come. First Caterpillar announced that it would take a $100 million charge in the first quarter for this change in tax law; then a whole spate of businesses followed. Deere & Company will take a $150 million charge; Boeing $150 million; Prudential $100 million; 3M $90 million; Valero up to $20 million; Goodrich $10 mil- lion. The whoppers were AT&T, which will book a $1 billion cost because of this bill, and Verizon, which will book a cost of $970 million.

Immediately, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) — one of the most leftwing people ever to walk the halls of Congress and a major architect of the healthcare bill — said he would haul the CEOs of these perfidious companies before his committee (a.k.a. the Court of Star Chamber) to explain why they were spreading such harmful lies.

Of course, the Waxman threat is just an attempt to use congressional power to intimidate inconvenient voices into silence. Abuse of power, anyone? Really, the “why” lies in Congress itself. Under the strict accounting rules contained in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed by Congress after the Enron debacle, losses and liabilities must be clearly identified, transparently logged, and announced to the public.

But this news is only the beginning. Over 3,500 companies rely on this tax break, and losing it will cost $14 billion (as estimated by Towers Watson, a consulting firm). That will translate into lost benefits — worse, lost jobs — and slower growth.

Just what the economy needs. And just what Dr. Obama ordered.

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