New York Times Op-ed Asks, ‘Should Tax Cuts Be Used to Help the Uninsured?’
While the "buzz" in Washington says that President-elect Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut package could "kill" bipartisan cooperation "in the cradle," Matthew Miller, senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, contends in a New York Times opinion piece that the tax cut could prove to be a "different and surprising" key to a plan that "even President Clinton would have to applaud" -- extending health coverage to most of the nation's 43 million uninsured. Miller notes that although Bush must "appease his conservative base," he cannot allow his "signature initiative" to "go down in flames." As a result, Miller argues that Bush should divert a "bi[g] chunk" of his tax cut -- about $50 billion per year -- into health coverage, a proposal that "Democrats will embrace." During the campaign, Bush proposed $2,000 tax subsidies that would allow low-income families to purchase health coverage at a cost to the government of $10 billion per year; Miller advises the president-elect to increase the subsidies, target them toward lower-income families and offer a refundable tax credit to those not earning enough to pay taxes. He also contends that "in exchange," Democrats would "surely give" Bush some of his tax cut initiatives, such as eliminating the "marriage penalty" and partial estate tax reform. According to Miller, the deal would allow Bush to enact a tax cut of "Reaganesque proportions" and prove that "compassionate conservatism" rises above a mere "campaign slogan." Miller adds that Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Jim McCrery (R-La.) have already "laid the groundwork" for such a plan -- a potential "grand bargain" on health care that would force Democrats to "accept subsidies in the form of tax cuts" and Republicans to ensure that Americans can afford "decent" health insurance" (Miller, New York Times, 12/28). He concludes, "[I]t's the tale of a flexible president with a big pot of tax cut dollars that can be redeployed as ... [a] tax cut in ways that Democrats and the nation will cheer later" (Miller, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.