Republicans and right wing commentators who oppose health care reform hope to turn our effort at lowering costs and expanding access into a debate about whether or not to tax small businesses. In opposing our reform they would instead continue the hidden health care tax on all Americans that exceeds the surcharge on the highest income taxpayers that is included in the House bill.
Before you adopt their rhetoric, remember that nearly half of the cost of the House Democrats' health plan would be paid by tight cost controls and forcing down the expense of the health care system. That's a top priority. And as for who will pay higher taxes and who won't under our plan, here are the cold facts.
Only the highest earning 1.2 percent of American households will pay a surcharge for health care reform. That leaves 98.8 percent of American households who will not pay any surcharge at all.
As for small businesses, according to the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, only 4.1 percent of all small business owners will be affected by the health care surcharge. The remaining 95.9 percent of small business owners will be completely unaffected by the surcharge.
Under our bill, a family making up to $350,000 in adjusted gross income (AGI) will not owe any surcharge at all, as President Obama has promised. A family making $500,000 in AGI will contribute $1,500 to help reduce costs and provide access to affordable health care for all Americans -- 0.3 percent of their annual income. And a family making $1 million in AGI will contribute $9,000, or 0.9 percent of their annual income.
Who are the highest earning 1.2 percent of all households? They are the same households who over the past 20 years have seen a massive shift in wealth in their favor and who over the last 8 years received the lion's share of President Bush's tax cuts.
Between 2001 and 2010, the richest one percent of taxpayers alone will have received approximately $700 billion from the Bush tax cuts, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. Those tax cuts for the wealthy one percent have been the biggest contributor to the record deficits wrung up during the Bush Administration -- deficits that were passed along to President Obama in January.
The Washington Post put it another way. They pointed out that over the past 20 years, the highest earning Americans have seen their tax burden go down and their share of national wealth rise. The share of adjusted gross income claimed by the highest earning Americans doubled, from 11 percent to 22 percent.
Meanwhile, average American working families have seen their wages stagnate, their health care costs spiral out of control, and their share of national wealth reduced.
Many Republicans and right wing commentators would do nothing to reform health care and would instead leave in place the hidden $1,800 a year tax on all Americans in the form of rapidly rising health insurance premiums caused by uncontrolled health care spending and the shared cost of covering the uninsured.
Congress faces a clear choice. Our plan cuts more than $500 billion in health care spending and asks the richest 1.2 percent of all households to make a modest contribution of their income toward the remaining cost of our health care reform effort to reduce costs and strengthen our economy. The main Republican plan -- Just Do Nothing -- maintains the hidden tax on every business, large and small, and every American suffering under today's broken health care system.
George Miller (D-CA) is chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and one of the three principal authors of the "America's Affordable Health Choices Act" introduced this week.