First, I'd ask you to please read this.
There's no point in my trying to restate how Digby sets up the basic premise I want to build on, which is that as outrageous and horrible as it is to define down what rape is, there's much more at stake.
If you can't or won't look, I'll simply say this: You're meant to recoil in horror at that redefinition. And if the bill's proponents are lucky, you'll spend all your time doing that. Because then you'll miss out on the fact that H.R. 3 is also the killing blow capping 30 years of consistent losses on abortion restrictions. And if you don't care about that, you might also miss that the bill hides under its skirts a gigantic (some might say, "job-killing") tax increase.
Surely, though, tax increases are nothing in comparison to the enormous insult delivered by the rape language and restrictions on choice? Perhaps true, but again I'd urge you to read how Digby treats the matter, and also to consider that it might be wise to expand the potential coalition in opposition to this bill to include as many allies in as many walks of life as possible. This isn't and shouldn't be a fight limited to the choice community alone.
In H.R. 3, Republicans revive the mid-90s "Istook amendment" theory of the fungibility of money to include under their definition of "taxpayer funding for abortion" all tax deductions, credits or other benefits for the cost of health insurance, when that insurance includes under its plan coverage for abortion.
So if a company provides health care benefits for its employees, and the plan they pay for includes coverage for abortion, the company becomes ineligible for the normal federal tax deductions and credits that are the usual reward for providing benefits. That's a gigantic tax increase. If you pay for your own coverage directly, no deductions, credits, etc. for you, either, if the plan you select offers abortion coverage. Whether you or someone on your plan ever gets one or not. All deductions associated with your health care costs are disallowed.
That, apparently, will impact approximately 87 percent of private insurance plans on the market today. And that included, until recently, the plan provided to employees of the Republican National Committee.
The RNC, of course, dropped that coverage like a hot potato once it "found out" what the facts were. But why did they do it?
"Money from our loyal donors should not be used for this purpose," Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement. "I don't know why this policy existed in the past, but it will not exist under my administration. Consider this issue settled."
Not a word about money from taxpayers. Steele surely didn't know that Republicans in the House would later introduce such a bill. But then again, the fungibility theory underlying the bill has been in the Republican bag of tricks since at least 1995. It just didn't occur to Republicans that it might apply to them, just like it never occurred to them to check whether they were paying for abortion coverage. But now that they've safely jumped out of the way, the other 87% of you are screwed.
And by the way, there's no difference or barrier between targeting abortion and doing the same in the future for benefit plans that cover contraception.
Or for that matter, chiropractic or other medical alternatives. Or medicine in general. (Ask a Christian Scientist about that.)
Or, I suppose, prohibiting the use of federal funds granted to local police departments that might be dispatched to respond to emergencies at that company.
Frankly, I'm not sure why, under this theory, individuals should even be eligible for federal tax deductions, credits, etc. if they make private purchases from such a targeted company. After all, all money being fungible, it could well be said that you're using "federal dollars" that are in your pocket by virtue of any tax deduction you take (whether related to health care or not) when you buy products from such a company, and that those "federal dollars" are going into the coffers of a company that uses them fungibly with the dollars they're using to pay for their health care plan.
"Small Government Republicans," ladies and gentlemen.
Could such a bill actually pass, though?
Recall that during the health care debate, the champions of the choice community in Congress were convinced to jump out of the way of the eventual Stupak/Nelson driven "compromise" language on the theory that it went no further than Hyde, and that Congress had become used to passing Hyde amendments, anyway, so why endanger the health care bill by objecting now?
The proponents of H.R. 3 make the false (but possibly attractive) argument that this "just codifies" Hyde, and since pro-choice champions once agreed to get out of the way of such measures, they might as well agree to do so again. I'm not so sure that the Senate wouldn't jump out of the way again, on precisely that theory. There's a far better chance of it being blocked as a stand-alone measure, of course. But that would almost certainly not be the end of it. It'd come up as an amendment time and time again. Just see how quickly Republicans in the Senate got a vote on total health care repeal even after Democrats comfortably insisted that that could never happen. The same play would work for H.R. 3.
And what would the White House do with such a bill? Again, it smoothed the path to the passage and enactment of the health care bill on the premise that it didn't do anything more than continue Hyde, and would be faced with the same argument again. I'm not so sure they don't jump out of the way, too. Chris Bowers couldn't get a definitive answer when he asked point blank just last week.
Q Next week the House is going to pass a bill called the No Taxpayer-funded Abortion Act. And there’s a not insignificant chance it will pass the Senate as well. What would President Obama do if that got to his desk?
MR. AXELROD: Well, you know it is unfortunate that the health care debate has now shifted there. We’ve got a lot of challenges that we need to deal with, primary challenges that we’re facing -- the economy -- and the President outlined some of them last night. Obviously this is a very divisive issue. And one would hope that we don’t take that path and repeat old debates and divisions to the exclusion of dealing with things that are so fundamental right now for the country on which there’s some consensus.
So I haven’t seen -- I don’t know what exactly will pass Congress. Obviously, his position on this issue is well known. And we believe that it was addressed responsibly in the health care bill in the first place. But I mean, I just don’t know what’s coming, so it would probably be precipitous of me to say -- to even accept your hypothesis that it’s going to arrive.
To return in part to Digby's point, take the rape provisions out, and still left with a disastrous bill, just on the issue of choice alone. But to go beyond that, you're in fact got a bill that paves the way for using the tax code to select every American's health care options for them, direct from Washington.
(Now, who do we know that particularly hates that idea?)
If the anti-choice zealots can successfully enact a law that gives the federal government the inroads and leverage to impose tax penalties on the availability of abortion services coverage, what prevents their using the same power to penalize contraception coverage? And that's just the smallest theoretical step you can make from the abortion issue. Nevermind that the theory is the same whether they want to reach into other areas of medical coverage, or anything else they'd like to get their hands on. Same sex partner benefits, for instance? Health benefits won through collective bargaining by public employees' unions? You can all certainly imagine more.
And you should try to imagine them. I would encourage you to try to think about how they could come up with a way to burn your own favorite issue group, no matter what it might be. Because this theory gives them the power to do it. And if it's left to the choice community advocacy groups to fight the battle on their own, it'll be over pretty quickly, and the "Small Government Republicans" will be right on your doorstep next.