Today the AFSCME and AFL-CIO co-hosted a block party to celebrate the end of their “Highway to Health Care” summer tour, in which they sent an RV to 19 cities in 10 states to spread the good news of the Democrats’ health care plan.
One of my first impressions of the event in Washington, D.C. was, appropriately enough, a man on a cell phone trying to rustle up more attendees. “We need some more bodies down here,” he said, standing on the fringe of the crowd. “Can you holler around the office a little?”
In case workplace coercion was not enough, the unions also provided a wide array of free t-shirts, signs and temporary tattoos. You know, to get that spontaneous, grassroots feel. The unions apparently didn’t want their party to look lame in front of the photographers and television cameras milling about, which for some reason included Al Jazeera.
The two main speakers were AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and AFSCME president Gerald McEntee. Both spoke about the “evil insurance companies” (McEntee’s words) spreading misinformation and using the “teabaggers” as a front for their machinations.
After talking about such horrors, Sweeney went on to announce, without a trace of irony, “This past month, 18,000 union members attended nearly 400 town hall meetings across the country, [and] this coming Labor Day weekend, we expect tens of thousands of union members to call for health care reform through celebrations across the country.”
The overwhelming and conspicuous presence of union members (apparently bussed in under direct orders from the White House) at last month’s “town hall” meetings is an unprecedented and controversial political move by the Democratic party. In fact, one has to wonder how Democrats would have reacted if, during the last few years, the Bush White House had instructed the Minutemen or the NRA to bus dozens of attendees to various political events or scheduled public appearances by the President, in order to intimidate and discourage anti-war protesters.
But as this Newsbusters report explains, the mainstream press has made virtually no effort to either investigate or explain why organized labor (aside from their long-running French kiss with the Democrats) is so gung-ho in support of government-managed health care. Or maybe they are simply uneasy about telling us the real reasons why:
Antilabor forces say it’s welfare for the UAW and Democrats’ union allies. Labor supporters say it falls short of what’s needed as tens of thousands of union members are pushed into early retirement as employers cut back health care coverage.
They’re both talking about a $10-billion provision tucked deep inside thousands of pages of health care overhaul bills that could help the UAW’s retiree health-care plan and other union-backed plans.
It would see the government — at least temporarily — pay 80 cents on the dollar to corporate and union insurance plans for claims between $15,000 and $90,000 for retirees age 55 to 64.
Big businesses with union workers are twice as likely to offer retiree benefits as nonunion ones.
Greg Mourad of the National Right to Work Committee called it “a shameless case of political payback,” saying Democrats and President Barack Obama are trying “to force the rest of us to pay billions to cover those unions’ health care.”
But wait — there’s more. Remember the luxury tax on “lavish” employee health benefits that Democrats proposed a few months ago, in order to help fund their health care overhaul? Check this out:
[Sen. Max Baucus] is floating the following trial balloon: Congress would fund fund part of health reform with a cap on the tax exclusion of employer-sponsored health insurance but only at a level “significantly above” the cost of the standard plan offered to federal employees. The measure would also exclude policies bargained under current union contracts.
Mickey Kaus notes:
… Baucus has just given a big tax incentive for workers–perhaps encouraged by labor signature collectors under a “card check” bill–to form unions and bargain for lavish health benefits that will then be exempted from his tax on lavish benefits. Join a union, get a tax break! (A break the rest of us would have to pay for) …
You will also recall that the government-negotiated GM bankruptcy settlement included handing over a huge equity stake in the company to the UAW-controlled retiree health care trust fund.
Is any of this fair? Does any of this directly work to achieve the advertised goal of ObamaCare, which is “affordable health care for everyone?” Of course not. This is politics at its worst, and nothing more than a brazen attempt by the Democrats to guarantee the continued political patronage of perhaps its most hardcore group of supporters. Who in their right mind would support a “reform” plan that guaranteed union employees, federal government employees, and members of Congress country club health insurance, while forcing the rest of us into a completely restructured government managed health system that gives us few real choices and zero bargaining power?