By John McClaughry
Four years ago President Obama exempted Congressional members and staff from the Obamacare health insurance exchanges. Under a subsection of the Affordable Care Act, the Democrats — not a single Republican voted for the bill — voted themselves out of its own employer-sponsored Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
The provision required members and House and Senate staff to enroll in the new health insurance exchanges created for other Americans under the law.
But in 2013 the Obama Office of Personnel Management decided to treat the 535 lawmakers and their more than 13,000 staffers as if they were a small business employing fewer than 50 workers. Then they would be exempt from the DC Exchange and relocated to the more advantageous exchange for small businesses. In 2015 a Federal judge rejected a challenge to this by Judicial Watch, citing vagueness in the statute, but a week ago Trump tweeted that he could take away the exemption.
Let’s dial back four decades here. Freshman Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont made a huge splash in Vermont media by declaring to much applause that members of Congress should live under the same rules as the people who are paying them.
Funny thing, I haven’t heard senior senator Patrick Leahy standing firm for this principle lately – in fact, not for over thirty years. Perhaps his 42 years on the Congressional payroll has changed his mind. Maybe we need a new champion to resurrect Leahy’s abandoned principle.
David Blittersdorf’s train
Last week’s issue of Seven Days carried a long and informative story about the prospects for recreating commuter rail in Vermont.
Never mind that Howard Dean’s fabled Champlain Flyer cost the taxpayers $28 million dollars fifteen years ago, in the vain hope of getting commuters from Charlotte, Shelburne and South Burlington to travel to their well paid jobs in Burlington, to arrive at a waterfront rail station remodeled to handle the arriving hordes.
It is a canon of Green theology that irresponsible, selfish Americans must be taxed or subsidized out of their personal vehicles and into a group carriage like a rail car, all to save the planet from the menace of global warming.
Guess who is behind the new push for commuter rail? Mr. Green enterprise himself, VPIRG donor David “Wind Farm” Blittersdorf. He laid out $6 million for some reconditioned rail cars from Dallas in the hope of marrying them with the state owned rail lines and stations, to whisk commuters to Burlington from Rutland and maybe Montpelier.
And here’s the inevitable kicker: Blittersdorf “readily acknowledged that he won’t get this project rolling without public or private subsidies, or both. He imagines that some of Vermont’s large employers such as UVM, Global Foundries and state government will subsidize the trains in exchange for free transit for their employees.”
Oh, really? Are Vermonters dumb enough to fall for this costly foolishness all over again?
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.