House GOP's odd line of attack on Obamacare

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Philip Klein

Liberal health care writer Jonathan Cohn takes House Republicans to task for a new report from the Oversight and Government Reform committee on President Obama's national health care law. Among other findings, the report complains that Obamacare could take 8.1 million people off of federal tax rolls. I agree with Cohn that this is an unusual argument for Republicans to make, but for different reasons.

Just by way of background, the argument that Republicans are making is that because the health care law provides subsidies in the form of refundable tax credits, millions of Americans will see their tax liabilties completely disappear.

The reason why I find this odd is that for years, Republicans have been arguing that Obamacare represents a massive tax hike. And this has the benefit of being true. From 2012 through 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare will raise revenues by $813 billion. Proclaiming that Obamacare could "remove as many as 8.1 million filers off the tax rolls," as this GOP press release does, muddles this message. To somebody unfamiliar with the details, it almost makes it sound as if the law is some sort of massive tax cut.

Both Republicans and Democrats have abused the term "tax credit" as a way of making new spending sound like it actually represents a cut in taxes. That's one reason why our tax code has become such a bloated mess. So claims such as the GOP is making here should be avoided by those who want a smaller government with a simpler tax code.

I hope Republicans abandon this line of attack going forward.

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Philip Klein

Commentary Editor
The Washington Examiner