Times Warns: Don't Trust GOP Claims of Obama-Care Tax Hikes

A Friday story by Adam Nagourney and David Herszenhorn, "Republicans Call Health Legislation a Tax Increase," contained a not-so-secret message: Don't trust the GOP, because they've misled you before.

First came the warnings that government would take over health care and panels of bureaucrats would decide when America's elderly should die. Then came assertions that President Obama would force reductions in Medicare spending that would cut off the elderly from favored doctors and critical lab tests.

In recent days, Republican leaders hoping to derail Mr. Obama's health care effort have seized on a new line of attack: that the proposed overhaul is a vehicle for a barrage of hidden and not-so-hidden tax increases, and a violation of Mr. Obama's pledge not to raise taxes on families earning less than $250,000 a year.

"If we can't do health care reform without taxing people in the middle class and the lower income categories, then we have got the wrong plan in front of us," Senator Michael D. Crapo, Republican of Idaho, said Thursday.

The new message seeks to move the health care debate to ground that Republicans know well and have long exploited to their advantage. It has the benefit for them of relative simplicity amid the torrent of complex and often confusing elements of the health care legislation. And it could have a particular political resonance among the group likely to determine the fate - or at least the shape - of the health bill: those Democrats in the House and the Senate who come from relatively conservative districts and states.

The president and Democrats flatly reject the assertions, and say the bill will provide tax credits to help millions of moderate-income Americans buy insurance, amounting to what they say is actually a tax cut.

I don't see how the part about "reductions in Medicare spending" is misleading, given Obama and company's public desire to "bend the cost curve" of health care spending and the president's public chiding of what he considers unnecessary medical tests.

Perhaps co-author Herszenhorn is bitter because Obama's health care address to Congress in early September, which Herszenhorn excitedly hailed as a "clear turning-point" in the debate, failed to turn much of anything around.