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With Congress out for its Easter-Passover break, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown started making the rounds with constituent and factory visits in early April. One of those stops was at the Nucor steel plant in Marion, where the Democratic freshman discussed what he calls the unfair trade practices of China.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee meantime had a list of other subjects it thought Brown, who faces reelection in November, should discuss during his local visits. Making suggestions in a pointed news release, NRSC spokesman Jahan Wilcox said, "One of the things we expect that Brown will not be discussing is his 60th vote for Barack Obama’s job-killing health care law, which slapped small businesses throughout Ohio with a $500 billion tax increase."
This single statement had several elements that made us say, "Huh?" Was Brown the 60th vote for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? That’s a point of dispute, because the NRSC had already said that Montana Democrat Jon Tester had that honor (though Tester’s staff debunked it with a videotape showing him as the 52nd "yes" vote, Politico reported). The NRSC or its affiliates have also accused Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Claire McCaskill of Missouri of casting that crucial vote. Taking heat for being the 60th senator to actually commit that he would vote "yes," thus assuring passage regardless of the order in which the actual roll call went, was Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
But Brown certainly voted for the health care bill, so let’s not get hung up on which senator had the ultimate vote. More intriguing than that was the NRSC’s claim that the bill "slapped small businesses throughout Ohio with a $500 billion tax increase."
That would be a heck of an increase, were it true.
But it is not. Every piece of information the NRSC sent us to back up its $500 billion claim pertained to a national figure, not a figure for a single state. And it applied to all taxes and fees associated with what both parties are now calling Obamacare, not just the portion that would be paid by small businesses.
The NRSC’s sources for this included testimony and supporting documents from the Congressional Budget Office, submitted to the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee on March 30, 2011. PolitiFact recently examined another claim based on this figure and its supporting documents, after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce used the number in an ad criticizing Tester. There’s no need to repeat that examination at length, but we’ll note that PolitiFact found that the $500 billion number was "a fair number for total revenue raised by the 2010 health care law as estimated when Tester voted — but the number for just taxes is lower, likely between $400 billion and $465 billion."
The rest was for various other fees and revenue enhancements, which opens a debate as to whether they should be called taxes. But there’s no need for that here.
Yes, some businesses will pay higher taxes if the law is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The NRSC sent us plenty of examples from news stories as well as a recent editorial from the Columbus Dispatch. Among the companies already preparing for this are medical device manufacturers like Invacare, based in Elyria, which has estimated a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices could cost it anywhere from $12 million to more than $20 million annually. Backers of the health care law suggest that medical device companies will make up at least some of the revenue because more people will have health insurance and buy medical products. Industry officials are skeptical.
Invacare is a global company, however. There are certainly small, Ohio-based companies that will be taxed more under the law. But will these small Ohio businesses be slapped with a $500 billion tax hike, thanks to Brown and others who supported the bill, regardless of their order?
We are not aware of a good analysis to show the exact share that small Ohio businesses would pay of that $500 billion in new revenue that the government will raise, or whatever the figure will prove to be. We could try to extrapolate, but what’s the point? The NRSC figure is off by a factor of, well, we can’t tell you. We just know that there are 50 states and the CBO figure was for all new revenue nationwide, not just for the share to be paid in taxes by small businesses in Ohio. The NRSC conceded this when we talked it over.
Plenty of people dislike the Affordable Care Act. That is a fact. Brown voted for it, and that’s a fact, too. But to pick a national number and apply it to one segment of one state is not accurate and is simply ridiculous. On the Truth-O-Meter, ridiculous claims get a rating of Pants on Fire!
National Republican senatorial Committee news release, April 4, 2012
Email and telephone exchange with NRSC spokesman Jahan Wilcox, April 4 and 5, 2012
Congressional Budget Office, "CBO’s Analysis of Major Health Care Legislation Enacted in March 2010," submitted by Douglas W. Elmendorf, director, to House Energy and Commerce Committee, subcommittee on health, March 30, 2011
PolitiFact, "Chamber of Commerce ad says ‘Obamacare (hit) Americans with over $500 billion in new taxes," Feb. 16, 2012
Politico, "NRSC: Tester was 60th vote for ACA," March 23, 2011
MedCity, "From absurdity to reality? Medical device tax jolts Invacare CEO Malachi Mixon," by Mary Vanac, Jan. 10, 2010
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Form 8-K, filed by Invacare Corp., Jan. 7, 2010
The Plain Dealer, "Invacare spends millions in Washington but mainly gets frustration back," by Stephen Koff, Nov. 6, 2011
Columbus Dispatch editorial, "The true cost: Health care freebies turn out to have significant price tag," March 26, 2012
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