March 29, 2010

UnderBriefed

Corporations are scrambling to deal with, and advise shareholders of adjustments to their long term health insurance liabilities for retirees owing to the passage of ObamaCare. The Obama people, stung by the bad press in the middle of their self-celebration, are calling CEO's to scold them and call them liars, all while coming off as if they have no real understanding of what they have wrought.

The American Spectator calls it Obama in Rude Denial

A White House legislative staffer is quoted as saying "These are Republican CEOs who are trying to embarrass the President and Democrats in general . "Where do you hear about this stuff? The Wall Street Journal editorial page and conservative websites. No one else picked up on this but you guys. It's B.S."

"Most of these people [in the Administration] have never had a real job in their lives. They don't understand a thing about business, and that includes the President," says a senior lobbyist for one of the companies that announced the charge. "My CEO sat with the President over lunch with two other CEOs, and each of them tried to explain to the President what this bill would do to our companies and the economy in general. First the President didn't understand what they were talking about. Then he basically told my boss he was lying. Frankly my boss was embarrassed for him; he clearly had not been briefed and didn't know what was in the bill."

[...]

On Friday White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett were calling the CEOs and Washington office heads of the companies that took the financial hits and attacked them for doing so. One Washington office head said that the White House calls were accusatory and "downright rude."

These are one-time write-downs, necessary because the bill takes away tax breaks that had incentivized companies to maintain their retirees on the companies' drug benefit plans rather than dumping them into Medicare. The short and long term result of the policy is predictable. More and more companies will say "see ya", and the public burden grows. Hate to use a tired blog cliché, but to the Obama people that's not a bug, it's a feature.

UPDATE 3/30: Lots of common sense and a persuasive case made here by Donald Marron, a former Bush aide, who says the bill did the right thing by closing this particular tax loophole, and sheds no tears for the corporations that won't be getting it any more. Of course that doesn't make the effect on these companies' benefits liabilities any less real.

Posted by dan at March 29, 2010 5:55 PM