Barack McCain

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 9, 2010

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The comparison is apt:

When millions of blue-collar workers were leaning toward John McCain during the 2008 campaign, labor unions moved many of them into Barack Obama’s column by repeatedly hammering one theme: Mr. McCain wanted to tax their health benefits.

But now labor leaders are fuming that President Obama has endorsed a tax on high-priced, employer-sponsored health insurance policies as a way to help cover the cost of health care reform. And as Senate and House leaders seek to negotiate a final health care bill, unions are pushing mightily to have that tax dropped from the legislation. Or at the very least, they want the price threshold raised so that the tax would affect fewer workers.

Labor leaders say the tax would hit not only wealthy executives with expensive health benefits, but also many rank-and-file union members who have often settled for lower wage increases in exchange for more generous health benefits.

[. . .]

Union leaders have repeatedly warned the White House about the strong rank-and-file dismay, which could hurt the Democrats in Congressional elections this fall, especially in battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Ron Gay, an AT&T repairman in Youngstown, Ohio, who spent much of the summer of 2008 urging co-workers to vote for Mr. Obama, said, “If this passes in its current form, a lot of working people are going to feel let down and betrayed by our legislators and president.”

[. . .]

Many Democrats fear that enacting the tax will hurt their re-election chances.

“This would really have a negative impact on the Democratic base,” said Representative Joe Courtney, Democrat of Connecticut, who has enlisted 190 House Democrats to sign a letter opposing the tax. “As far as the message goes, it’s a real toughie to defend.”

I suppose one of the upsides of this discussion is that we have finally found a tax that Democrats don’t like.

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