Big Labor Benefits

The big government health care power grab moving through Congress contains a special interest provision aimed to help the union bosses.  The Investor’s Business Daily takes note:

Spending a trillion dollars as a down payment for a government takeover of health care is a dream of many Democrats. The current plan in Congress would create a government insurance plan that would drive out the private ones.

The problem, though, is the cost. Even moderate Democrats are having second thoughts about that, as well as all the quality problems associated with socialized medicine. Even so, health care nationalization’s biggest boosters are cooking up bad new plans.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., both would like to slap a tax on private health plans to pay for a new government one.

But they’ve carved out one very big exception: unions and their gold-plated benefit packages. This effectively gives Big Labor an advantage in the market and forces nonunion workers to subsidize unions for their share of this bad idea.

The logic behind this tax giveaway is that union health plans, which are lavish, would be subject to higher taxes than those of workers with regular private sector health care plans.

According to news reports, if unions get a special tax break for themselves on health care taxes, they’ll gladly muscle “their” Congress members into supporting a “public option” health care bill.

In short, it’s little more than a political payoff to unions for spending $400 million in campaign cash to elect Democrats to Congress and the White House last year. As if the outrageous favors they’ve received from the auto bailouts aren’t enough.

But unions don’t just get a tax break. They also get a great recruiting tool. After all, nationalizing health care in itself undermines any reason to belong to a union, since unions exist to squeeze more out of companies. If a company is no longer involved in health care and thus can no longer be squeezed, why belong to a union? The answer: special tax privileges.

This will artificially beef up union membership. Who wouldn’t want tax-free health care over subsidizing someone else’s as the current congressional bills dictate?

With the Employee Free Choice Act to coerce workers into unions now dead in the water, this could be a backdoor means of doing the same thing — while bringing in more campaign cash to Democrats.

This may be great for the Democrats and their union backers, but it’s bad for the rest of us. By creating a two-tier system of pricing for health care, and with it privileges for party elites, it’s fundamentally unfair to the public as a whole. The people who will get the short end of the stick on this — the rationing, the shortages, the wait lists — will be the very ones forced into paying for other people’s health care. Unions will get a free ride.

Remember that whenever health care is “free” or subsidized to consumers, it distorts the market and creates disincentives to cut costs. So under the Kennedy-Baucus plan, union health care costs will soar without restraint. And ordinary Americans will pay.

This will turn unions, whose members comprise only 6% of U.S. workers, into a privileged caste, for no other reason than their political muscle with Democrats.

There’s a word for this: Peronism. That was the populist political patronage system that took Argentina from one of the richest countries in the world in the early 20th century to the economically troubled nation it is today. It’s a bad model for the U.S. to follow.

Spending big, carving out tax niches for no other reason than campaign contributions, and creating two-tiered pricing systems, is little more than a kind of corruption. It will lay us low, too.