U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.

Glen Stubbe, Dml - Star Tribune

When did Franken and Klobuchar see the light on taxes?

  • Article by: JASON LEWIS
  • February 2, 2013 - 8:35 PM

Boy, it's great to be liberal in Minnesota.

While the usual suspects remain ever vigilant for any hint of political malfeasance involving Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar get off scot-free for voting in favor of Obamacare's medical devices tax before they were against it.

How is it that our Minnesota media (broadcast, print and especially online) can be so attuned to the supposed shortcomings of one conservative congresswoman, but so laudatory over the unsuccessful efforts of two Democratic senators to delay a new tax on a crucial state industry?

Gee, it's almost as if there's a bias.

You may recall that the 2.3 percent levy on gross sales (not profit) of medical devices was only one of 20 new taxes courtesy of the Affordable Care Act. There's also the $123 billion surtax on investment income; an $86 billion Medicare payroll tax increase; and a $60 billion tax on health insurers, just to name a few.

You might also remember the enthusiastic support for Obamacare coming from ol' Al and Amy. Well, what to make of this switcheroo? Did they think no one would notice? (Given the lack of scrutiny, perhaps they were on to something.) Or were they just adhering to the sage advice of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who famously said "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it..."

Either way, it's not too comforting to medical device manufacturers that warned of massive layoffs should the tax be implemented. Medtronic alone has or will cut 1,000 workers and expects a $175 million loss in 2013, due in great part to the $370 million-plus excise tax. And since our fair state is home to more than 350 med-tech companies, you can multiply the damage.

Now imagine if this were a conservative Republican who voted for a $20 billion tax singling out manufacturers with a substantial presence in Minnesota. Do you think you might see a story about insouciant politicians not looking out for their home state?

So where is the outrage over a couple of Democratic senators, not normally associated with corporate interests, doing an about-face on a business tax they initially voted for in lieu of, oh, I don't know, potential campaign contributions? Just sayin'.

Would not a more discerning press be asking just how effective these titans of Minnesota politics really are? The House voted to kill the tax, but Al and Amy apparently had no clout with the Democratic leadership in the Senate, which failed to act.

The fact is, Obamacare is already shaping up to be a train wreck. Health insurance premiums are up, not down, as promised by the president. The bill swells the Medicaid rolls by 25 percent, putting further pressure on state budgets by adding 16 million more people to the federal-state program. The Heritage Foundation says the 10-year cost of expanding Medicaid could total $42 billion.

But the real catastrophe lies in the explicit moral hazard inherent in the law. The guaranteed-issue community rating requirement, coupled with a modest fine, er ... tax, for failing to purchase health insurance, ensures that a) business will not be providing insurance when they can pay a much cheaper penalty and b) individuals won't buy it either once they realize they can wait and purchase a policy after they get ill. The system will be swamped as the health insurance risk pools will increasingly be made up of those who are not healthy.

In fact, almost every state that enacted a ban on preexisting condition exclusions along with price controls has had to modify the law before their individual insurance market completely dried up.

Oh, yes, and then there's the medical devices tax.

That issue alone ought to be especially acute for one Alan Stuart Franken, whose contentious victory in 2008 allowed a filibuster-proof Democratic majority to pass the Affordable Care Act.

Someone ought to ask him about that.


Jason Lewis is a nationally syndicated talk show host based in Minneapolis-St. Paul and the author of "Power Divided Is Power Checked: The Argument for States' Rights" from Bascom Hill Publishing. He can be heard locally from 5 to 8 p.m. on NewsTalk AM1130 and on

© 2018 Star Tribune