The Blog

Dr. Obama is Ready to Change His Position

4:48 PM, Mar 16, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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On Sunday the New York Times reported that the Obama administration is open to taxing exployer-provided health benefits. The money for the president's health care proposals needs to come from somewhere, and the administration's proposals to cap the mortgage-interest and charitable deductions for high earners is going nowhere. So, the Times reports, while Obama "will not propose changing the tax-free status of employee health benefits, neither will he oppose it if Congress does so." A bold stand!

During the campaign, of course, Obama and his campaign attacked John McCain for holding the same views that the Obama administration is now open to. McCain never adequately responded to, nor recovered from, the attack that his health care policy equaled "the largest middle-class tax increase in history." That helped Obama use the issue to throttle McCain. Now that the election is over, however, a modified version of the McCain proposal seems reasonable to Obama. Call the hypocrisy police; they can make another arrest.

The interesting thing is that this is not the first health-care reversal the Obama administration is open to. There's a lot of talk that, while he campaigned against Hillary Clinton's policy of a universal insurance mandate, the Obama health care plan may end up mandating coverage anyway. So, as of now, the president's health reform will probably wind up doing two things that the president explicitly campaigned against. Think about all the possible attacks Republicans will be able to launch against the reform using Obama's own words.

Obama gave Congress a lot of leeway to write the health bill because he didn't want to follow the same path as Bill Clinton. He'll let Congress do the work for him and swoop in for the signing ceremony. But his malleability may come back to haunt him. I still think there's a strong chance we'll see health care reform this year - the stars (and special interests) seem to be aligning - but Obama already may have (inadvertently) exposed the weaknesses of the plan he will soon be championing.