If you haven't been following the debate over health care reform closely, you might have missed something interesting. There is a consensus building over how to pay for health care reform. It doesn't appear in the Democrats' Senate health care reform plan. It doesn't appear in the Democrats' House health care reform plan. But you can find it almost everywhere else: from the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to the front runners of the liberal blogosphere. What is it?
The idea is to tax employer-provided health care. Its advocates are diverse and numerous, enough to make for a truly memorable cocktail party: John McCain proposed it on the campaign trail; the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page just endorsed it; liberal bloggers Ezra Klein, Jonathan Cohn, Matthew Yglesias, and Conor Clarke have all endorsed it; Democratic Senators Max Baucus and Ron Wyden are digging it, and so are many Republican electeds in Washington.
So why isn't Obama calling up Chris Dodd every morning at 5:00AM to ask him if he's written this clause into the latest bill yet? The answer is short -- the unions hate it, and Sen. Harry Reid has ruled it out -- but to understand their antagonism, let's review what exactly it means to tax employer-provided health care.